I am doing research on the motto of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome (Italian: Pontificio Collegio Irlandese) which reads "Ut Christiani Ita et Romani Sitis" (Book of Armagh Folio 9).

Most scholarly texts have ut Romani Sitis, and a reading of the facsimile of the original suggests that this is correct.

I cannot find when the change was made, though in 1864 Essays on the Origin, Doctrines, and Discipline of the Early Irish Church by Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran quotes the "et" form while seeming to refer to sources that use the "ut" form.

There are two issues, the minor one is the latin translation, the more important one is the source of the text in the form used in the college motto "et Romani sitis" , almost universally claimed to be from the Book of Armagh, Moran actually gives the correct reference, but misquotes the text he is referring to. As the "et" form subsequently takes on a life of its own, being reproduced frequently, Im curious as to its origin.

Does anyone know when this change might have been made and why? Does it weigh the meaning more towards a "proof text for Roman claims perhaps? Any Ideas.

  • 2
    If my Latin is still any good, I believe the motto Ut Christiani, ita et Romani sitis translates to: As Christians, so also Romans. But I'm actually confused what you're asking ... do I really need to read Book of Armagh?
    – J Asia
    Mar 20, 2018 at 19:13
  • 3
    There is a Latin.SE. Mar 20, 2018 at 21:24
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on latin.stackexchange.com.
    – Geremia
    Mar 21, 2018 at 4:24
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    My main interest is the history of a (mis) quote which went on to have a life of its own in the presentation of St. Patrick in late 19th Century Ireland and beyond, not the translation. From about 1800 when Irish (mainly protestant) academics began to get better access to the Book of Armagh, they consistently transcribed that section of the dicta patricii as "ut romani sitis". By 1864, (Moran) there was however, In ultramontane circles, an established and enduring (mis?)quote "et romani sitis" which is just stated (and even correctly referenced). Who first did this? Why? When?
    – Joseph
    Mar 22, 2018 at 14:30
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    This question, imho, isn't about Latin (discussion on language). It's who and why was St Patrick's writing re-worded - the famous phrase in this case. It just so happen the quote itself is in Latin. In this sense, it is a historical question by OP.
    – J Asia
    Mar 22, 2018 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


I'm just going to try the Any ideas part, as I do not have access to facsimiles nor read Dicta Sancti Patritii.

On the facts provided, I would like to believe Cardinal Moran corrected St Patrick's Latin.

Two reasons for this:

  1. Clearly the innumerable Latin references to this phrase/motto, which is attributed to St Patrick, cannot all be wrong.
  2. More important, given St Patrick's interrupted education (enslavement in Ireland), his style and ability in Latin is, for lack of a better word, suspect.

The Royal Irish Academy's website on St Patrick's writing has an entire paragraph on the second point (emphasis mine):

True, Patrick does describe himself as rusticissimus and indoctus – a simple country person and one unlearnèd — in his writings; and he seems very self-conscious of his educational shortcomings as he seeks to answer criticisms of his ministry from his fellow-bishops back in Britain, people who (he suggests) would be better educated than he and more articulate and trained in rhetoric. Nonetheless, Patrick does manage to get his message across, using the Scriptures or scriptural allusions to help him in this regard.

The language he uses has been described as a popular or vulgar form of Latin from the fifth century, like that identified in Gaul, by scholars such as the late Christine Mohrmann;10 but more recent work by David Howlett has discerned a level of sophistication in Patrick’s language, and in the literary structure of his writings, that resembles a type of parallelism found in Biblical texts such as the Psalms.11 This phenomenon is known as chiasm, which, according to Joseph Duffy, means that ‘words and phrases are repeated in such a way that they mirror each other at regular and predictable intervals and reveal balanced cross-references and complimentary echoes throughout the text.’12 We still await the emergence of a general consensus on the fruits of such research in regard to the literary style and structure of Patrick’s writings; in the interim the precise extent of Patrick’s education in Roman Britain and/or in Gaul must, according to O’Loughlin, remain an open question.

Source: St Patrick’s Writings: Confessio and Epistola


  • 10 - C. Mohrmann, The Latin of Saint Patrick: Four Lectures (Dublin, 1961).^
  • 11 - D. Howlett, The Book of Letters of Saint Patrick the Bishop (Dublin, 1994)
  • 12 - J. Duffy, Patrick in his Own Words (Dublin, 2000).
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    It is possibly a correction of the Latin, but Moran does not say that, and only in 1874 do we find it as a corrected reading of the latin. Dr. Whitley Stokes has suggested to me that it should be read thus: '......... et Romani sitis,...... , The Writings of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland (1874) by Saint Patrick, edited by Charles Henry Hamilton Wright
    – Joseph
    Mar 22, 2018 at 14:38
  • In truth, my answer above was based on nothing than a hunch because I do remember reading Moran as a polyglot, something like mastery of eight (European) languages. His multilingualism is probably based on his foundation in Latin. I have no depth on this point. So, false modesty aside, your research on this point/topic allows you better judgement. And my answer was an attempt to keep your question going (as it were). Thanks for the info re Dr Stokes.
    – J Asia
    Mar 22, 2018 at 17:23

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