Croagh Patrick’s history as a place of worship reaches back in time as far as 3,000 BC. The mountain’s popularity among religious pilgrims dates to the time of St. Patrick, who is said to have completed a forty-day Lenten ritual of fasting and penance here. Legend also has it that Croagh Patrick is the mount from which he banished snakes from Ireland forever!
Each year, on the last Sunday in July, thousands of devotees from all around the world visit the mountain for what is known as "Reek Sunday", a day of worship in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. Some people even climb the mountainside barefoot, as an act of penance. Outdoor masses are held throughout the day, along with confessions at St. Patrick’s Chapel. This is one place in rural Ireland where you can meet and speak with people from around the globe.
An archaeological excavation directed by archaeologist Gerry Walsh, the owner of the Visitor Centre and licensed by the National Monuments Service commenced on August 2 1994. It discovered evidence of Christian activity but also showed that Croagh Patrick was a place of tremendous importance in the pre-Christian era, as indicated by the discovery of a Celtic hill fort encircling the summit of the mountain. Glass beads dating to the 3rd Century BC were also uncovered.
The exciting discovery of a dry stone Oratory/Church on the summit of the mountain pushes back further in time our knowledge of pilgrimage architecture on the summit. It is akin to the Gallarus Oratory in County Kerry and has been radiocarbon dated to between 430 and 890 AD.