St Patrick’s Church

Saul & Ballee Parish

O’Laverty in his history of Down and Connor tells us; “the foundation of the Church of Saul is assigned to the year 432”. We are told there was a barn in the place, which the hero Dichu gave to the holy Patrick, and he desired that the house of God should be built towards the sun, after the form of his barn, and this he obtained from a man of God.” ( Ussher).

The place is called to this day “Sabhull Padraig” – the barn of Patrick. So the parish of Saul came into existence. This is where St. Patrick received the last rites and died.

At the time of the suppression of the Augustinian monastery, the buildings were left to crumble into ruins, where mass was often celebrated by the persecuted priests. Mass was often celebrated near Saul Dam, in Hugh Crickard’s garden. On the left hand side of the road leading from Saul to Raholp in Ballintogher there was a natural ledge of rock popularly known by the name of the Lord’s table, which in times of persecution served as an unhewn altar. On the eastern slope of Carrowvanny mountain and a field in the adjoining townland of Loughmoney, called the Bavin (or Bawn Park) were also favourite places for worship with our persecuted forefathers. Other places in the locality were Luganniflrin (the mass Hollow) in a field belonging to Mr. Napier in Carnacaw;, and a bohog (shelter) at Portloughan provided places for mass in the eastern districts of the parish.

When at length the penal laws had somewhat relaxed, the Rev. O’Neill, about 1770 commenced a chapel at Carrowcarlin.

Saul chapel was erected by Dean McCartan, who commenced it in 1778 and finished it in 1782. The remains of this chapel may still be seen in the graveyard if you look carefully for them.

The chapel which is currently on the sight was built during the time of Fr. Nicholas Crickard.

Fr. Crickard was a native of Ballykinlar and was ordained 20th May 1826. He was appointed as Parish Priest of Saul on August 20th 1843. It was during his incumbency that the chapel was replaced by the new church. The plans of the architect were never fully carried out. This church was consecrated by Most Rev. Dr. Dorrian (Bishop of Down and Connor at that time) on 16th September 1866. Fr. Crickard died on 1st April 1882 and is interred behind the sanctuary of the church.

The chapel was designed by Fr. Jeremiah R. McAuley, a native of Belfast, who was an architect before entering the priesthood.Fr. McAuley designed and oversaw the building of St. Peter’s, Belfast. Other churches he designed are at Aughlisnafin, Ballykinlar and Ballycastle.


Welcome to Saul Parish, from the Irish sabhall phadraig meaning Patrick’s barn. It is claimed that when St Patrick came to Ireland in 432, strong currents swept his boat through the Strangford Lough tidal narrows, and he landed where the Slaney river flows into the lough. The local chieftan Dichu was quickly converted and gave him a barn, and it was here that St Patrick founded his first church in Ireland at Saul.

Nearby on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a huge statue of St Patrick with bronze panels showing scenes from his life. St Patrick was born near Dumbarton in Scotland in the year 387, died at Saul on 17th March 461, and is buried in nearby Downpatrick. Our church today is a modern church having gone through extensive renovations in 2008, and has 2000 families most of whom have very close ties with the church.

The parish is led by Fr. Paul Alexander pp. Mass is celebrated every day, and a full schedule of our mass times can be viewed on this website.

Saul & Ballee Parish