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St Patrick

48 49 lough derg purging sins Droves of medieval pilgrims visited Patricks Purgatory on Saints Island in Lough Derg, but its priory was profiting so outrageously from them that a pope closed it in the 1490s. The pilgrims thereafter went to Station Island and in 1632 a Protestant bishop, James Spottiswoode, destroyed the Purgatory, a poor beggarly hole, made with some stones layd together with mens hands without any great art and after covered with earth. Patrick atoned for his sins here, and the pilgrims went through great rigours. After fifteen days fasting they were shut for a whole day in its dark interior, a stone passageway leading to a chamber, like a megalithic tomb, and the subject of a medieval best seller. A twelfth century crusader, Knight Owen, saw robed figures in it who admonished him before demons led him to where souls were pierced by hot nails, boiled, frozen, squashed by vast toads and nailed to burning wheels. They went to a crag where icy winds blew souls into foul waters, to be trampled on by devils, and saw the damned in the Pit of Hell. Owen slithered over the Bridge of Impossibilities to see a gate to heaven, and viewed Paradise from a mountain peak. Others had similar experiences and one said a certain hot vapour rose from a covered cleft leading down to Hell, after which they had marvellous dreams. Over 350 medieval copies still exist of Knight Owens tale, which must have inspired Dante.
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