The Shrine of St. Patricks Tooth

20 Sep

ImageFollowing a self guided tour of Irelands National History Museum, I became very interested in the Shrine of St. Patrick’s Tooth. Having gone to a Catholic high school I am very aware of the common practices of preserving some part of a Saint following their death. In St. Patrick’s case this was his tooth which was said to have fallen out of his mouth on the doorstep of St Brone’s Church in County Sligo. As with any metal work of the time, the shrine features four separate panels depicting many facets of the Catholic faith, including the Virgin Mary, Jesus as well as scenes from St. Patrick’s own life. The significance of the tooth is that upon his arrival to St. Brone’s he feel on the top step and his tooth came out and it was believed to be divine providence that caused him to fall. The shrine itself is made of guilded bronze and is inlayed with gem stones, showing the significance of St. Patrick’s memory.

I have always been intrigued by how committed the Catholic faith is to preserving the saints of their faith. Shrines are always meant to be a place of memory and celebration of the person. I knew that some Saints had performed miracles during their lifetime and even after death – for some it is thought that their spirit can be seen to this day, for others their blood reliquifies on a specific day of the year. I was interested to see if St. Patrick had something that occurred on his Saint Day. Alas, his post mortem remains do not do anything extraordinary, however, it is believed that he did raise people from the dead during his lifetime which explains why even the smallest of his remains, a tooth, would be preserved for so long. 

-Ethan Bresnahan

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