Pilgrimages of Europe: Croagh Patrick, Ireland (1995)
Pilgrimages are as old as mankind. The mystical and spiritual nature of a pilgrimage holds an eternal, mythic appeal to the imagination of many people. Every year millions of pilgrims of all nationalities, young and old, set out on these voyages of the soul.
In the 4th century A.D. the monk Patrick traveled to pagan Ireland with a personal mission to convert the Irish to Christianity. Patrick won the population over by integrating venerated pagan symbols, like the sun, into the Christian faith. Croagh Patrick, a mountain on Ireland’s wild western coast, is such a symbol. During a dispute with the druids, Patrick was challenged to fast for forty days and forty nights on their holy mountain. “Our gods will destroy you,” they threatened. Patrick accepted their challenge. After forty days and nights on the mountain, he made his descent, none the worse for wear. From then onward, his influence grew by leaps and bounds. To this day Saint Patrick remains the patron saint of Ireland. Every Irishman climbs Croagh Patrick at least once in his life, as his ancestors did even before the dawn of the Christian era.
Today thousands of pilgrims are climbing a mountain in Ireland, as they have been doing for an amazing 5,000 years! Over the course of a year, it's estimated that one million visitors make the climb. The mountain is Croagh Patrick. It's approximately 2,500 feet, located in County Mayo. On Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, pilgrims climb the mountain in honor of the patron saint, St. Patrick.