Was St patrick’s family Jewish?

St Patrick and the Bloodline of the Grail

St Patrick’s Day is now less of a saint’s day than a national festival of an often very curious kind, more akin to carnival in Brazil than a pious observance. It is odd in a way that the saint should become obscured in this way as he is one of the few early Irish saints from whom we have his own words in his own writing. The Confession of St Patrick is a remarkable but often obscure work to us, as much of the context is implied rather than stated.

The life and times of St Patrick have been a battle ground for hagiographers from the very beginning. First between those who belonged to the pre-Patrician Christian community in Ireland and those at Armagh who wished to establish the ascendancy of Patrick over all others, including Palladius, the earlier emissary from Rome.

Patrick’s life became the focus for many legends; these modern scholars have struggled to cut away. This too has been controversial. One of the recent and controversial books about St Patrick was that by Marcus Losack, reviewed here a while ago.

But when that book was being prepared for publication his publishers at Columba Press advised the removal of a whole stream of his research, in order to concentrate on the theme of St Patrick’s birth in Brittany, for that was an idea rooted in early information.


But the lost material has appeared as another, self-published book. The suggestion in this is also rooted in contemporary legends of the sixth century that St Patrick was of Jewish descent.

This will strike many modern readers as novel idea. But Losack explains it all very carefully. This book, like the earlier one, is slightly marred by Losack’s use of unreliable modern speculations such as those of the late Laurence Gardner.

The royal genealogical side of this book is, therefore, very suspect, as is the material about connections with the Grail legend.

Nevertheless, because the long neglected core information about St Patrick’s family being Jewish by descent comes from early Irish and French sources, it deserves some discussion. Perhaps controversy about the life and times of St Patrick might arouse more general interest in a figure an older generation regarded as ‘the Apostle of Ireland’.