Downpatrick once was called plain and simple "Down" but had its name changed by John de Courcy, a Norman knight who moved here in 1176. De Courcy set about promoting St. Patrick, the 5th-century Briton who was captured by the Irish and served as a slave in the Down area before escaping to France, where he learned about Christianity and bravely returned to try to convert the local chiefs. Although it's not true that Patrick brought a new faith to Ireland—there was already a bishop of Ireland before Patrick got here—he must have been a better missionary than most because he did indeed win influential converts. The clan chief of the Down area gave him land at the village of Saul, near Downpatrick, to build a monastery. You could happily spend a morning here visiting a trio of top-class sites: Down Cathedral, Down County Museum (now housing the ancient High Cross of Down), and the Saint Patrick Center are all clustered within a few minutes’ walk of each other.
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