Updated: Sep 8, 2020
In the Catholic Church at Saul behind the altar, in a niche, is one of the most ancient Christian relics in Ireland. It is a portion of the altar on which Patrick first celebrated the eucharist in Ireland! It was moved to the present church to keep it out of malicious hands. Its past is a lot more colourful than you might think!
On the Patrick and the pagan hills experience a trip to Saul Church is one of the highlights of the walk. As well as the two beautiful stained glass windows by Harry Clarke there is an original relic of Saint Patrick. It has two associations with Patrick's capability to enact the wrath of God onto vandals.
The first story is of a “bondsman of Satan” who “thrusting with accursed boldness a rod through the window, overturned the chalice, and sacreligiously poured out on the altar the Holy Sacrifice. But the Lord instantly and terribly avenged this fearful wickedness, and in a new and unheard-of manner destroyed this impious man. For suddenly the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up this magician, and he descended alive into Hell.”
Secondly, in more recent centuries, Richard Cadell who was building a house at the corner of Scotch Street and Saul Street in the mid 1700s wished to use the stone for his doorstep. He sent oxen to take the stone from Saul “but the oxen becoming restive, stricken, it is said, with mania, overturned the wagon on Saul Hill and broke the altar stone. Caddell, feeling that he was engaged in a sacreligious act, gave up the undertaking; but when his property wasted away and the family died out the people attributed his misfortune to the vengeance of God.”
Source - O'Laverty, Diocese of Down and Connor.