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Did barbarians capture monks or priest of civilized kingdoms to teach them?

Did barbarians capture monks or priest of civilized kingdoms to teach them?

I'm watching the loosely accurate TV show Vikings. When Vikings pillage the Briton monastery of Lindisfarne, they also capture some monks as slaves. Later, one of the monks assimilates pretty well to the Norsemen society. He becomes one of the Vikings, and teaches them Anglo-Saxon language and Christian culture.

I know it's just a TV show and their main purpose is box-office. But could this story happen in real life? Did the Vikings, Huns or Teutons capture other kingdom's (preferably) priests or monks utilizing their unique knowledge and assimilate these people? Or the whole question is just too far-fetched?

If you know any sources, please share it.


The Mongols were a relatively backward people in the scholastic sense of the word, and hired conquered scholars to educate them.

The Mongols were also very tolerant of most religions in their vast empire, and had priests help "pacify" their various peoples.


It is certainly possible. Obviously such a thing would require the monk to learn the Norse language, which would mean it would be years before he would be teaching them anything that required language to convey.

Educated slaves rarely appear in the sagas and in fact slaves are rarely mentioned at all for that matter, unlike, for example, in Roman culture where Greek slaves played a prominent role. It is likely that most Norse slaves faced a pretty grim outlook.


Cat Rotator's Quarterly

Welcome, Instapunderati! Thank you for stopping by.

Why did the Franks, Saxons, and others work so hard to copy Rome and to adopt chunks of Roman culture (as transmitted through the Christian church?) At first, they didn’t. The Franks of Charlemagne and the Franks that ran the last Romans out of what is now northern Germany and the Netherlands were 350 years apart and very different in some ways. In others, well, it took a great deal of unceasing, patient (and not so patient) work by people who still believed that the old ways were good, and that they had a mission to save the souls of the pagans, which also meant teaching them to read and write. And the pagans came to believe that the old ways could give them power and authority.

In short, it was long and complicated and messy. Welcome to human history.

The first archaeological and written evidence for the presence of the people later called the Franks appears in the late 300s to early 400s, in Roman accounts. The accounts are not positive. The Franks are a new flavor of barbarian tribe sweeping down from the east and north, pushing back the last of the Legions from the northern Rhine valley. They were pagans, primitive, war-like, and numerous, according to the few surviving written accounts. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Franks did tend to take over former Roman settlements, re-built things to their tastes, or didn’t, and their material culture overlaid the older Roman material culture (i.e. you start finding more of the Franks’ stuff than the Roman stuff.)

But at some point, the Franks settled down to an extent and started converting to Christianity, at least officially. This would happen over and over. Germanic peoples, Franks, Slavs, Vikings, Burgundians, Magyars, swept into Europe, terrorized everyone, raided churches and monasteries, threatened the end of the world, and then settled down, converted, and became staunch defenders of the faith. Only up in the eastern Baltic is the story a little different. There, Christianity seems not to have taken deep root, so that even into the Twentieth Century, pagan practices continued in the same places and probably the same ways as before Boniface et al set foot in the marshes of Prussia, Finland, and Estonia.

So what was the key? What lured the new arrivals into conversion? Dogged persistence, for one thing. The western church kept sending out missionaries, and sending out missionaries, the Irish kept coming and coming, and eventually some of the Franks et al quit killing the missionaries and started leaving them alone, or listening to them, and coming around to their way of thinking. Sort of, because not all of Christian theology as espoused by Rome and Tour got adopted. Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor, converter of the Saxons, scourge of the Avars, had multiple wives because he was a Frankish warlord as well as a Christian. His bishops must have ground their teeth, but compared to the greater threats, well, bigamy wasn’t that serious of a problem. You wonder how many people converted just to get the priests and monks to be quiet and leave them alone.

When a chieftain converted, often his people converted as well, for certain values of belief. Archaeology and the plaints of priests and monks complaining about lingering pagan practices both suggest that officially, everyone followed the faith of their clan lord/chieftain/war-band leader. However, they kept making little sacrifices and used the old charms as a form of insurance, just in case.

As the Christians spread, and as Christians became advisors to various war lords and kings, the idea of Rome also spread. Rome had ruled the known world. Rome was the super power. Who wouldn’t want to be the emperor of Rome? And if that meant accepting the church of Rome, well, obviously Rome’s tribal god had defeated the other tribal gods, so perhaps there was something to this Christianity after all. The emperors in Constantinople certainly thought so, and anyone who ventured into that city and attended worship would have been overawed, especially if they managed to get into the Higha Sophia or other great churches.

Oddly, Christianity’s emphasis on the value of the individual before G-d also fit into the Germanic ideas about wergeld and value. Now, in Germanic law, your cash value depended on your place in society, but even slaves had a right to compensation and had certain protections. Christianity said that all people were valued by the Most High, and that each soul was precious to the Lord, no matter slave, free, king, woman, or warrior.

However, the appeal of Rome and of Rome’s god also fueled resistance to Christianity, or in some cases pushed groups to favor Eastern over Western Christianity. There was no separation of Church and State. If you accepted the western church, you accepted the western kings and Holy Roman Emperor. That was part of the package, at least from 800-1150 or so. The Poles and Bohemians and Magyars didn’t always agree with the package, and several times petitioned the Popes for their own bishops and other administrators. They liked the church but not the emperor. The Baltic pagans too made that part of their argument against converting: they liked their tribal gods and independence. The Russian Orthodox Church did not push for conversion the way the Western Church did in the Middle Ages, which inclined some Slavic groups more towards the east than the west.

Now, this is all very interesting, and looking back, we can see that between AD 425 CE and 1492, Europe north of the Alps* and Iberia were converted and re-converted to western Christianity, at least officially.

So my question is: how do you convert the modern barbarians to civilization? Because the modern barbarians – peoples who do not value the individual, who have no regard for the past and no respect for anything not based on power, peoples who consider tradition at best cute and at worst something to be actively rooted out and eliminated – are once more moving across the land. How do we convert them? How do we preserve what is vital and sacred and persuade the barbarians to see things from our point of view? We can’t wait for a Charlemagne or Holger Dansk or Prinz Eugen or Otto the Great.

It is not easy. It takes sacrifices, and effort, and dogged patience, and nursing pockets of faith and learning and value. That may be one of the most important lessons late antiquity/ the Dark Ages can teach us today.

*The Orthodox didn’t ignore the Bulgars, Slavs, and others. They sent out missionaries, and in some ways were more flexible and patient. I’m thinking about Central and Western Europe, say from the eastern borders of what is now Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy.


The Prophecy of Shambhala

The concept of Shambhala plays an important role in Tibetan religious teachings, and has particular relevance in Tibetan mythology about the future. The Kalachakra prophesies the gradual deterioration of mankind as the ideology of materialism spreads over the earth. When the “barbarians” who follow this ideology are united under an evil king and think there is nothing left to conquer, the mists will lift to reveal the snowy mountains of Shambhala. The barbarians will attack Shambhala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons. Then the king of Shambhala will emerge from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish "dark forces" and usher in a worldwide Golden Age.

Though the Kālachakra prophesies a future war, this appears in conflict with the vows of Buddhist teachings that prohibit violence. This has led some theologians to interpret the war symbolically – the Kālachakra is not advocating violence against people but rather refers to the inner battle of the religious practitioner against inner demonic tendencies.


In Search of St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day has little liturgical significance. Outside of Ireland, it isn’t even a national holiday–I don’t know anyone who gets the day off. However, if there was ever a man who deserved to have a day named in his honor, it is Patrick. He was a Christian hero of incredible bravery, a man who changed history, and a man of faith who richly deserves to be remembered–and not only by the Irish!

As with many early heroes, history and legend have combined when it comes to Patrick. From his own few writings we know he was born near the end of the fourth century in Britain, an outpost of the crumbling Roman Empire.

It was a terrible time in the western world. Many Christians believed the end of the world was near. The imperium was disintegrating, and along with it the settled, ordered way of Roman life.

Decades of defensive warfare against a thousand foes along the empire’s vast perimeter had consumed soldiers and resources at a rate impossible to maintain. Internal strife and corruption had further destabilized the great empire. Rome was slowly shrinking, drawing its troops inward to more defensible positions, and leaving remote provinces and colonies perilously isolated. Britain was such an orphaned outpost, without real protection from blood-thirsty raiders who swept in from the sea to rob, rape, pillage and kidnap children for slaves.

Irish raiders

These raiders were the Irish–members of the same fierce Celtic race that had, in earlier decades, confronted Roman troops and fought them to a standstill on the borders of Roman Britain. In those days they had fought naked with their bodies painted in vivid colors. To the civilized Romans they were frightening savages with modern swords, shields and other weapons.

The Irish made jewelry and tableware from the bones of their victims, and they worshiped horrible, murderous monster gods. They practiced human sacrifice and were accused of cannibalism by the Romans, who never conquered them or their neighbors, the Picts. Instead, the Roman army steered clear of these natives and built sturdy walls across Britain in an effort to keep them at bay.

One of the unfortunate children stolen in a raid by these pirate warriors was Patrick, a Christian Roman boy dragged off one dark night, along with his two sisters, and carried across the sea to the remote mountains of Ireland. He was sold to be a shepherding slave. He was forced to live in horrible conditions, often hungry, often cold, threatened by the elements, and abused by his captors. Patrick survived, though, and over the years, he learned the language of the Irish and their ways.

In his Confession, one of two documents that have been attributed to St. Patrick, he tells us that he had not been particularly religious before his capture. But shivering alone in his mountain cave, with only his master’s sheep for companions, he turned earnestly to the Lord.

During his six years in bondage Patrick prayed and meditated. One day, he tells us, God sent him a surprising vision in a dream. He was to go to a certain harbor, where a boat would be waiting to take him home to Britain. He believed the message, walked to the harbor, and events happened as he had been told. Now a young man, Patrick was free and at home with his parents once again!

He spent only a short time with his family, for he received another message, in another dream. Patrick tells us this dream was vivid and startling. He was to return to Ireland, the land from which he had just escaped, not as a slave, but as a minister of God. The Lord had chosen Patrick, he believed, to turn the Irish from their Druidic paganism to Christ.

Obediently, Patrick set to work on what was to be a lifelong task. He studied for years, became a priest, and began to petition to be sent to Ireland. His petitions were repeatedly denied, and he was given other work. A decade passed, and then another. Patrick was made a bishop, but he was not allowed to go to Ireland. Most men would have given up, but Patrick worked, prayed and petitioned. Still more years passed. Another bishop, Palladius, was chosen to take the Gospel to Ireland–Patrick would not be the first missionary to Ireland after all.

Palladius’ mission failed. It lasted less than a year. Finally, Patrick, now perhaps 60 years old, after waiting, praying and petitioning for most of his life, was given permission by the Pope to undertake his very dangerous mission to Ireland.

What followed is an incredible story.

Patrick’s return

Ireland was a warrior nation divided into tribal districts. It was rich from years of raiding and from its booming slave trade. This was a world ruled by handsome, fierce, fighting nobles and black-hooded Druid priests. Here pagan, magical arts were practiced and the great idol Crom-Cruach, surrounded by 12 lesser deities, towered over a field dedicated to blood sacrifice. This was also a land where wandering poets sang songs of mythical heroes while chieftains feasted with their warriors in torchlit halls.

According to tradition and to the stories passed down to us, in about the year 432 Patrick and a small band landed their boat in Ireland and, singing a hymn for divine protection, proceeded inland. They soon found themselves face to face with a party of armed warriors led by two Irish princes who had orders to kill the Christians. However, as Patrick spoke a few words to the soldiers, the Holy Spirit swept in, converting the majority, whom Patrick baptized on the spot, including the two princes. The warriors joined Patrick on his inland march. (The princes eventually became priests and bishops themselves.)

Eventually, Patrick arrived at the court of King Leoghaire at Tara, where Druid priests displayed their demonic magic, theatrically plunging the hall into darkness. Instead of cowering in fright, Patrick observed aloud that these priests could create darkness but that they could not dispel it–which they could not. He then proceeded to use this incident as the theme of a sermon, in which he likened Christ to the light. Many of the assembled nobles converted to Christianity that day, and Patrick gained the king’s respect and protection.

The Druids claimed his mere presence sucked the magic power out of their practices. Other war parties sent to kill Patrick were converted by him instead. Tribal kings and queens fell in love with his charity and fearlessness. Even those who did not convert respected him. In about 434, after only two years of preaching in Ireland, Patrick himself used a long pry bar to topple the stone idol of Crom-Cruach.

He often faced certain death unafraid. He argued, preached and brought Christ with him everywhere he traveled. In his path he left converts and churches under construction. In about the time it took Patrick to walk across it, Ireland converted from paganism to Christianity. Ireland outlawed slavery and stopped raiding its neighbors. Never before in the history of the world and never since has such a dramatic and sudden cultural and religious change taken place without force of arms, solely through the Word of God.

An Irish hero

In many ways, Patrick was more Irish than the Irish. He loved Irish legends, poetry and songs, and he insisted that this heritage be documented and retained. For their part, the Irish loved him and embraced him. Patrick lived his life in Ireland and died there. He left behind a Christian people, a civilized people, and he left behind towns, schools, seminaries and a love of learning perpetuated to this day.

Perhaps the story I have just told is as much myth as truth. We know that there were probably small groups of Christians in Ireland before Patrick’s arrival, not in the least because of the kidnapping raids by Irish pirates. St. Patrick probably did not really drive all the snakes from Ireland either, as the legends say (biologists tell us snakes have never been native to Ireland), but we can agree that Patrick surely helped drive out one deadly serpent from that green garden!

A few years after Patrick’s death, Germanic barbarians sacked the city of Rome, burned books, tore down buildings, melted priceless artifacts, and dragged the western world into the Dark Ages. Western civilization was almost lost, but the Irish, on their island beyond the reach of the barbarians, remained a bastion of Christianity and learning. Irish monks sought out, copied and protected the few manuscripts that survived the barbarian onslaught on the continent. They protected not only Christian manuscripts, but influenced by Patrick’s love of literature and history, copied and maintained secular and pagan literature as well. Thanks to their efforts, we have the Illiad of Homer, the lectures of Cicero, and a thousand other cultural wonders that might otherwise have vanished. In short, for centuries Irish monks preserved our western heritage for us.

It was also Irish missionaries, following in Patrick’s footsteps, who risked their lives to bring the Gospel to those barbarians who had conquered Rome and spread across Europe–the Germans. Along with Christianity, Irish monks brought the same gifts to these barbarians that Patrick had carried to them not so many decades before: art, literature, learning and a new way of life.

So, we should give a bit of honor to Patrick, a Romanized Briton who began his letters, “I, Patrick, a sinner . …” He was a man who trusted God, became a powerful witness for the Lord, and changed the world. He was truly a hero.

The Strong Name of the Trinity

The text of [Lutheran Service Book 604], “I Bind unto Myself Today,” is attributed to St. Patrick. This beautiful prayer, traditionally called “St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate,” is supposed to have been composed by Patrick in anticipation of his victory over paganism. The translation of the prayer in [Lutheran Service Book] from the old Irish text is a paraphrase by Cecil F. Alexander [1818-95].

The “Apostle of Ireland,” as Patrick is sometimes called, is also associated with the shamrock, a plant sacred to the Druids, to explain the Trinity. Preaching in the open air, Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock from the grass growing at his feet and showed it to his listeners as an illustration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “I Bind unto Myself Today” also deals with the topic of the Holy Trinity.

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
By pow’r of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
His Baptism in the Jordan River,
His cross of death for my salvation,
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavn’ly way,
His coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The pow’r of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heavn’ly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile foes that mar my course
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In ev’ry place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me those holy pow’rs.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three,
Of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!

About the author: A physicist and writer, John Murphy Ball is a member of Ascension Lutheran Church, Huntsville, Ala. This story appeared originally in the March 1999 Lutheran Witness. LCMS congregations may reprint for parish use. All other rights reserved. Text copyright © 1999 by John Murphy Ball. Hymn stanzas for “I Bind unto Myself Today” (LSB 604): public domain.


Did barbarians capture monks or priest of civilized kingdoms to teach them? - History


Benedictine by Fra Angelico

A monastery was a building, or buildings, where people lived and worshiped, devoting their time and life to God. The people who lived in the monastery were called monks. The monastery was self contained, meaning everything the monks needed was provided by the monastery community. They made their own clothes and grew their own food. They had no need for the outside world. This way they could be somewhat isolated and could focus on God. There were monasteries spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.

Why were they important?

The monks in the monasteries were some of the only people in the Middle Ages who knew how to read and write. They provided education to the rest of the world. The monks also wrote books and recorded events. If it wasn't for these books, we would know very little about what happened during the Middle Ages.


A Monastery by FDV

The Monks Helped People

Although the monks were focused on God and the monastery, they still played an important part in the community. Monasteries were a place where travelers could stay during the Middle Ages as there were very few inns during that time. They also helped to feed the poor, take care of the sick, and provided education to boys in the local community.

Daily Life in the Monastery

The majority of the monk's day in the Middle Ages was spent praying, worshiping in church, reading the Bible, and meditating. The rest of the day was spent working hard on chores around the Monastery. The monks would have different jobs depending on their talents and interests. Some worked the land farming food for the other monks to eat. Others washed the clothes, cooked the food, or did repairs around the monastery. Some monks were scribes and would spend their day copying manuscripts and making books.

Jobs at the Monastery

  • Abbot - The Abbot was the head of the monastery or abbey.
  • Prior - The monk that was second in charge. Sort of the deputy to the abbot.
  • Lector - The monk in charge of reading the lessons in church.
  • Cantor - Leader of the monk's choir.
  • Sacrist - The monk in charge of the books.

Monks generally took vows when they entered the order. A part of this vow was that they were dedicating their life to the monastery and the order of monks they were entering. They were to give up worldly goods and devote their lives to God and discipline. They also took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.


From Narrative of the Conquest of Peru, by his secretary, Francisco de Xeres, 1530-34 [Pizarro sends for Atahualpa.]

As soon as the messenger came before Atahualpa, he made an obeisance to him, and made signs that he should come to where the Governor waited. Presently he and his troops began to move, and the Spaniard returned and reported that they were coming, and that the men in front carried arms concealed under their clothes, which were strong tunics of cotton, beneath which were stones and bags and slings all which made it appear that they had a treacherous design. Soon the van of the enemy began to enter the open space. First came a squadron of Indians dressed in a livery of different colors, like a chessboard. They advanced, removing the straws from the ground and sweeping the road. Next came three squadrons in different dresses, dancing and singing. Then came a number of men with armor, large metal plates, and crowns of gold and silver. Among them was Atahualpa in a litter lined with plumes of macaws' feathers of many colors and adorned with plates of gold and silver. Many Indians carried it on their shoulders on high . . .

On reaching the center of the open space, Atahualpa remained in his litter on high, and the others with him, while his troops did not cease to enter. A captain then came to the front and, ascending the fortress near the open space, where the artillery was posted, raised his lance twice, as for a signal. Seeing this, the Governor asked the Father Friar Vicente if he wished to go and speak to Atahualpa, with an interpreter. He replied that he did wish it, and he advanced, with a cross in one hand and the Bible in the other, and going amongst the troops up to the place where Atahualpa was, thus addressed him: "I am a priest of God, and I teach Christians the things of God, and in like manner I come to teach you. What I teach is that which God says to us in this Book. Therefore, on the part of God and of the Christians, I beseech you to be their friend, for such is God's will, and it will be for your good. Go and speak to the Governor, who waits for you."

Atahualpa asked for the Book, that he might look at it, and the priest gave it to him closed. Atahualpa did not know how to open it, and the priest was extending his arm to do so, when Atahualpa, in great anger, gave him a blow on the arm, not wishing that it should be opened. Then he opened it himself, and, without any astonishment at the letters and paper, as had been shown by other Indians, he threw it away from him five or six paces, and, to the words which the monk had spoken to him through the interpreter, he answered with much scorn, saying: "I know well how you have behaved on the road, how you have treated my chiefs, and taken the cloth from my storehouses." The monk replied: "The Christians have not done this, but some Indians took the cloth without the knowledge of the Governor, and he ordered it to be restored." Atahualpa said: "I will not leave this place until they bring it all to me." The monk returned with this reply to the Governor.

Atahualpa stood up on the top of the litter, addressing his troops and ordering them to be prepared. The monk told the Governor what had passed between him and Atahualpa, and that he had thrown the Scriptures to the ground. Then the Governor put on a jacket of cotton, took his sword and dagger, and, with the Spaniards who were with him, entered amongst the Indians most valiantly and, with only four men who were able to follow him, he came to the litter where Atahualpa was, and fearlessly seized him by the arm, crying out, "Santiago!" Then the guns were fired off, the trumpets were sounded, and the troops, both horse and foot, sallied forth. On seeing the horses charge, many of the Indians who were in the open space fled, and such was the force with which they ran that they broke down part of the wall surrounding it, and many fell over each other. The horsemen rode them down, killing and wounding, and following in pursuit. The infantry made so good an assault upon those that remained that in a short time most of them were put to the sword. The Governor still held Atahualpa by the arm, not being able to pull him out of the litter because he was raised so high. Then the Spaniards made such a slaughter amongst those who carried the litter that they fell to the ground, and, if the Governor had not protected Atahualpa, that proud man would there have paid for all the cruelties he had committed. The Governor, in protecting Atahualpa, received a slight wound in the hand. During the whole time no Indian raised his arms against a Spaniard.

So great was the terror of the Indians at seeing the Governor force his way through them, at hearing the fire of the artillery, and beholding the charging of horses, a thing never before heard of, that they thought more of flying to save their lives than of fighting. All those who bore the litter of Atahualpa appeared to be principal chiefs. They were all killed, as well as those who were carried in the other litters and hammocks.

The Governor went to his lodging, with his prisoner Atahualpa despoiled of his robes, which the Spaniards had tom off in pulling him out of the litter. It was a very wonderful thing to see so great a lord taken prisoner in so short a time, who came in such power. The Governor presently ordered native clothes to be brought, and when Atahualpa was dressed, he made him sit near him, and soothed his rage and agitation at finding himself so quickly fallen from his high estate. Among many other things, the Governor said to him: "Do not take it as an insult that you have been defeated and taken prisoner, for with the Christians who come with me, though so few in number, I have conquered greater kingdoms than yours, and have defeated other more powerful lords than you, imposing upon them the dominion of the Emperor, whose vassal I am, and who is King of Spain and of the universal world. We come to conquer this land by his command, that all may come to a knowledge of God, and of His Holy Catholic Faith . . ."

. . . Atahualpa feared that the Spaniards would kill him, so he told the Governor that he would give his captors a great quantity of gold and silver. The Governor asked him: "How much can you give, and in what time?" Atahualpa said: "I will give gold enough to fill a room twenty-two feet long and seventeen wide, up to a white line which is halfway up the wall." The height would be that of a man's stature and a half. He said that, up to that mark, he would fill the room with different kinds of golden vessels, such as jars, pots, vases, besides lumps and other pieces. As for silver, he said he would fill the whole chamber with it twice over. He undertook to do this in two months. The Governor told him to send off messengers with this object, and that, when it was accomplished, he need have no fear.

After some days some of the people of Atahualpa arrived. There was a brother of his, who came from Cuzco, and sisters and wives. The brother brought many vases, jars, and pots of gold, and much silver, and he said that more was on the road but that, as the journey is so long, the Indians who bring the treasure become tired, and cannot all come so quickly, so that every day more gold and silver will arrive of that which now remains behind. Thus on some days twenty thousand, on others thirty thousand, on others fifty thousand or sixty thousand pesos of gold arrived, in vases, great pots weighing two or three arrobas, and other vessels. The Governor ordered it all to be put in the house where Atahualpa had his guards, until he had accomplished what he had promised.

[After receiving the huge ransom from Atahualpa,
Pizarro charges the Inca with conspiring against him.]

. . . I will say something of the place that was subject to the Cuzco and now belongs to Atahualpa. They say that it contained two houses made of gold, and that the straws with which it was roofed were all made of gold. With the gold that was brought from Cuzco, there were some straws made of solid gold, with their spikes, just as they would grow in the fields. If I was to recount all the different varieties in the shape of the pieces of gold my story would never end. There was a stool of gold [the throne of the Incas, which Pizarro himself took] that weighed eight arrobas. There were great fountains with their pipes, through which water flowed into a reservoir on the same fountains, where there were birds of different kinds, and men drawing water from the fountain, all made of gold. It was also ascertained from Atahualpa and Chilicuchima, and many others, that in Xauxa Atahualpa had sheep and shepherds tending them, all made of gold and the sheep and shepherds were large, and of the size that they are met with in this land.

Now I must mention a thing which should not be forgotten. A chief, who was Lord of Caxamalca, appeared before the Governor and said to him through the interpreters: "I would have you to know that, after Atahualpa was taken prisoner, he sent to Quito, his native land, and to all the other provinces, with orders to collect troops to march against you and your followers, and to kill you all and all these troops are coming under the command of a great captain called Lluminabi. This army is now very near to this place. It will come at night and attack the camp . . ."

The Governor then spoke to Atahualpa, saying: "What treason is this that you have prepared for me? For me who have treated you with honor, like a brother, and have trusted in your words!" Then he told him all the information he had received. Atahualpa answered, saying: "Are you laughing at me? You are always making jokes when you speak to me. What am I and all my people that we should trouble such valiant men as you are? Do not talk such nonsense to me." He said all this without betraying a sign of anxiety but he laughed the better to conceal his evil design, and practiced many other arts such as would suggest themselves to a quick-witted man. After he was a prisoner, the Spaniards who heard him were astounded to find so much wisdom in a barbarian.

Then the Governor, with the concurrence of the officers of his Majesty, and of the captains and persons of experience, sentenced Atahualpa to death. His sentence was that, for the treason he had committed, he should die by burning, unless he became a Christian . . .

They brought out Atahualpa to execution and, when he came into the square, he said he would become a Christian. The Governor was informed, and ordered him to be baptized. The ceremony was performed by the very reverend Father Friar Vicente de Valverde. The Governor then ordered that he should not be burned, but that he should be fastened to a pole in the open space and strangled. This was done, and the body was left until the morning of the next day, when the monks, and the Governor with the other Spaniards, conveyed it into the church, where it was interred with much solemnity, and with all the honors that could be shown it. Such was the end of this man, who had been so cruel. He died with great fortitude, and without showing any feeling . . .


St. Patrick Wasn&apost Irish

St. Patrick was born in Britain—not Ireland—to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D.

Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. 

At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) 

During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)


A Brief History of European Forests

The history of forests in Europe over the past 130,000 years encompasses a wide variety of changes for all parts of the continent. One location could transition from dense deciduous trees to evergreens to barren wind swept arctic tundra as the centuries passed.

We will start with the last interglacial warm period, then go through changes as a result of the last ice age, and finish with the history of European forests during our current interglacial warm period.

Europe experienced a climate period known as the Eemian Warm Period from around 130,000 to 115,000 BC. During this time, Europe was on average about 3.5°F (2°C) warmer than present day temperatures.

Across most of Europe, it seems there were successive waves of various tree species during the Eemian, as the climate was not entirely stable during this 15,000 year period.


The truth about St. Patrick's life from kidnapping to Irish Catholicism

Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick every March 17. But how many of us can really say that we know who he is – or who he was – and how relevant he is in today's secular and, for the most part, pagan society?

Saint Patrick is not only the Patron Saint of Ireland, but he is also the Patron Saint of Australia, Nigeria, and Montserrat, which gives him universal recognition in the Church and in the world. He is also "Apostle" by God's design to the Irish worldwide in the same genre as Saint Paul was "Apostle to the Gentiles."

Saint Patrick becomes the Patron Saint on March 17 in almost every country of the world, as people celebrate their "Irish- ness " or links with Ireland through family and friends.

Saint Patrick is probably the best-known saint around the world, after Saint Therese of Lisieux . Not only are many people named after him, with some 7 million bearing his name, but many establishments, institutions, and churches are called after him. Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York is the most famous of all.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Photo: iStock

St. Patrick's kidnapping and imprisonment in Ireland

By all historical accounts, Patrick was captured by an Irish raiding party somewhere along the west coast of what is known today as Great Britain. It was more than likely Scotland because of its proximity to Ireland, although many would say Wales. We know that there were boats leaving from Strangford Lough in Larne at that time, around the year 426 AD. (One can see Scotland from Larne on a clear day it's about 10 miles away).

Raiding parties, with warriors known as the " Picts ," would land somewhere on the coast and, if the place was inhabited, would usually do a "smash and grab job" of looting – young people, animals, clothes, weapons, etc. – and if they were opposed by anyone, they would kill them in order to get what they wanted. They were able to run inland for about three miles non-stop while leaving a handful of men to guard their vessels.

On one such raid, Patrick was snatched and brought to Ireland as a slave. His job was to mind the sheep at night in case wolves, wild dogs, foxes or even wild bears would take them or their lambs. He did this on the slopes of the Slemish Mountains in County Antrim .

We know from our history that Patrick's father was a deacon and, therefore, a good Catholic. He was one who taught the faith in his own community, and no doubt one who prayed unceasingly for Patrick in a special way after his son's kidnapping, asking the Lord for his safe return.

(We know some of the sources that give testimony to these facts from Patrick's "Confessions," the "Epistle against Coroticus ", and a number of "Ancient Lives," including the Book of Armagh II, held in Trinity College Dublin).

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St. Patrick's Statue in Aghagower, Co. Mayo. Photo: Andreas F. Borchert, Wikimedia Commons.

How St. Patrick returned home and became a priest

Although Patrick was only 16 years old when taken into slavery, he was able to escape six years later and return home. He recounts a "dream" (vision) he had, in which an angel of the Lord came in the night, and told him of a ship that was leaving Ireland, and how he might be able to take it by traveling south, near Dublin.

By this time, Patrick, who was often cold and hungry, had spent six years in virtual isolation away from people. He was lonely and had turned to prayer and, like his father, had prayed non-stop asking God to deliver him. His prayers were finally heard and God had designs on him. In fact, it would be fair to say, that Patrick had become somewhat of a mystic by this stage, so intense was his prayer life and his constant communication with God.

He arrived home to the delight of his parents and was reunited with his family and friends. He later began to realize that he had a vocation to the priesthood or some ministry of prayer in the Church. At this time the Church was already established somewhat in Ireland. There was already an Archbishop of Armagh by the name of Pallidus .

Ireland was not ecclesiastically independent at the time but came under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Arles in France, which is connected to the great Mediterranean Sea by the Rhone River and from there by a direct link to Rome.

Patrick often thought about the Irish and prayed for their conversion to the faith. During his time in Ireland, even though he was a slave, he had developed a profound relationship with God and a great ability to pray.

Later, as he said himself in his "Confessions," he was tormented by the "Voice of the Irish," whom he had heard calling in the night: "Come back to us Patrick."

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St. Patrick's great mission to Ireland and the arrival of civilization

Once Patrick was ordained as a priest and had learned Latin and French, he asked to be sent as a missionary to Ireland, or, as it was known then, Hiberniae , which means the "Land of Winter." Patrick had a great missionary zeal and soon became Ireland's second Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland.

He set two goals for himself: first, to evangelize the pagan Irish, and second, to set up the ecclesiastical structures and dioceses with a view to achieving independence from Arles , which was supporting the missionary activity in Ireland up until that time.

To do this without modern communications, roads, rail, telecommunications, etc. was very difficult, but Patrick was not deterred by hardship. After all, he was on fire with the love of God in his heart. He knew what his mission would be, and how difficult it was, but he trusted always in the power of God to deliver him, and so he went about evangelizing. He did this by setting up many quasi-monastic structures in towns and villages when he passed through them.

He preached daily about the Kingdom of Heaven and baptized those who accepted the Gospel. Those who excelled in their faith, he ordained to the diaconate , leaving them in charge of the prayer and the various liturgical ceremonies, while in many cases he ordained many devout men to the priesthood.

Later he was able to select from them good and brave men whom he consecrated as bishops with the approval of the Pope. He was also successful in setting up dioceses in larger towns as he journeyed throughout the island of Ireland.

Saint Patrick had laid the foundations not only for the Catholic Church in Ireland but for all of Western Europe and as such deserves the title, yet to be bestowed, of Co-Patron of Europe along with Saint Benedict, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Holy Cross (Edith Stein), and Saint Bridget of Sweden.

St. Patrick had laid the foundations for the Catholic Church in Ireland. Image: Library of Congress

The Catholic Church in Ireland evangelized and educated its own people first and provided the first organized educational infrastructure for a society that previously had none. The monasteries were built and there were plenty of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

The Irish monks became teachers and inventors. They were, in addition to leading the monastic life of prayer, also great builders and craftsmen. Given that there were so many vocations, they began to look at the possibilities of becoming missionaries not only to Europe but to the Americas.

Many monk missionaries left Ireland well prepared, some bound for Scotland, where they set up a monastery on Iona. Still others went to France, establishing the famous monastery of Locmine in Brittany, which still exists. Others went to Spain and Saint Brendan the Abbot even went to North America (474-577AD).

Saint Patrick realized that the word Christianization was synonymous with civilization and, therefore, as Europeans were being evangelized, they were at the same time being civilized. Europeans eventually became educated and were able to build the big monasteries and cathedrals, many of which still exist. This is due initially to the untiring efforts of Saint Patrick and those great missionaries who are, for the most part, forgotten by the Irish of today. Saint Patrick himself is really a gift of God to the Irish people for whom the Irish will be eternally grateful.

Saint Patrick died in Armagh in 461AD after 29 years as Archbishop in that Archdiocese which now has the Primacy of all Ireland. The current Archbishop is known as "Primate of all Ireland." His job would be to chair all meetings of the Irish Episcopal Conferences and to make sure that faith and morals are taught and upheld by both the religious and civil authorities.

The remaining relics of Saint Patrick and his gifts to Ireland

There exists a very precious relic of Saint Patrick in Northern Ireland, his incorrupt right hand. This sacred and special relic is, unfortunately, kept in the Ulster Museum and not in a dedicated or special place which is open to pilgrims.

Saint Patrick's jaw is kept in a parish church in the Diocese of Down and Connor . His grave is beside the Cathedral of Armagh .

Hopefully, one day these relics will be gathered together and incorporated into an International Shrine of Saint Patrick, along with all the other materials, such as books on his life, etc., which show his influence on the entire Catholic Church.

To celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, therefore, is to commemorate his life and works and to give thanks to God for the gift of this great saint, while imploring him to intercede on our behalf before the Most Blessed Trinity. According to a legend, Saint Patrick used the shamrock to try to explain how there can be Three Divine Persons in one God, because, as we all know, there are three leaves in one stem on the shamrock.

Patrick is also the one who left us with the Celtic Cross. When he began to evangelize he found that many of the pagans had worshiped the sun and so he incorporated the sun into the Latin Cross. Likewise, when he met the Druids, who worshiped a sacred standing stone that was marked with a circle that was symbolic of the moon goddess, he incorporated that also. The Celtic Cross is now world-famous and revered by all.

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The Celtic Cross envisioned by St. Patrick. Image: Getty.

"Saint Patrick's Breastplate", a prayer of protection written by St. Patrick himself.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness ,
Through confession of the one ness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear ,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness ,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation. Amen!

Looking for events in your community this St Patrick’s Day or to share further information on the March 17 celebrations in your area? Join our St Patrick’s Day 2019 group and celebrate St Patrick’s Day 2019 in proper Irish style.

Do you have St. Patrick's Day news you'd like to share with the global Irish community? Why not join IrishCentral's contributor's platform IrishCentral Storytellers? You can learn more about it here IrishCentral’s Irish Voices contributor’s platform here and sign up here.

* Originally published in August 2016.

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Vikings Weren’t Huge

Vikings are often thought of as tall, muscular, blonde brutes. However, analysis of skeletal remains proves that, on average, they were much shorter than we thought. In fact, they were about 4 inches shorter than the average modern man.

Vikings and other ancient people often ate diets that were lacking in major nutrients, and that generally made them much shorter than modern humans. People ate the foods that were available in their area. If key vitamins weren’t found in the plants and animals near a group of people, they didn’t get those nutrients.


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