Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Palladius

PALLADIUS (fl. 431?), archdeacon and missionary to Ireland, is often confused with St. Patrick [q. v.] He was doubtless a native of a Greek city in Southern Gaul, and was thereby brought into relations with St. Germanus of Auxerre, with whom he is authoritatively associated. The doubtful tradition of his British origin rests on the authority of late writers, like Antonius Possevinus the jesuit, and a marginal note in a manuscript at Trinity College, Dublin, ‘Pell. Britann. genere.’ He is mainly known from a few references made to him by his contemporary, Prosper of Aquitaine. First, under A.D. 429, we are told that Agricola the Pelagian corrupted the churches of Britain by the poison of his doctrine, but that Pope Celestine was stirred up by the deacon Palladius to send Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, to displace the heretics, and direct the Britons to the catholic faith. Secondly, under 431, Palladius is said to have been sent ‘to the Scots that believe in Christ as their first Bishop, by the ordination of Pope Celestine,’ and the same act is referred to as a proof that ‘while the pope laboured to keep the Roman island catholic, he also made the barbarous island Christian, by ordaining a bishop for the Scots.’

The mission of Palladius is also referred to by Bede, by the ‘Old English Chronicle (which copies Bede confusedly), and by various Irish writers from the ninth century. The only information supplied by these sources worthy of acceptance is that Palladius, though he founded some churches in Ireland, was unsuccessful in his mission, quitted the country, crossed over into Britain, and died there very shortly after his landing.

Many doubtful traditions are recorded of Palladius by later writers. In the scholia on ‘Fiacc's Hymn’ he is said to have landed definitely in Wicklow, and founded there several churches, including ‘Teach-na-Roman,’ or ‘the House of the Romans,’ which is identified with a site called Tigrony in the parish of Castle MacAdam, co. Wicklow; but, not being well received, he went round the coast of Ireland towards the north, until driven by a great tempest he reached the extreme part of Modheidh (Kincardineshire?) towards the south, where he founded the church of Fordun, ‘and Pledi is his name there.’

The ‘Second Life of Patrick’ (‘Vita Secunda’) says the missionary arrived among the hostile men of Leinster, but managed to baptise ‘others’ and build, besides Teach-na-Roman, a church called Cellfine, identified with Killeen Corman (where he left the books, relics, and tablets given him by Celestine), and another church, Domnach Arda, identified with Donard in West Wicklow, ‘where are buried the holy men of the family [or attendants] of Palladius.’ After a short time, concludes this story, the saint died ‘in the plain of Girgin, at a place called Forddun. But others say he was crowned with martyrdom.’

The ‘Fourth life of Patrick’ names the Logenians as the people among whom Palladius arrived, says a few believed in his message, but most rejected it, ‘as God had not predestined the Hibernian people to be brought by him from the error of heathenism,’ and asserts that the preacher's stay in Ireland was only ‘for a few days.’

The North British traditions about Palladius are comparatively modern and unauthentic, and can hardly be traced beyond the ‘Scotichronicon’ of John of Fordun in the fourteenth century. The ‘Breviary of Aberdeen’ (1509–10) contains the oldest known calendar, which marks 6 July as the festival of Palladius—‘Apostle of the Scots.’

According to the ‘Tripartite Life of St. Patrick,’ Palladius was accompanied by ‘twelve men’ when he went ‘to preach to the Gael,’ and landed at Inver Dea in Leinster; his chief opponent was Nathi, son of Garrchu; he died of a natural sickness, after leaving Ireland, in the land of the Picts, and was buried in Liconium (Calendar of Oengus). A curious entry in the ‘Leabhar Breac’ declares that Palladius was sent ‘with a Gospel’ by Pope Celestine, not to the Irish direct, but ‘to Patrick, to preach to the Irish.’

The churches of Palladius were, according to ‘The Four Masters’ and Jocelyn, all built of wood.

Prosper makes it clear that Palladius was sent to Ireland after its conversion to Christianity, and not to undertake its conversion. Some Irish writers, in order to connect St. Patrick directly with Rome and to magnify his labours, have misquoted Prosper's words, and have misrepresented Palladius as being sent by Pope Celestine to convert Ireland for the first time, to have failed in his attempt, and to have been succeeded by Patrick, who finally effected the conversion of the Irish. The truth seems to be that Palladius arrived long after Patrick had begun his mission, which was conducted independently of papal sanction, and that both before and after Palladius's arrival in Ireland Patrick's work proceeded, at any rate in the north of Ireland, with uninterrupted success. The later Irish biographers of St. Patrick have transferred some facts, true of Palladius only, to the successful ‘Apostle,’ and mingled the legends of both saints together.

[Prosper of Aquitaine's Chronicle; Bede's Eccl. Hist. i. 13; Old English Chronicle, A.D. 430; ancient lives of St. Patrick, cf. especially the Tripartite Life, ed. by Whitley Stokes, pp. 560–4 (Rolls Ser.); Breviary of Aberdeen for 6 July 1509–10; Nennius's Hist. of Britons, esp. c. 55; Todd's St. Patrick, pp. 278–80, 284–98; Reeve's Adamnan; Haddan and Stubbs, i. 18, and vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 290; Life in Dict. of Christian Biogr.; Bright's Church Hist. pp. 349–50; Shearman's Loca Patriciana, esp. pp. 25–35, 402–12, 463–6; Stokes's Ireland and the Celtic Church, esp. p. 23; Olden's Church of Ireland (National Churches Series), esp. pp. 10, 14, 406–12; Warren's Liturgy and Ritual of Celtic Church, esp. pp. 30–32; Ussher's Eccles. Brit. Antiq. t. vi. c. xvi.; Bolland. tom. i. Maii, p. 259; Rees's Essay on the Welsh Saints, p. 128; and see art. Patrick.]

C. R. B.