Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s pilgrimage mountain
Croagh Patrick, nicknamed the Reek, is a 764-metre (2,507ft) mountain and an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo in Ireland. It is situated five miles from the beautiful town of Westport and the mountain’s conical shape soars majestically above the surrounding countryside above the villages of Murrisk and Lecanvey. It is the third highest mountain in County Mayo after Mweelrea and Nephin.
Croagh Patrick, which overlooks Clew Bay with its 365 islands, is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland. It is well known for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of St Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and the custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation ever since through the Advent of Lent.
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 Saint Patrick. Some people even climb the mountain barefoot as an act of penance. Outdoor Masses are also held throughout the day.
However, the sheer volume of visitors during the year and the consequential erosion has caused safety concerns to both the Catholic church and local farmers who undertake safety measures. The pilgrimage was actually cancelled in July 2015 due to bad weather on safety grounds.