17TH CENTURY OAK PANEL OF ST. PATRICK
W: 16cm H: 46cm D: 2cm
This rare 17th-century oak panel of St Patrick, probably Irish, shows the saint with oddly-placed hands, grasping a stake in his right hand and a book of his writings in his left. Above him are two shamrocks: Patrick was said to have used a shamrock’s three leaves to illustrate the ‘three in one’ doctrine of the Holy Trinity to pagans. The panel was originally the muntin – the upright between other panels – on a coffer.
St. Patrick, born in the 5th century in the west of Roman Britain, was captured when a boy by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland where he worked as a slave for about six years. He somehow left or escaped from Ireland and went either to France or, more probably, back to Britain, where he prayed, thought and studied, finally deciding he should return to Ireland as a missionary.
Some Christians were already living in Ireland, but it was Patrick who made the greatest impression on the populace despite his lack of learning. He established himself as a bishop in Armagh where he preached with the aim of abolishing paganism, idolatry and sun-worship. He brought order and organisation to the church and wrote several books, most notably ‘Confession’ in which he reviewed his life and work. He remained conscious all his life of having been a slave and a fugitive who had learned to trust completely in God in order to live.