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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

We may, therefore, fairly assume that St. Martin’s great Monastery at Tours was the first school of virtue and learning which Patrick visited, and there it is said he spent at least four years.

How he journeyed from Britain to Tours is uncertain. Adhering to the ancient authority of Probus, we may assume that he found a Gallic wine-ship somewhere in Britain which took him over ‘the Iccian Sea,’ or, as we say now, down the Channel, and thence across the Bay of Biscay to Bordeaux. Then, as now, it was a famous city, with a great coasting and foreign trade, especially in wine. It was, moreover, connected by great roads with the principal cities of Gaul, and had long been celebrated for its schools and learned professors. Patrick, however, does not appear to have made a long stay in Bordeaux, for, we are told by Probus that he journeyed thence to a place which he calls Trajectum. As the name implies, this was the point where the Roman road going north to Perigueux and Tours crossed the river Dordogne some fifty miles eastward of Bordeaux. This road would bring Patrick after a long and weary way to Poitiers, the ancient Roman town whose remains have been lately discovered in the modern city, and there, doubtless, he would seek shelter and hospitality in the great Monastery of Ligugé, founded near the city some fifty years before by his relation, the great St. Martin. Going thence still northward—if we are to trust a very ancient tradition—Patrick came to the Loire, which he crossed, some say, floating on his cloak, at a point a few leagues westward of Tours, where stand the ancient Church and very modern railway-station of St. Patrice.

It was mid-winter when the weary traveller, footsore and hungry, arrived at the great river, seeking in vain for some place of shelter; but, finding none, he lay down to rest beneath the spreading boughs of a blackthorn tree which grew near at hand. They were covered with hoar frost: but lo! that hoar frost disappeared under the warmer breath of air from heaven. The frozen boughs were softened by the living sap, and, throwing off the snowy crystals, were soon clothed with their own flowers of purest white, which covered the weary Saint like a canopy, sheltering him as he slept. And from that time to the present, every year at the close of December the “Flowers of St. Patrick” reappear, as if in vernal bloom, on the same tree, in spite of the utmost severity of the weather. The fact has been witnessed by generations of men, living and dead, who have seen it with their own eyes, and we have, moreover, the official testimony of the curé of the parish, and also of the President of the Archæological Society of Touraine, who cites the “Annals of the Local Agricultural Society,” which give a full account of that marvellous bloom in mid-winter.

Having crossed to the right or northern shore of the great river, Patrick would have no difficulty in making his way along its banks to the great Monastery of St. Martin at Marmoutier, near Tours, which he longed to visit and had toiled so hard to reach.






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