Legend has it that when Saint Patrick died he was buried in the Hill of Down in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland during the 5th century. Since the 12th century, a cathedral has sat on top of the hill.
Over the centuries, the church was destroyed, fell into ruin, and rebuilt several times with the changing of religious and political winds. The Anglo-Norman knight, John de Courcy, claimed to have gathered the relics of Saint Brigit and Saint Columba and buried them on the hill along with those of St Patrick. For over 1,600 years, Downpatrick has been the sight of various religious pilgrimages.
In the early 1900s, so many pilgrims were removing soil from the holy site that a large granite slab was installed to stop the practice. The boulder has the inscription of a Celtic cross and the name “Patrick” carved upon it. Nearby stands a Celtic cross that dates from the 10th or 11th century.
Today, Down Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, is the historic and religious center of Downpatrick. Nearby at the bottom of the hill is the Saint Patrick Centre, where visitors can learn more about the life of St. Patrick at the only permanent exhibit in the world dedicated to Ireland’s most famous saint.
Know Before You Go
The Hill of Down and Down Cathedral is at the center of Downpatrick and easy to find upon arrival. Downpatrick is approximately 20 miles (33 kilometers) south of Belfast in County Down, Northern Ireland.