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St Patrick’s Purgatory

St Patrick’s Purgatory
Station Island, Lough Derg (Donegal)

Purgatory exists or is just a metaphysical place, if not a pure invention of religion? According to a medieval legend it not only exists but also has a line of communication with real world, in Ireland. This is the “St Patrick’s Purgatory”, a deep cave located in Station Island, Lough Derg (Donegal), showed in the fifth century by Christ himself, appeared to Ireland patron saint.

A direct access to Purgatory

The purpose of the cave was to show to the most disbelieving the Purgatory’s pain, literally. In return, those who had had the courage to reach the cave bottom facing all difficulties along the ardous path, would have obtained the forgiveness of all their sins and so would have been certain of having access to Heaven.

The cave of St Patrick’s Purgatory is mentioned may times in medieval miniated manuscripts since 1185, before being showed on many European maps since 1400, but suddenly, in1497, Pope Alexander the Sixth imposed to close down the cave and to tear down every building on Station Island. Why such a tough call? And why a few years later, despite the Pope ban, access to the cave was once more restored and the pilgrimages resumed relentless, until a second closure, this time ordered by the Irish Government, on October 25, 1632, when any documents relating were destroyed?

St Patrick’s Purgatory
Pilgrims visiting the places of the apparition

What the St Patrick Purgatory’s cave is like?

Reopened a third time, during the reign of King James II, St Patrick Purgatory’s cave was shut down permanently in 1780 and left unexplored since then. Despite all at least 33 famous pilgrims explored the cave over the centuries (it was customary to shut them inside the cave for 24 hours, in prayer) and just their descriptions are the only ones left of the mysterious location. The entrance was pretty tight, about 60 centimeters (2 feet) wide and 90 centimeters (three feet) high, and gave access to a short descent of about six steps before you get to the actual cave, which was divided into two parts.

The first was about three meters (nine feet) long, only high enough to kneel in; after a turn there was another niche, smaller, about 1.5 meter (5 feet) long. According to some scholars more than an access to another dimension which medieval pilgrims could identify with catholic Purgatory, this cave may well be one of the “sweathouses” where in olden times the Irish got in to inhaling mind-altering substances (probably some mushrooms) able to distort the perception of reality.

This then would constitute yet another example in which the catholic religion just slapped a coat of “ideological paint” on an older tradition, or the dimensional fork existed but was lost (or is visible only a few initiated still able to find it again)? As long as archaeological excavations won’t be undertaken all options are open, none being proven or denial with absolute certainty.

Tags: Unsolved mysteries