Phone (513) 251-5500
March 13th, 2018

The Legend of the Shrine of St. Patrick’s Tooth

Category: cincinnati dentist

all about st patricks day tooth

Are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year?

Many people know of the holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, but are just as many people familiar with the patron saint of Ireland himself? Let’s briefly look at who St. Patrick really was, and then let’s dig deeper to learn about the legend of the “Shrine of St. Patrick’s Tooth.”

Get to Know The Patron Saint of Ireland

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary, and he’s the one that helped to convert Ireland to Christianity back around the 5th century (approximately).

Here’s what surprising: St. Patrick himself was actually not Irish, and there’s much debate on what his birthplace was and when exactly he was born. It is believed, however, that his parents were Romans who lived in Britain (1).

According to many history books, his birth name was Maewyn Succat—quite the mouthful compared to a name that’s pretty common today, Patrick! When he entered the priesthood, that’s when he took on the name Patrick.

In his teenage years, he was taken prisoner by people who had attacked the estate where he was living. In the following years, in Ireland, he was a slave. That’s when he embraced his religion and became a devout Christian.

Once he escaped slavery, he pursued religious education, eventually becoming a priest and a bishop. When he then was sent to Ireland, he ministered Christian and worked on converting other Irishmen to Christianity (2). And of course, over a period of about 40 years, he had a lot of influence, integrating Irish traditions with religion, many of which still are celebrated today! The official date for when Ireland was converted to Christianity is 432, according to the history books! (1)

legend has it about st patricks tooth

The Legends & the Great Debates Around St. Patrick

There are quite a few legends and quite a few debates when it comes to the history of St. Patrick. For example, many debate over when and where he actually died. Some say it was March 17, 460, in Downpatrick, which is part of why St. Patrick’s Day holiday is on March 17th. Others argue that’s actually his day of birth, not the date of his death (2, 3).

The Beloved Tooth of St. Patrick is Lost

Another much-talked about part of history related to St. Patrick: The Shrine of St. Patrick’s Tooth. Legend says this ornate shrine contained an actual tooth of St. Patrick’s—a tooth that was lost while he visited the Church of Killaspugbrone.

This Church was the oldest church of the Barony of Carbury. Its name comes from three words: Kill from cill, meaning church; aspug from easbog, meaning bishop,; and Brón was the name of St Patrick’s disciple (4).

Some versions of the legend claim that while on a visit to the Church, St. Patrick tripped and fell. In doing so, when he landed on the ground, he lost a tooth. As a sign of friendship and goodwill, the legend claims he then gave the tooth to Bishop Bronus (who was a native of that area). In turn, after that, it’s said that Bronus is the one who enshrined that gift in the church (5).

Then, in the 14th century, the legend says that a wooden box was created to hold the tooth. The box was made of a combination of gold, silver, and amber, among other materials. On the backside of the shrine, there is an image of King David playing the harp. That also has a lot of meaning as music meant a great deal to people during the time period this was made.

As for the front of the shrine, there is an inscription that says how the shrine was decorated for Thomas de Bermingham, Lord of Athenry (5).

But, much to the disappointment of many, the tooth that was once inside…has since entirely disappeared. Another point that’s up for debate is how the tooth was lost.

Interestingly, the box itself, meant to hold the tooth, is still around today. (See a photo of the shrine here.)

That beautiful box, despite missing the tooth, is at the National Museum of Ireland. Many come each year in order to get a glimpse, and it was even used in past years to cure sick animals!

Legends Continued…

Despite such a great deal of mystery about his life, there are other intriguing facts and stories about St. Patrick. A few include:

  • His tombstone. Historians say he was buried in Northern Ireland, and probably around the Down Cathedral (which now claims to be his burial site). Today there is a stone placed, in his memory, to mark the approximate location on the church’s grounds. That stone was actually taken from the Mourne Mountains which are nearby (2).
  • The shrive of his hand. You read that right…even his hands were seen as worthy of a dedicated shrine! Legend says that after he died, a silver holster was created in a way to replicate St. Patrick’s hand. The relic had been passed around quite a bit (among Bishops and others), and supposedly somewhere along the way, it was lost.
  • Reproductions of his tooth shrine. Today, there are even reproductions of his tooth shrine. That goes to show just how important this is to people and how much artifacts connected to St. Patrick are valued.
  • The Confession of St. Patrick. There was a letter that St. Patrick is believed to have written late in his life. It begins, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers…” What it goes on to say includes his beliefs on religion, and more details that reveal some of his biography. Just like many artifacts with St. Patrick, there is much debate on this letter. Speculation exists that says he probably penned the piece when he was defending his good name after some in power had attached him (6).

Many artifacts and stories surrounding St. Patrick are speculative and there’s lots of unknowns, that’s for sure!

But it’s definitely interesting to hear how much value was placed on having one of his teeth…and having a place fully dedicated to saving that tooth–even if the tooth is now lost! 

looking forward to seeing you

Come in & Visit Hagen Dental Practice

Do you have questions about your oral health? We want to help you on your health journey, no matter where you are at today.
We’re here to help with all your dental needs. Please call (513) 251-5500 or click the Online Scheduling button on our website to schedule your next visit!

Sources:

  1. http://www.saintpatricksdayparade.com/life_of_saint_patrick.htm
  2. http://english-zone.com/holidays/st-pat.html
  3. http://mentalfloss.com/article/55485/7-artifacts-supposedly-connected-st-patrick
  4. http://gostrandhill.com/explore/history/killaspugbrone/
  5. https://stpatricksstrandhill.ie/killaspugbrone-circa-500ad/
  6. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/patrick/confession/confession.html

Tags:

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

*

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.