A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

MDT Ep. 68: The Confession of St. Patrick (Part 1)

Detail of Harley MS 3244 f.45r.

This March, we’re going back to one of the earliest surviving St. Patrick texts, his own autobiographical Confessio. This episode we’ll hear the first half, which covers Patrick’s abduction from the coast of 5th-century Britain into slavery in Ireland and continues up to the start of his mission to convert the Irish some thirty years later

Today’s Text:

  • Patrick. Confession. St. Patrick: His Writings and Life, edited and translated by Newport J.D. White, Macmillan, 1920, pp. 31-51. Google Books.


  • Adams, J.N. An Anthology of Informal Latin, 200 BC – AD 900: Fifty Texts with Translations and Linguistic Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2016.
  • Bieler, Ludwig. “The Place of Saint Patrick in Latin Language and Literature.” Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 6, no. 2, Apr. 1952, pp. 65-98. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/1582579.
  • de Paor, Máire B. Patrick: The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland. Regan Books–HarperCollins, 1998.
  • Gellrich, Jesse M. Discourse and Dominion in the Fourteenth Century: Oral Contexts of Writing, Politics, and Poetry. Princeton UP, 1995.
  • Hood, A.B.E, editor and translator. St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu’s Life. Phillimore, 1978.
  • Kelly, David. “St Patrick’s Writings: Confessio and Epistola.” Saint Patrick’s Confessio, Royal Irish Academy, 2011, www.confessio.ie/more/article_kelly#.
  • McCaffrey, Carmel, and Leo Eaton. In Search of Ancient Ireland: The Origins of the Irish, from Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English. New Amsterdam Books, 2002.
  • Olden, Thomas, translator. The Confession of St. Patrick. George Drought, 1853. Google Books.

Image: Detail of Harley MS 3244 f.45r.


  1. Nathan Hoin

    Hey Patrick, I listened to this episode yesterday and was amused by the whole
    ‘breast’ episode. I didn’t really look into it any further, but this morning I read an article about Irish bog bodies which happened to mentioned the ritual sucking (and occasional mutilation) of the nipples of Irish kings! Anyways, that certainly left me intrigued and after some seriously risky googling of the phrase ‘Irish king nipple sucking’ I found a few popular articles and blogs on the topic. I’ve linked to the most interesting and entertaining one below.

    • Patrick

      Nathan: I meant to thank you here for your comment as well as in the episode, but it slipped my mind while I was editing. So thanks for the links! My source for the “it may reference an actual ritual” was from White’s footnotes from 1920 (which based their supposition strictly on the existence of such adoption ceremonies in other cultures documented in anthropological research — he actually cites Frazer’s Golden Bough. So it’s good to hear that over the past century more specific information has emerged about early Irish culture.

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