Croagh Patrick is a mountain in County Mayo that is famous for its association with St Patrick – the Patron Saint of Ireland.
It is said to contain gold worth millions of euros, but no one is allowed to mine it because of the religious nature of the area. The mountain is also home to an intriguing natural phenomenon known as the rolling sun.
At 2,507 feet tall, it is certainly hard work to climb but that doesn’t deter the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year.
What attracts people to Croagh Patrick every year is its status as a site of Pilgrimage.
It gets its name from the Irish ‘Cruach Phádraig’ which means Patrick’s stack. Locals have nicknamed the mountain ‘the Reek’ which is a Hiberno-English word for ‘stack’.
It is said that in the 5th Century AD, St Patrick climbed the mountain and stayed there in solitude. While at the summit of the mountain he fasted for 40 days and nights.
When St Patrick’s fast came to an end on the 40th night, he threw a silver bell from the top of the mountain to the ground below. On its way down, the bell struck a she demon named Corra. Corra fell out of the sky and all the snakes were banished from Ireland.
The last Sunday in July is known as ‘Reek Sunday’ and every year thousands of people make the pilgrimage to climb the mountain on that day.
There are visitors from all over Europe and the rest of the world including North and South America, India and Australia.
Several people climb the mountain barefoot and some men go bare chested as well. It is not recommended but has become a tradition for many pilgrims.
Climbers who wear so little risk hyperthermia, especially if the weather is not good. This can drain the resources and manpower of the Civil Defence who are there to provide emergency rescue and medical cover.
The mountain was a place of worship long before St Patrick ever set foot on it. In 1994 an excavation of the area was carried out by the National Monuments Service. They found a Celtic hill fort made of dry stone that circled the top of the mountain.
This shows that pilgrims would have visited the mountain long before the Christian era and experts estimate that people would have gathered there to worship up to 5,000 years ago.