the same country Britannia at the time of the Council of Ariminium in
the year 359 - just fourteen years before St. Patrick was born.
In the year 597 Armorica, or Britannia, became absorbed in the province
of Neustria, when the kingdom of the Franks was sub-divided into three
separate kingdoms, as Dr. Smith relates: "Sigebert became King of
Austrasia (in the Prankish tongue, Oster-rike), or the kingdom of the
Eastern Franks; Chilperic was recognised as King Neustria (Ne-oster-
rike), the land of the Western Franks. The limits of the two kingdoms
are somewhat uncertain; but the river Meuse and the Forest of Ardennes
may be taken generally as the line of demarcation. Austrasia extended
from the Meuse to the Rhine; Neustria extended from the Meuse to the
ocean. Gouthran ruled over the division of Gaul which now acquired the
name of Burgundy" ("History of France," p. 42).
Neustria, extending from the Meuse to the ocean, necessarily embraced
the whole province of Britannia, or Armorica. That province still
retained the name of Neustria when Probus, in the tenth century, wrote
the "History of St. Patrick."
The change of the name Armorica to Britannia, and from Britannia to
Neustria, together with the fact that the name Britannia, or Brittany,
as applied to that particular province in Gaul was forgotten for
centuries before any of the old Latin "Lives" of St. Patrick, except
the first, were written, must have induced some old biographers of the
Saint to interpret the name Britain, mentioned in the "Lives" and in
the "Confession," as referring only to the Island of Britain,
With the exception of Probus, who had travelled abroad, the old
biographers of St. Patrick, on account of their very limited sources of
information, had very little knowledge of the histories of foreign
countries, and it is not surprising to find them erroneously supposing
that St. Patrick was born in Great Britain, because he mentioned in his
"Confession" that he was born in Britain, and had relatives among the
St. Patrick, according to Probus, was one of the Gaulish Britons, being
born at Bonaven, or Boulogne-sur-Mer. Although the Saint, according to
Canon O'Hanlon, was a little man, he was descended from a race of
giants - the bold Cymri, or Celts. That fact established a relationship
of race between the Saint and the nation which he converted.
Camden and Keating narrate that King Milesius and his bold Scots, who
successfully invaded Ireland, were descended from the Cymri; and it is
remarkable that a fierce battle was fought between the Irish Scots and
the Tautha de Danans at Mount Slemish, not far from Tralee, in Kerry,
which is identical in name with Mount Slemish, in Antrim - the scene of
the Saint's captivity ("Britannia," vol. ii., p. 123; "History of
Ireland," vol. i., p. 123).
Eochaid O'Flin, a poet quoted by Keating, has left a record of this
"The stout Gadalians first the courage try
At Sliabh-mis, and rout the enemy:
Where heroes pierced with many a deadly wound,
Choked in their blood, lay gasping on the ground:
Heroes whose brave exploits may justly claim
Triumphant laurels and immortal fame."
Scota, the relict of King Milesius and mother of Heber and Heremon,
Kings of Ireland, was slain while fighting in this battle, and buried
in the valley at the foot of Mount Sleabh-mis, which after her
interment was called Glean Scoithin, or the Valley of Scota. From her
the Irish Scots derived their name. The same old bard has sung a
lamentation over her grave: -
"Beneath, the vale its bosom doth display,
With meadows green, with flowers profusely gay,
Where Scota lies, unfortunately slain,
And with her royal tomb gives honour to the plain.
Mixed with the first the fair virago fought,
Sustained the toil of arms and danger sought:
From her the fruitful valley hath the name
O Glean Scoith, and we may trust to fame."
ST. PATRICK'S FLIGHT TO MARMOUTIER, DESCRIBED BY PROBUS.
IN the XIVth section of the "Vita Quinta" Probus narrates St. Patrick's
arrival in Brotgalum, then his journey to Trajectus, from whence he
hastened to Marmoutier to join St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, with whom
he remained for four years. Colgan, in his annotations (14), identifies
Brotgalum as Burdigalum, or Bordeaux. So, too, does Professor Bury, who
tells us that Brodgal was the Irish for Bordeaux, and that "Bordeaux
was a regular port for travellers from Ireland to South Gaul" ("Life of
St. Patrick," Appendix, p. 341).
Trajectus, according to the old maps, was situated on the river
Dordogne, about sixty miles from Tours. From Trajectus St. Patrick had
to walk a distance of about two hundred miles through a desert before
"A glance at the map of ancient Gaul," writes Father Bullen Morris,
"will show that in St. Patrick's time a great part of the country
between Trajectus and Tours well deserved the name of a desert. The
network of rivers, tributaries of the Loire, and now known as La
Vienne, La Claire, La Gartempe, &c., must have exposed the country to
periodical inundations in those days. So from Tours in the north to
Limonum, Alerea, and Legora in the south, east and west, we find some
5,000 square miles, which, as far as the ancient map is concerned, give
no signs of possession by man. Travellers entangled amidst these rivers
and morasses must have advanced very slowly, and thus it appears that
both places and time fit in with St. Patrick's narrative. Nature has
changed her face along the line of St. Patrick's journey, and there is
little now to remind us of its primeval desolation, save that the
rivers still preserve some of their old habits, and now and then
combine with the inundations of the giant Loire in setting man at
"Time, however, with its alternative gifts and ravages, has left
untouched the traditions regarding St. Patrick's journey. There is
something more than antiquarian interest in the feelings of the
Christian traveller who visits the spot on the banks of the Loire,
where immemorial tradition and an ancient monument mark the place at
which the Saint crossed the river on his way to Marmoutier. At about
twenty miles from Tours the railway between that city and Angers stops
at the station of St. Patrice; the commune is also named after the
Saint, and, as we shall see, there is historical evidence that it has
been thus designated for at least nine hundred years."
"The first witness whose evidence we shall take on the subject of the
Saint's arrival at St. Patrice is one which many believe to have
survived since his time, but on this point the reader must form his own
opinion. Above the station, on the side of the hill which rises from
the banks of the Loire, we find the famous tree which bears 'the
flowers of St. Patrice.' For ages past it has been an object of
religious veneration with the people of Touraine, and now in our time
it is particularly interesting to find that this devotion was shared by
that eminent servant of God, Leon Dupont, the Thaumaturgus of Tours.
Monsignor C. Chevalier, President of the Archaeological Society, has
published a very full account of the tree and of the traditions
connected with it, the subtance of which we subjoin, together with the
result of personal investigations made on the spot in August, 1881. At
this season the tree was covered with foliage so luxuriant, from the
ground upwards, that it was impossible to distinguish the stem, and in
every respect it presented the appearance of a tree in its prime,
without a sign of decay. It belongs to the botanical class Prunus
Spinosa, or blackthorn, and it was covered with berries at the time of
our visit. These, however, were the evidence of a second efflorescence
in the spring. The celebrity of the tree arises from the fact that
every year at Christmas time it is seen covered with flowers, and the
tradition at St. Patrice, handed down from father to son, affirms that
for fifteen hundred years this phenomenon has been repeated at the same
sacred season. It matters not how intense the cold of any particular
winter; while the ground beneath and the country around lie covered in
their white shroud, the "flowers of St. Patrice" unfold their blossoms
and bid defiance to the fierce north winds which sweep the valley of
The next witness is the old parish church, dedicated to St. Patrick,
which stands about thirty yards from the tree. Its old charters and
records show that it dates back from the beginning of the tenth
century. One old charter, bearing the date of 1035, contains a deed of
gift of some lands adjoining the church of St. Patrick. The church
stood on the Roman road between Anjou and Tours. "Thus," concludes
Father Bullen Morris, "ancient records and immemorial traditions
complete our story, and set St. Patrick on the high road to St. Martin
at Marmoutier" ("Ireland and St. Patrick," pp. 35 - 40).
BRITAIN IN GAUL ST. PATRICK'S NATIVE COUNTRY.
UNLESS it can be proved that there was a province called Britain in
Gaul, and another Britain quite distinct from the Island of Britain, it
would be useless to argue that St. Patrick was a native of Gaul. The
Saint represents himself as a native of Britain; and even Probus, who
is credited with believing that St. Patrick was a native of Armoric
Gaul, distinctly states that the Saint was born in Britain (natus in
Britanniis). It is, however, not difficult to prove that there was a
province in Gaul called Britain (Britannia) even before the birth of
Strabo, in his "Description of Europe," narrates in the Fourth Book
that about 220 years before Christ, Publius Cornelius Scipio, the
father of Scipio Africanus, consulted the Roman deputies at Marseilles
about the cities of Gaul named Britannia, Narbonne, and Corbillo.
Sanson identifies Britannia with the present town of Abbeville on the
Somme. Dionysius, the author of "Perigesis," who wrote in the early
part of the first century, mentions the Britanni as settled on the
south of the Rhine, near the coast of Flanders.
Pliny, in his "Natural History," when recounting the various tribes on
the coast of Gaul, mentions the Morini and Oramfaci as inhabiting the
district of Boulogne, and places the Britanni between the last-named
tribe and Amiens. (Pliny, lib. i., cap. xxxi.; Carte's "General History
of England," vol i., p. 5).
"The Britanni on the Continent extended themselves farther along the
coast than when first known to the Romans, and the branch of that tribe
mentioned by Dionysius as settled on the coast of Flanders, and the
Britons of Picardy mentioned by Pliny, were of the same nation and
contiguous to each other. Dionysius further adds that they spread
themselves farther south, even to the mouth of the Loire, and to the
extremity of Armorica, which several writers say was called Britain
long before it came into general use (Carte, p. 6).
"Sulpicius Severus, in his "Sacred Histories," gives an account of the
Bishops summoned by the Emperor Constantius in the year 359 to the
Council of Ariminium n Italy. Four hundred Bishops from Italy, Africa,
Spain, and Gaul answered the summons, and the Emperor gave an order
that all the Bishops were to be boarded and lodged, whilst the Council
lasted, at the expense of the treasury. Whereupon Sulpicius, writing
with pride of the action taken by the Bishops of the three provinces,
Gallia, Aquitania, and Britannia, makes use of the following words:
"Sed id nostris, id est. Aquitanis, Gallis, et Britannis, idecens
visum; repudiatis fiscalibus propries sumptibus vivere maluerunt. Tres
autem ex Britannia inopia proprii, publico usi sunt, cum oblatum a
ceteris collationem respuissent; sanctius putantes, fescum gravare,
quam singulos" (Lib. ji,, p. 401).
"The proposal seemed shameful to us, Aquitanians, Gauls, and Britons,
who, rejecting the offer of help from the treasury, preferred to live
at our own expense. Three, however, of the Bishops from Britannia,
possessing no means of their own, refused to accept the maintenance
offered by their brethren, deeming it a holier thing to burden the
treasury than to accept aid from individuals" (Lib. ii., p. 401).
If any doubt exists as to the Britannia referred to, it is solved in
the same book, p. 431. Sulpicius Severusi an Aquitanian by birth,
speaks of the trial, condemnation and punishment of the Priscillian
heretics by the secular Court at Treves in the year 389. Prisciallanus
and his followers, Felicissimus, Armenianus, and a woman named
Euchrosia were condemned to death and beheaded, but Instantias and
Liberianus were banished to the Island of Sylena, "quas ultra
Britanniarn sita est" (which is situated beyond Britain). Although it
is not precisely known where the Island of Sylena was situated, except
that it was somewhere beyond Britain, the Britain referred to surely
must be Britain in Gaul, for it is incredible that the Gauls should
possess a penal settlement in the North of Scotland, where Sylena must
have been situated, if the words "beyond Britain" refer to the Island
It is evident that if Sulpicius, who was born in 360 - thirteen years
before St. Patrick - could speak of Armorica as Britannia, and the
Armorican Bishops as Britons, when he wrote his "Sacred Histories," it
cannot be a matter of surprise that St. Patrick, if born in Armorica at
a later period, should speak of himself as a Briton, and say that he
had relatives among the Britons.
Armorica was called Britannia by Sulpicius Severus, but Sidonius
Apollinarus, who flourished some time after, called the same country
Armorica. It was not, however, unusual, as Carte points out, for the
same people and the same country to be called by different names; for
example, the Armorici and the Morini were one and the same people,
whose names had the same signification - dwellers on the sea coast.
(Carte, p. 16; Whitaker's "Genuine History of the Briton," pp. 216 -
As the historians just quoted are not concerned with the history of St.
Patrick, but are simply tracing the origin and history of the Britons,
their testimony is impartial.
Even Camden admits that Dionysius places the Britons on the maritime
coast of Gaul, and renders his verses into English: -
"Near the great pillars of the farthest land,
The old Iberians, haughty souls, command
Along the continent, where northern seas
Roll their vast tides, and in cold billows rise:
Where British nations in long tracts appear
And fair-haired Germans ever famed in war."
The early existence of the Britons in Armorica did not depend on the
settlement of the veteran Britons, who, having served under Constantino
the Great, were rewarded by a gift of the vacant lands in Armorica, as
William of Malmesbury narrates in his "History of the Kings"; or on the
still larger settlement of Britons who fought for the usurper Maximus,
which Ninius mentions, in the mysterious reference which embraced the
whole country "from the Great St. Bernard in Piedmont to Cantavic in
Picardy, and from Picardy to the western coast of France." The latter
settlement took place between the years 383 and 388. The British
refugees, who fled in terror from the Picts, Scots, and Saxons, may
indeed have added to the numbers of Britons in Gaul from time
immemorial, but they certainly were not the first to give the name
Britannia to that country.
BRITANNIAE IN THE PLURAL NOT APPROPRIATED TO GREAT BRITAIN.
IT has been often urged, without any solid reason, that the plural
Britannise used for Britain in the "Confession" can only refer to Great
Britain, because that country was sub-divided by the Romans into five
distinct provinces. The reason given cannot be convincing, because
Catullus, who died in the year 54, used the plural for Britain before
the Roman sub-divisions were made, when he wrote, "Nunc timent Galliae,
timent Britanniae" - Caesar, "the Gauls and the Britons fear." The
plural was used by St. Patrick when writing the "Confession" nearly one
hundred years after the Romans with their divisions had left the
country. It was used by Probus, who undoubtedly referred to Armoric
Britain when writing about St. Patrick's native country, for he tells
us in the plural that the Saint was born in Britain (natus in
Britanniis). The plural was, therefore, used both for Britain in Gaul
and for the Island of Britain.
The word Britannia occurs three times in the "Confession." In the "Book
of Armagh" the name appears always in the plural, whilst in the
Bollandist's copy of the "Confession" the name is printed once in the
singular and twice in the plural. St. Jerome uses the singular always
when referring to Britannia; and St. Bede, in his "History," uses the
plural and singular indiscriminately. Whenever Britannia is mentioned,
the context alone can guide us in distinguishing which Britain is
meant. ("Ireland and St. Patrick," by the Rev. Bullen Morris, pp. 24,
St. Patrick also mentions Gaul in the plural ("Gallias"), for although
the whole country was subdivided into three separate nationalities - the
Gauls, the Aquitanians, and the Britons - as Sulpicius Severus had
already mentioned, the three provinces were called Gallise, or the
Gauls, by the Romans. Galliae in the plural, therefore, either meant
the whole country or any one of its sub-divisions, and the context
alone could determine which province was meant.
Having these facts in mind, it is easy to interpret the words of St.
Patrick: "Though I should have wished to leave them, and had been ready
and very desirous of going to Britain [Britanniis], as if to my own
country and parents; and not that alone, but to go even to Gaul
(Gallias) to visit my brethren, and to see the face of the Lord's
Saints, and God knows how ardently I wished it but I was bound in the
Spirit, and He Who witnesseth will account me guilty if I do so - and I
fear to lose the results of the labour which I have begun. And not I,
but the Lord Jesus Christ, Who commanded me to come and remain with
them for the rest of my life - if the Lord so will it, and keeps me from
every evil way, that I should not sin before Him" ("Confession").
St. Patrick's relatives resided in the Gaulish province of Britain, and
the disciples of St. Martin - "the Lord's Saints" - lived at Marmoutier
in the province of Gaul. St. Patrick's natural desire was first to
visit his relatives in Armorican Britain, and next to renew his
friendship with the followers of St. Martin at Marmoutier, but God had
decreed that he should spend all the rest of his days in the land of
Gaul was not only the name of the whole country, which embraced three
provinces - Gallia, Aquitania, and Britannia - it was also the name of
one of the provinces. As Gaul in its widest sense was a different
country from the Island of Britain, so the province of Gaul was quite
distinct from the province of Armoric Britain. The Gauls, Aquitanians,
and Britons, all possessing, as Csesar testifies, separate governments
and different nationalities, regarded one another as distinct races.
Thus Sulpicius Severus represents a Gaul as addressing some Aquitanians
as follows: "When I think of myself as a Gaul about to address
Aquitanians, I fear lest my uncultured speech should offend your too
refined ears" - "Sed dum cogito me hominem Gallum inter Aquitanos verba
facturum, vereor ne offendat nimium urbanas aures sermo rusticior"
ST. PATRICK CALLS COROTICUS, A BRITISH PRINCE, "FELLOW CITIZEN."
IT is objected again that St. Patrick called the followers of
Coroticus, who were Britons, his fellow citizens, and that, therefore,
the Saint and the island Britons are of the same nationality.
The objection is founded on St. Patrick's "Epistle to Coroticus," in
which the following words occur: "I have vowed to my God to teach this
people, although I should be despised by them, to whom I have written
with my own hand to be given to the soldiers to be forwarded to
Coroticus. I do not say to my fellow citizens, nor to the fellow
citizens of the pious Romans, but to the fellow citizens of the devil,
through their evil deeds and hostile practices."
As the Romans had abandoned Britain long before the letter to Coroticus
was written, it is somewhat difficult to understand the precise meaning
of the words just quoted: "I do not say to my fellow citizens, or to
the fellow citizens of the pious Romans," unless some of the soldiers
of Coroticus were, like St. Patrick, Roman freemen. The word "citizen"
in the Roman sense was as wide as the extent of the Roman Empire.
Although the soldiers of Coroticus are also called "fellow citizens of
the pious Romans," no one would surely dream of saying that the
soldiers of Coroticus and the pious Roman were actually of the same
nationality. St. Patrick could, therefore, call the soldiers of
Coroticus in the same sense his "fellow citizens," without implying
that he was of the same race. If, however, the soldiers of Coroticus
were Roman freemen, they would be fellow citizens of St. Patrick and
fellow citizens of the Romans, although of different nationalities. The
indignant protest made by the Saint in the same letter, that "free-born
Christian men are sold and enslaved amongst the wicked, abandoned, and
apostate Picts," greatly favours our interpretation of "fellow
It must, however, be acknowledged that there is a considerable amount
of obscurity about the meaning of the words, which are so confidently
interpreted as signifying that the Apostle of Ireland was a native of
Great Britain. But the words as they stand cannot be fairly assumed to
prove that St. Patrick was a "fellow countryman" of the soldiers of
Coroticus, unless they prove with equal force that the Romans were of
the same nationality as the soldiers of Coroticus. The quotation proves
too much and, therefore, it proves nothing.
HAVING given the different theories concerning the native country of
St. Patrick, and having faithfully quoted all that the Seven old Latin
"Lives" of the Saint have narrated on this subject, and given our
reasons for accepting the Armoric theory as the most reasonable
solution of the problem, it will be advisable to give a brief summary
of the arguments brought forward to prove that St. Patrick was an
Armorican Britain, born at Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Boulogne-sur-Mer, or ancient Bononia, was called by the same name,
"Bonaven," as the town in which St. Patrick implies that he was born.
Boulogne possessed a Roman encampment, and it was, therefore, Bonaven
Taberniae, mentioned in the "Confession."
Caligula's tower, on the north-eastern cliffs, in the town and within
the suburbs, was called "Turris Ordinis" by the Romans, but "Nemtor" by
the Gaulish Celts, as Hersart de la Villemarque states in his "Celtic
It is certain that Niall of the Nine Hostages made use of the Port of
Boulogne when he invaded Armorica in the twenty-seventh year of his
reign, and that he died at that port after his assassination.
It is probable that Niall sailed to Boulogne when invading Armorica on
the first occasion, for he was carrying his arms into the same country,
of which Boulogne was the principal port, and the only one used by the
Romans when invading England.
The return of Niall from his first expedition into-Armorica with
captives, including St. Patrick, on board in the year 388, corresponds
precisely with the fifteenth year of St. Patrick, who was born in the
year 373. This fact is not only testified by Keating, but by Hersart de
la Villemarque in his "Celtic Legend," who narrates that Calphurnius,
St. Patrick's father, was a Roman officer in charge of Nemtor, near
which his family resided in a Roman villa, and that Calphurnius was
slain, and St. Patrick made captive by a hostile fleet that came from
As Nemtor was not only the name of the tower, but the district of the
tower, and situated within the suburbs of Bonaven, St. Fiacc's account
of his patron's birthplace, which simply gives the name of the
district, and St. Patrick's statement that his home was in the suburban
district of Bonaven, harmonise together.
The Scholiast and the author of the Trepartite "Life," by admitting
that the Saint was captured in Armorica, annul their assertion that he
was born in Scotland, because St. Patrick distinctly states that his
family hailed from Bonaven Tabernise, or Boulogne, and that he was
captured while residing at his father's villula. The Scholiast and
Tripartite "Life" consequently admit that Bonaven Taberniae was
situated in Armorica.
The impression that Bononia, or Boulogne, was St. Patrick's native town