As St. Patrick was approaching his hundredth year, he received assurance of his labours being near their end, and his reward at hand. He accordingly turned the heads of his oxen towards his cathedral seat at Armagh. St. Brigid and her nuns being warned in a vision, repaired to Down with his grave-clothes, which they had already prepared, and there they found Patrick, who had been able to proceed no further, stretched on his last earthly bed. Heavenly were the words spoken on either side, and when the pure and beneficent spirit left its earthly companion, they prepared to spend the night in singing hymns and psalms of mingled joy and sorrow. Notwithstanding their resistance, they were overcome by deep slumber, and through the long night they enjoyed the presence of choirs of angels singing and playing on their golden harps. This continued for twelve nights, and during these twelve nights and days men and women in countless numbers entered the room where the body was laid, gazed on the fresh and heavenly features, kissed the hands, and gave place to others.
At the end of this time the good people Of Dunum were much troubled, for the people of Armagh were there in force, and insisted on their right to bear the holy remains to his own cathedral. The prize was too precious to be given up, and each, party determinedly confronted the other. Arms of iron or bronze they would not use, but neither party would resign the custody of the saint's body.
At last when anger was waxing hot on either side, the men of Down were surprised and rejoiced to see the men of Armagh filing away orderly and peaceably to the west, till not a man was left behind. They lost no time, but conveyed the saint's remains to their church, -and there deposited them in a richly-ornamented tomb.[a]
A vision had appeared to the Ardmachians of the coffin of the saint laid on his own chariot, and his milk-white oxen conveying it in the direction of Armagh.
They followed the phantasm, but as it appeared entering a ford near the city of Armagh, oxen, chariot, and coffin vanished, and the saddened multitude sought their respective homes. The body of St. Brigid was laid near that of St. Patrick after her decease, and the church was afterwards further enriched by the remains of St. Colum Cillé, concerning the translation of whose body the following legend is told
[a] The Anti-Archeologists of the sixteenth century, holding an annual meeting in Down, converted the rich shrines of the three saints into ordinary coin of the realm, for their own special convenience. The silver case in which the right hand of St. Patrick was kept, somehow escaped their sharp eyes. it is known to be in very safe keeping at this moment, but we are not at liberty to publish all we know on the subject,