19 images Created 5 Aug 2014
Every year, on the last Sunday in July, up to 30,000 Christian pilgrims climb Ireland's Croagh Patrick Mountain, "The Reek." The mountain is Ireland's holiest, where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days in 441 A.D. Legend has it after his fast he banned snakes and demons forever from Ireland. On the way to the summit three pilgrimage stations exhibit signs with instructions on the proper rituals and prayers to be performed. Many pilgrims perform the climb for penance, or for the benefit of a sick loved one. In the ultimate act of penance, some pilgrims climb in their bare feet. This is a difficult task as the mountain is steep, rocky, and often slippery with rain. A small chapel rests on the summit, where mass is celebrated every half hour on Reek Sunday. On average, it takes about two hours to reach the summit, with one and a half to get down. As per custom, upon completing the climb, pilgrims enjoy a Guinness from the pub at the base of the mountain.