Brigid of Ireland
Saint Brigid of Ireland
(Bridget, Bridgit, Brigit, Bride) (451- 525) was born at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth
. Legend states that her parents were Dubtach, pagan
Scottish king of Leinster
, and Brocca, a Christian Pictish slave who had been baptized by Saint Patrick
According to this legend, Brigid was named after one of the most powerful goddesses of the Pagan religion that Dubtach practiced. Brigid, the goddess of Fire, whose manifestations were song and poetry, which the Irish
considered the flame of knowledge. Brigid supposedly became a vestal virgin
in service to the Goddess Brigid (although the Irish had no such office or practice), and eventually high priestess at the Kil Dara (the temple of the oak), a pagan sanctuary built from the wood of a tree sacred to the Druids. In 468, she followed St. Mel of Armagh to Meath and converted to Christianity.
Another version of her life states that upon reaching maturity, she vexed her father by being overly generous to the poor and needy with his milk, butter, and flour. Finally, she gave away his jewel-encrusted sword to a leper. At this point, it was decided that her disposition was best suited for a nun and she was sent to a convent. The legend does not preserve when or how her hitherto pagan father became amenable to such acts.
Around 470, she converted the pagan sanctuary of Kildare (Cill-Dara) into a Christian double monastery (nuns and monks) or had a double monastary built on unused ground at Kildare, depending upon the particular story consulted. She founded a school of art at Kildare, where the Book of Kildare, a famous illuminated manuscript, was created. She died at Kildare on February 1 and is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columcille
and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Similar to the association between St Patrick and the shamrock, a tiny cross made of rushes was linked with St Brigid.
Legend has it that, when she was consecrated to the rank of Abbess
, St. Mel was drunk and inadvertantly read the consecration for a Bishop
and that this could not be rescinded, under any circumstances. Of course, such an error could have easily been remedied. It should be noted that, while there is no record of St. Brigid acting in the Liturgical capacity of a Bishop, she and her successor Abbesses at Kildare had administrative authority equal to that of a Bishop until the Synod of Kells in 1152
St. Brigid's feast day is February 2 and is sometimes combined with candlemas.
See also Saint, List of saints, Patron saint, St Bride's Church