Croagh Patrick (Saint Patrick's Mountain)

Since as far back as 3,000 BC, Croagh Patrick (Saint Patrick’s Mountain) has been known as a place of worship. Dating back to the time of Saint Patrick who apparently fasted and had penance here for 40 days and 40 nights. It is also said that it is here at Croagh Patrick where St Patrick our patron saint banished the snakes from Ireland forever!

On the last Sunday in July every year thousands of Christian tours and pilgrimages from around the world descend upon Croagh Patrick for a day or worship in honour of Ireland’s patron Saint, Saint Patrick. Outdoor masses are held throughout this day. Until recent decades, it started by candlelight at midnight, and the 2510-foot ascent was undertaken barefoot. But most pilgrims now retain their shoes, and assemble in daylight near the northern foot of the mountain, close to the Late Medieval Franciscan friary at Murrisk, 8km outside westport. This day of worship is known as “Reek Sunday”.

They walk around a modern white statue of Saint Patrick and then proceed, stick in hand, towards the summit. There, in the century-old chapel, confessions are heard, Masses are said, and rosary beads are thumbed by pious pilgrims kneeling in prayer, hoping to gain a favour, or doing it simply because they have been keeping up the practice for years.

The rigour of the walk to the top is tough but invigorating, achievable normally in under three hours, and rewarded in good weather with one of the finest maritime panoramas in the West of Ireland. It is one of Europe’s truly ancient pilgrimages, wafting the participant back in spirit to the hardship of the Middle Ages. Yet, for all its spirituality, the pilgrimage can be fun for young and old, exuding a sense of camaraderie among all who happily mix good humour and prayer as they puff up and down the stony paths, keeping alive an age-old tradition of community togetherness that is well worth experiencing.

Croagh Patrick is the most prominent mountain overlooking Clew Bay on the Atlantic coast of County Mayo. It is situated near the town of Westport and aprox 90 km from Galway and 200 Km from Dublin, Irelands capital city. Approaching it from the landward side to the east, it looks as if it has to be a holy mountain – and it is.

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