In his Life of St. Patrick Jocelin of Furness quotes an Irish saying: “The Lord gave Ireland not to Palladius, but to Patrick.” This is indeed the view of the Patrick legend from the seventh century onwards. According to this legend, Pope Celestine sent his archdeacon Palladius to Ireland to preach Christ to the Irish; but Palladius failed completely, “because nobody can take from the world that which is not given him from above.” It was his successor Patrick who laid the foundations of the Irish church.
This legend, to say the least, over-simplifies the facts. Prosper of Aquitaine, a contemporary of Palladius, distinctly tells us that Palladius was sent “to the Irish believing in Christ” as their first bishop, in other words, with orders to organize a diocese on the basis of Christian communities already existing, however sporadic the latter may have been. The legend is further contradicted by a seventh century Irish tradition which has preserved the names of three churches founded by Palladius in Leinster.