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New top story from Time: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About St. Patrick

New top story from Time: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About St. Patrick

Google’s latest Doodle is saluting St. Patrick’s Day with a nod to the rich history of Ireland and St. Patrick himself.

The Google Doodle, the work of Irish artist Ross Stewart, uses the ogham alphabet, Ireland’s oldest form of writing. The carvings on the “L” stone are meant to represent the letters of the ancient writing system, which was used roughly 1,600 years ago.

Ogham, of course, isn’t the only history associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about St. Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland.

1. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish

St. Patrick was born to wealthy parents in Britain, not Ireland, History.com says. He only came to Ireland at age 16, when he was captured by Irish raiders and taken back to the country against his will. St. Patrick began to turn to religion during his six years as a prisoner, History.com says. When he finally escaped, St. Patrick is said to have heard the voice of God telling him to leave Ireland — but after his return to Britain, he apparently had a second vision, this one telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. It was only then that St. Patrick began his most famous work, spreading Christianity throughout Ireland.

2. St. Patrick died on March 17

St. Patrick’s Day, which takes place on March 17 each year, is a celebratory time marked by parties and festivals. But it’s actually observed to mark St. Patrick’s death — he is believed to have died on this day around 460 A.D., according to History.com.

3. St. Patrick has only two known writings

Although St. Patrick has quite the reputation — he’s often credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and his feast day is celebrated far beyond the country’s borders — he built it only on two short works, according to Brittanica. St. Patrick wrote a spiritual autobiography, Confessio, and Letter to Coroticus, which speaks out against British mistreatment of Irish Christians, according to Brittanica.

4. St. Patrick allegedly drove the snakes from Ireland

As legend has it, St. Patrick chased all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea in the fifth century A.D. But while Ireland really is snake-free to this day, St. Patrick probably isn’t to thank, National Geographic reports. It’s far more likely that the creatures never made it to the island nation in the first place.

5. St. Patrick used shamrocks to represent the Holy Trinity

Shamrocks are ubiquitous on St. Patrick’s Day — but they have a much richer history than you might know. St. Patrick first used them to illustrate the Holy Trinity, according to Brittanica, with the three-pronged plant meant to represent the idea of three aspects in one God.

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