LETTER TO COROTICUS
by St. Patrick
Translated by Ludwig Bieler
I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a
bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God.
And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He
is witness that this is so. Not that I wished my mouth to utter anything so
hard and harsh; but I am forced by the zeal for God; and the truth of Christ
has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I
gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death. If I be
worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though some may
With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given,
delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow
citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of
the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in
death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they
welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the
number for God and confirmed in Christ!
The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments
(had been slain) - the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were
butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people -
I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood,
clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty,
and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them.
Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or
those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily
ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal
punishment; for who commits sin is a slave and will be called a son of the
Wherefore let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me
and of Christ my God, for whom I am an ambassador. Parricide! fratricide!
ravening wolves that "eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread!" As is
said, "the wicked, O Lord, have destroyed Thy law," which but recently He
had excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established
itself by the grace of God.
I make no false claim. I share in the work of those whom He called and
predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions unto the
end of the earth, even if the enemy shows his jealousy through the tyranny of
Coroticus, a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He
chose, giving them the highest, divine, and sublime power, that whom "they
should bind upon earth should be bound also in Heaven."
Wherefore, then, I plead with you earnestly, ye holy and humble of heart, it is
not permissible to court the favor of such people, nor to take food or drink
with them, nor even to accept their alms, until they make reparation to God
in hard-ships, through penance, with shedding of tears, and set free the
baptized servants of God and handmaids of Christ, for whom He died and
"The Most High disapproves the gifts of the wicked ... He that offers
sacrifice of the goods of the poor, is as one that sacrifices the son in the
presence of his lather. The riches, it is written, which he has gathered
unjustly, shall be vomited up from his belly; the angel of death drags him
away, by the fury of dragons he shall be tormented, the viper’s tongue shall
kill him, unquenchable fire devours him." And so - "woe to those who fill
themselves with what is not their own;" or, "What does it profit a man that he
gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul?
It would be too tedious to discuss and set forth everything in detail, to gather
from the whole Law testimonies against such greed. Avarice is a deadly
sin. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’ s goods." "Thou shalt not kill." A
murderer cannot be with Christ. "Whosoever hates his brother is accounted
a murderer." Or, "he that loves not his brother abides in death." How much
more guilty is he that has stained his hands with blood of the sons of God
whom He has of late purchased in the utmost part of the earth through the
call of our littleness!
Did I come to Ireland without God, or according to the flesh? Who
compelled me? I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk. Is it of
my own doing that I have holy mercy on the people who once took me
captive and made away with the servants and maids of my father’s house? I
was freeborn according to the flesh. I am the son of a decurion. But I sold
my noble rank I am neither ashamed nor sorry for the good of others. Thus I
am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life
everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And if my own people do not know me, a prophet has no honor in his own
country. Perhaps we are not of the same fold and have not one and the
same God as father, as is written: "He that is not with me, is against me,
and he that gathers not with me, scatters." It is not right that one destroys,
another builds up. I seek not the things that are mine.
It is not my grace, but God who has given this solicitude into my heart, to be
one of His hunters or fishers whom God once foretold would come in the
I am hated. What shall I do, Lord? I am most despised.
Look, Thy sheep around me are tom to pieces and driven away, and that by
those robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus. Far from the
love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots.
Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was
indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and
daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ - I cannot count their
number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to
hell it shall not please.
Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to
enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of
dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that
what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve
did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all
that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment.
This is the custom of the Roman Christians of Gaul: they send holy and able
men to the Franks and other heathen with so many thousand solidi to
ransom baptized captives. You prefer to kill and sell them to a foreign
nation that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ as
it were into a brothel. What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as
you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge. For
Scripture says: "Not only them that do evil are worthy to be condemned, but
they also that consent to them."
I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of
the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture
says: "Weep with them that weep;" and again: "If one member be grieved,
let all members grieve with it." Hence the Church mourns and laments her
sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were
removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly,
grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold,
Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable,
wicked, and apostate Picts!
Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief- O you fair and
beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of
number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God
or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have
been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have
received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as
Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written,
one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?
Therefore I grieve for you, I grieve, my dearly beloved.
But again, I rejoice within myself. I have not labored for nothing, and my
journeying abroad has not been in vain. And if this horrible, unspeakable
crime did happen - thanks be to God, you have left the world and have gone
to Paradise as baptized faithful. I see you: you have begun to journey where
night shall be no more, nor mourning, nor death; but you shall leap like
calves loosened from their bonds, and you shall tread down the wicked, and
they shall be ashes under your feet.
You then, will reign with the apostles, and prophets, and martyrs. You will
take possession of an eternal kingdom, as He Himself testifies, saying:
"They shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." "Without are
dogs, and sorcerers,... and murderers; and liars and perjurers have their
portion in the pool of everlasting fire." Not without reason does the Apostle
say: "Where the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner
and ungodly transgressor of the law find himself?"
Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where
will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes - for
a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a
cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked
perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great
constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings
for ever and ever. Amen.
I testify before God and His angels that it will be so as He indicated to my
ignorance. It is not my words that I have set forth in Latin, but those of God
and the apostles and prophets, who have never lied. "He that believes shall
be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned," God hath spoken.
I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this
letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but
rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus
himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God,
repenting, however late, their heinous deeds - murderers of the brethren of
the Lord! - and to set free the baptized women whom they took captive, in
order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole, here and in
eternity! Be peace to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Declare - Fateor, whence con-fiteor, Confessio. In both letters the word is
used in the sense of a declaration.
Coroticus - Ceredig (other forms include Cerdic, Caradock, and Coroticus)
was a common Welsh name which was popular with various dynasties
(even in the non-Welsh kingdom of Wessex), there were several dark-age
royals with that name.
He is supposed to have been the king of Alcluid, a kingdom which would
later be called Strathclyde. Alcluid was situated on the West Coast of
Britain, several miles north of Cardigan, where another king lived with the
same name; it was situated mostly between the Hadrianic and Antonine
Walls -- in the semi-Romanized buffer zone between Barbarian Britain and
my fellow- citizens - Civibus meis. As this letter was written in Latin, to be
read to the soldiers, they must have been able to understand it, (or did they
need a translation?) and, therefore, were either romanised Britons or
descendants of Roman Colonist in Britain, either his fellow-countrymen or
Roman citizens; but he repudiates their claim to either title on account of
their crimes. Some copies have - "to the Christian subjects of Coroticus." It
is evident, however, that the object was to reach and influence Coroticus
Apostate Picts - Pictorum apostatarum. The pagan Scots of Argyleshire,
descended from an Irish colony, who according to Dr. Todd) settled there in
the third century, and the pagan Scots from Ireland, were long confederate
with the Picts against the Roman power in Britain. The term apostate
applies to the southern Picts, among whom Ninian had brought the gospel
A.D. 412. The northern Picts were converted by the labors of Colum Cille
Penance - or until they repent with bitter tears, and make satisfaction to
God (Thomas Olden)
Franks - The Franks, who invaded and conquered Gaul, and from whom it
derives its modern name of France, did not embrace Christianity until AD
Solidi - gold coin
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