St Patrick - born Maewyn Succat

St Patrick was born somewhere on the British mainland. Much of the background to St Patrick is unclear. He came from a Romanised British family and was probably born around the year AD 389 in what had been the former Roman Province of Britannia. At the time of his birth Britanna had become independent and run by Celts who maintained the Roman way of life. These Romano-Britons were Christians whereas the Celts of Northern Scotland and Ireland were still followers of the old pagan religions.

Britannia or "Roman Britain" had been abandoned as Rome pulled out troops to defend its heartland from barbarian attacks. Ironically, it's British provinces continued relatively untouched by the waves of barbarian attacks. The Romano-Briton population were town-dwelling christians operating in a civil society governed by Roman laws and structures. The Anglo Saxons called the indigenous Romanised Celts "The Welsh".

Two threats to the Christian Celts: Irish Celts & Anglo-Saxons

These 'Welsh' or Romano-Britons lived in fear of the pagan Celts of Ireland and the pagan Anglo Saxons. As Rome came under Barbarian attack, the Empire started to contract. The northern provinces were left to fend for themselves. The Romanised Britons, many of them Roman citizens found themselves abandoned but still retained the civil and military command structure. Only the outposts were manned by actual 'Romans' , most of the garrisons were manned by indigenous Romano-Briton troops and these remained in place. In is uncertain exactly what happened but it seems likely the military came under the command of a military council made up of prominent Romano-Briton military commanders and led by a Romano-Briton from the most northerly area (now southern Scotland).
The main threat to these Christian Celts came from the Germanic Angles and Saxons who attacked from the east. From the west, came attacks from the Irish Celts and from the north came attacks from the pagan northern Celts (now the Scottish Highlands).

St Patrick's home

Patrick himself tells us about his background in his book, “The Confession”, which he wrote near the end of his life and which clearly details his Romanised Christian heritage by reference to his parentage, his father's occupation and his village.

“I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful… My father was Calpornius, a deacon, a son of Potitus, a presbyter, who was at the village of Bannavem Taberniea.”

There are several possible locations for the village 'Bannavem Taberniea', all in mainland Britain. To fit the criteria, the location would need to fit the following criteria:

a) Be on the West Coast of mainland Britain
b) Be in a known area of Romano British
c) Be in an area where Roman villas were built

Possibilities include Carlisle in Cumbria, England, Anglesey in North Wales and South Wales and Strathclyde in southern Scotland…all on the West Coast

Other strong contender for the location are the south-western England, in Somerset, at or near the village of Banwell, five miles east of Weston-super-Mare. A settlement of late Roman date is known in the area. The archaeology of the region, which was highly Romanised, suggests Somerset was a plausible location for Patrick's family estate.

The most likely contender is in South Wales. The Catholic Herald writes;

"His actual birthplace is still the subject of much historical debate, but, using the jig-saw puzzle of clues in his "Confession", my own view is that he was born in the Roman City of Caerwent, not far distant from the River Severn. The Irish pirate fleet probably raided up the Severn, and abducted him along with many thousands of other young people. A visit to the Roman city of Caerwent today reveals a city of the size and nature which is described by Patrick in his "Confession", as being his birthplace, and archaeologists have shown that the city did indeed suffer a massive and devastating attack at about the time of Saint Patrick's boyhood abduction."