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St. Patrick in Brazil


 (c) 2008 Peter O´Neill (org.)


Back in the 18th Century the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, inspired two Portuguese Franciscan Brothers to have a wooden statue, a town (São Patrício, pop. 1,840 in 2003), a river and an extensive valley in the Brazilian State of Goiás all named in his honour!  

Prefeitura Municipal de São Patrício - GO, Praça Félix Machado Parreira, nº 04 - São Patrício - GO - CEP: 76.343-000 T. (62) 3340-0066  F. (62) 3340-0066.  Site oficial e foto:    Criação do Município de São Patrício (lei):

St. Patrick also had a church dedicated to him by Lancelot Belford (b. Dublin 1708 + Maranhão SL 1775) on his estate known as “Kylrue” by the River Itapecurú in the state of Maranhão in the North of Brazil.  The church was blessed on 12 December 1769.  Lancelot Belford became wealthy raising crops and cattle.  He was the first person to introduce the silk worm to Maranhão and in 1756 he constructed a town house known as Solar dos Berford near the centre of São Luís that is still standing to this day. 


The saint is also honoured each year on his feast day, 17 March, in the Parish of São Patrício, São Paulo, where parishioners led by the local parish priest carry a statue of the saint around the parish in procession  (Av. Otacílio Tomanik 1555 - Rio Pequeno, 0536-3101São Paulo SP.  t. 005511 3768-3203).


St. Patrick’s Day is commemorated in festive style each year by Brazilians and Irish people alike at Irish style bars around the country such as  The Irish Pub & Shenanigans´s - Rio de Janeiro; All Black - Dublin - Finnegan’s - O’Malley’s - St. John´s - São Paulo; Dunluce - São José dos Campos SP; Sheridan´s & Sláinte - Curitiba: Donovan - Florianópolis; Mulligan & Shamrock Irish Pub - Porto Alegre, and The Dubliners´ Irish Pub - Salvador BA.


O´Malley’s bar usually organises a party with a traditional Irish band brought over from Ireland especially for the occasion, ‘Murphy´s Law’.  The Irish missionaries living in Rio, São Paulo also have their own celebrations - organised by the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers) in São Paulo, and by Father John Cribbin of the Oblates Fathers in Rio de Janeiro.


St. Patrick´s Valley, Goiás - GO


A close look at an IBGE map of the southern part of Goiás State does indeed reveal a small town called "São Patrício".  Ironically, a river by the name of 'Rio Verde" or Green River starts nearby.  Close to the town of Ceres, where a wooden image of St. Patrick is venerated to this day, the river merges with another one that becomes "Rio das Almas", or River of Souls.  Ceres itself is located in the "Vale de São Patrício", or St. Patrick's Valley.  To the North, flows 'Rio de São Patrício", or St. Patrick's River.


According to a local historian, Professor Zoroastro Artiago, the river received its name around 1733.  By about 1800 the entire region was named after St. Patrick.  Professor Zoroastro wrote that in the first half of the 18th Century two Portuguese Franciscan Brothers by the names of Brother João de Jesus e Maria and Brother Domingos Santiago were active in the region.  The Brothers were geographers and topographers.  Their main house was a convent in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais.  Their residences in Goiás were located in Pirenópolis, in the municipality of Pirenópolis, and Traíras, in the municipality of Niquelândia.  The residences were known as ‘Peditórios’ or Alms House, a name that was associated with their official work in Goiás, namely, to collect donations for the Holy Sea.  As they travelled from place to place, “they gave the name of St. Patrick to the river, and due to the river, the valley received the same name”, according to Professor Artiago.


One has to go back a little in history to find a possible explanation for this devotion to St. Patrick on the part of the two Portuguese Franciscans.  According to the Irish historian and theologian, Father Lucas Wadding OFM (1588-1657), the feast of St. Patrick came to be celebrated not only in Ireland, but also throughout the Universal Church.  The Portuguese Franciscans, therefore, would have known about St. Patrick, since he appeared in their Missal book.  Could it have been that they chose the name of the saint on account of the fact that there was a Jesuit seminary in Portugal named after St. Patrick ?


At the time England was enforcing its "Penal Laws" in Ireland.  Candidates for the priesthood had therefore to study outside the country.  Portugal, although it was the oldest ally of England at the time, received some of those students.  There is no doubt that the presence of Irish students in Portugal had a great influence on the seminary being named after St. Patrick.  Whether that in turn had any influence on the Portuguese Franciscans may never be known.  The fact, however, that the river was named after an Irish saint, and not a Franciscan or Portuguese saint, would tend to indicate that that indeed was the case.


The statue of St. Patrick, which accompanied the Franciscans on their visits, still exists to this day.  It does not have any inscriptions and its exact date is unknown.  There are many legends about its origin.  The most probable one is that the statue was sculptured in Pilar a few years after St. Patrick's River received its name.  Other statues which were made in Pilar can still be seen in the main church there.  They all conform in style, material, form and condition with that of St. Patrick's statue.  The statue remained in Pilar almost continuously from 1664 up to 1946.  In 1946 Father Luiz Maria Oberarieta CFM, a Spanish Claretinopriest, took it to a new villa of St. Patrick in Itapaci, located on St. Patrick's River.  Shortly after the foundation of the new villa, the family that was entrusted with the safe keeping of the statue, constructed a small chapel which they dedicated to St. Patrick, and placed it on an alter in the centre of the chapel.


Although no one doubts that the statue is a representation of St. Patrick, except for a mitre, the Goian statue differs from the classic image of the saint.  St. Patrick is represented as being very young, without a beard, and his Episcopal robes are no longer in use.  The statue does not have any shamrocks, snakes or pastoral headpiece.  The statue, however, is considered to be a legitimate image of the saint, considering its origins.