Armagh has been the ecclesiastical capital of all Ireland since the fifth century, when Saint Patrick founded his church there. Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral stands today on an important Christian site, where Patrick built his original church.
Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of St Patrick, Armagh, is set on a hill from which the name of the city derives – Ard Macha – the Height of Macha. From the fifth century of the Christian era, the hill acquired a new significance with the arrival in Armagh of St Patrick. Patrick, as a boy, had spent some years as a slave in Ireland. He managed to escape and return to his family in Britain. After a time, Patrick claimed to have had a vision in which a man called Victoricus implored him to return to Ireland. Accordingly, he prepared himself for ordination and eventually, as a bishop, began his ministry in Ireland in, according to tradition, 432.
In his travels throughout the country, Patrick eventually reached Armagh where, following some hard negotiating with a local Chieftain, Daire, he was given his desired site on the hill of Armagh. In what is believed to be the year 445, he built his church. Whether or not the building was of stone, as the Irish name Damhliag Mor implies, is uncertain but there certainly was a great stone church at Armagh in the ninth century according to the Annals of Ireland. It is on this same site that today’s Cathedral stands and it was Patrick who decreed that the Great Church at Armagh should be the premier church in Ireland.
c/o Armagh Public Library
43 Abbey Street