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St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  250 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Ireland's patron saint has long been shrouded in legend: he drove the snakes out of Ireland; he triumphed over Druids and their supernatural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths. We have no surviving image of Patrick, but we do have two remarkable letters that he wrote about himsel ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 17th 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2004)
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Sep 02, 2016 7jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want a historical view of the saint
Shelves: religion
(fitting that this book, that deals among other things with slaves and free men, is written by a man with a surname of 'Freeman')

This is a biography seeking the true, historic man and talks about the world of the time too, which tells us things that any written material may not be able to (through archaeology). A few black and white pictures are included, and the chapters are just the right lenght. There is also map of the Celtic lands and of Ireland in Patrick's time.

We follow Patrick's life f
Richard Duncan
I enjoyed this book. It explains the sacrifice Patrick made to go from a privileged life in Britain on a life-long mission to Ireland where he had once been taken as a slave. He evangelized among a tribal, pagan people and planted churches.

The book helped me appreciate Patrick's intimacy with God, his courage, and his fruitfulness in ministry. I am inspired to follow Christ more closely. He was a true missionary and an example for today's church.

For me, it didn't read like a biography usually
I was very impressed by Philip Freeman's biography of St. Patrick.
The research was clear and quite thorough, relying heavily on two of St. Patrick's own letters. Freeman also gave an extensive overview of Ireland during the time of St. Patrick in order to give historical context, and to separate the man from the myth. The only disappointment that I had was Freeman's hermaneutic/apparent starting point of "none of the myths/miracle stories can be true, because the miraculous is not credible." Ho
Michael Gerald
Feb 24, 2013 Michael Gerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An easy-to-read bio of one of the greatest saints in Church history, St. Patrick is a fine example of the greatness a person can rise up to despite the trials and tribulations. And that greatness is not only for oneself, but also for the greater good of society and the greater glory of God.
Jun 25, 2016 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-history-bio

** 5 CD's -- read by Alan Sklar
app. 6 hrs
Feb 15, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good basic outline… very well done!
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty "historical" biography - lots of information about relationships between Britain and Ireland including ethnic slavery and military rivalries, the history of Celts and the influence of Druids and Romans, pre-Christian religion, the early history of Christianity and its spread into Britain and Ireland, etc. I found it fascinating, though I didn't agree with all the interpretations of early Christianity.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, but was kidnapped by sla
Nov 20, 2012 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a biography at its heart but also a history lesson. We have today only two letters than can be confidently attributed to St. Patrick, and they're copies dating to hundreds of years after they were composed. Teasing a 200 page book out of 23 pages of primary source material is a challenge met in this case with a lot of contextual information about Britain, Ireland, the Roman Empire and the state of the Church in that era.

The story of the conversion of Ireland contains a lot more than St.
Mar 17, 2014 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a long, comprehensive biography of St. Patrick. Rather, it is an overview of the world he lived in and a summary of what his life may have been like. There are only two extant writings by Patrick himself, and so little concrete history from Britain and Ireland at this time. Therefore, I appreciated that Freeman kept it simple, not trying to force the thin record of St. Patrick into unsupported conclusions. Freeman does, however, craft a logical and interesting narrative. He also prov ...more
A good and readable biography of Patricius of Bannaventa Berniae, who was kidnapped by Irish raiders and forced to work as a shepherd for six years, only to escape, return home, and hear a calling to return and spread the gospel of Christ to the very Irishmen who had enslaved him. Though much of the book's material is devoted to Patrick's times rather than to his life (specific areas include the cultures, worldviews and traditions of fourth century Britain and Ireland; Celtic mythology and the p ...more
Andrew Brozyna
Mar 17, 2014 Andrew Brozyna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
Like most people I knew only two things about St. Patrick: he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and his day is a time for drinking vast amounts of alcohol (whether you're Irish or not). Last month I read online somewhere that Patrick was a Romano-British patrician kidnapped by Irish raiders in the 4th century. After 6 years as a slave he escaped, returned home to Britain, trained to become a priest, then traveled back to preach to the Irish. Intrigued, I went to, typed in "St. Patrick" ...more
Dave Maddock
Freeman does what he can with what little evidence he has. Out of necessity, there is a fair amount of "probably X" and "might have Y" herein, but it is engagingly written. I am particularly glad that he included the full English translation of Patrick's Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus as an epilogue. I've been meaning to read these in Latin (just because), but who knows if I will get around to it now?

Thanks to the front matter, I learned that Freeman also wrote The Galatian L
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Slight but well-researched and -written biography of St. Patrick. The little reliable history and biography of St. Patrick is based on two surviving letters he wrote. But the amazing thing is he lived from approximately 390-360 AD, and his letters and what little we know about him are the earliest record of Christianity in that part of the world.

And forget St. Patrick's Day and four-leaf clovers and everything else you think you know about Patrick. His life was at once more mundane and more amaz
Mike Ogilvie
Feb 20, 2014 Mike Ogilvie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography does a pretty good job of interweaving the few facts that are actually known about St. Patrick with a historical backdrop to give us in part a factual history and in part a conjectured picture of his life.

It seems that most if not all of the facts of his life are taken from two surviving letters (well, they survive as copies of copies). One is a letter to a British citizen who had killed and captured some of St. Patrick's followers in a slave raid on Ireland.
Bob Price
Of course, around St. Patrick's day, my thoughts begin to drift towards Ireland and the saint whose day we celebrate.

St. Patrick of Ireland provides a basic overall introduction to the life and writings of St. Patrick.

St. Patrick is a man shrouded in mystery, and as such people know more about the legends associated with him than the actual history concerning him.

Gone are the snakes and the legends of Patrick confronting Satan on the Hill of Tara. Instead, we focus in on the Confessions and P
Brian Weisz
Mar 26, 2015 Brian Weisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, easy-to-read biography of St. Patrick. Not much is known about Patrick's life, so a lot of this book is historical background, i.e., this is what slave-life was like in fifth-century Ireland, etc. Freeman does a great job of placing the few facts we know about Patrick in context. It was truly a different world.
Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
I'm not quite sure what it is about Patrick that is so fascinating to me but certainly part of it has to do with our inability to truly know anything about him.

I enjoyed this biography immensely, conjecture and all. I feel the author did a wonderful job filling in the gaps by describing the state of affairs in Ireland at the time; so even though we didn't exactly know what Patrick was doing, we certainly could know what he was up against.

I find his Confessions fascinating. I could read his words
May 26, 2015 Marge rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this book. It separated fact from myth of this great Irish bishop of British origin. The author gives the reader a good feel for the life of Patrick in the 5th century. The author has interesting insight into early Christianity and life in early Ireland.
Remarkable and informative short biography of St. Patrick. It combines history, archaeology, religion, spirituality and ancient studies to piece together what little we know of the man. Fascinating, and highly recommend.
Feb 04, 2015 Marilyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
I read this book and found it fascinating just before a recent trip to Ireland. I read it again after the trip to get all the details firmly in my mind. There is so much to learn about the past.
Joshua D.
Mar 24, 2015 Joshua D. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phillip Freeman's biography of St Patrick helps us to know the reality from the legend when it comes to Ireland's patron saint. Lots of great historical background without being dry, direct engagement with Patrick's writing and other contemporary texts, and thoughtful measured conclusions by the author. This really is a solid, entertaining, thought-provoking biography.
An interesting little book about the life of St. Patrick. I hadn't known much about him. I wonder if there are similar books for the saints of England, Scotland and Wales.
Apr 30, 2013 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian, history, world
Very readable and authentic. Philip gave a very good background of Irish culture in St. Patrick's day (5th century AD), which goes a long way toward understanding the world Patrick faced. I was very impressed by the book. It's a very quick read, which is refreshing considering what I've been reading recently. It sticks closely to the few things we do know about Patrick, so while it feels authentic, it's rather lacking in details: I don't feel like I have a good knowledge of what Patrick really d ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
I enjoyed this biography of St. Patrick and most especially appreciated the historical placement. I found this book easier to digest than another I read simply because of the presentation of information, and a quick course in the state of the Roman Empire in Britain around the time of Patrick's birth. There was a lot of cultural and time placement in the book before a presentation of some aspect of Patrick's life was given for me it helps to retain the information so I don't get a lot of facts f ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author's tone got a little tired after a while, but I loved the historical context we were given.
Before reading this, I hardly knew anything about the history presented in this book. I found it to be an interesting overview of the Irish and Roman-British culture in the 5th century and explanation of Patrick's letters. Patrick was not some magical leprechaun, but an inspirational Christian who lived by biblical faith after Irish slavery. He was an incredible example of the second greatest commandment "love your neighbor as yourself" -- a command that if obeyed, would solve many, many of our ...more
Aug 12, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-finished
A profitable read, accessible and interesting. A close look at the remarkable life and faith of St. Patrick of Ireland as revealed through his only surviving writings, with all the shamrock nonsense stripped away. Provides a thorough context of his life and times -- the social, political, and religious backdrop of Britain and Ireland during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, loosely contiguous with the life of St. Augustine of Hippo. Well worth reading.
Dec 09, 2010 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, history
This short book is a very good biography of St. Patrick. Using St. Patrick's surviving written work, Letter to Coroticus and Confession, Freeman paints of picture of what Patrick experienced in the late Roman Empire -- and as a slave and then bishop to the Irish. Freeman provides good historical background about Rome, the church and Ireland; and judicious interpretations and extrapolations from the written works. I highly recommend.
Ryan Marks
Sep 03, 2016 Ryan Marks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was ok, the actual writings of Patrick included were awesome!
David Culver
Aug 05, 2013 David Culver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great look not only into the life of Patrick, but into the times he lived as well. Because we know so little about this man, we have to look into history to see the lifestyle that he could have lived.

Of all the book, I really enjoyed reading Patrick's words the most in his Confession, included at the end of the book.
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I teach Classics and Celtic studies at Luther College in the beautiful little town of Decorah, Iowa. I did my doctoral work at Harvard and taught at Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis before coming to Luther to help run the Classics department. I love teaching and see my writing as an extension of my work in the classroom. I hope you enjoy the books as much as I enjoyed writi ...more
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