Feast of Saint Brigid of Kildare – Naomh Bríd – (c. 450 – 525) one of Ireland’s patron saints. She was an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare, which was famous and revered. Her feast day is shared by Dar Lugdach, who tradition says was her student, close companion, and the woman who succeeded her.
Born in Dundalk in 450 AD, her father was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother was a Christian.
Probably the earliest biography, The Life of St Brigid, was written by Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare in the seventh century, and is a fine example of Irish scholarship in the mid-seventh century. A second First Life or Vita Prima of St Brigid is by an unknown author, although it is often attributed to St Broccán Clóen (d. 650).
Bríd is celebrated for her generosity to the poor, and helping with the sick, frail and hungry; lots of miracles are attributed to her. She is the patron saint of Ireland, newborn babies, pregnant mothers, dairymaids, cattle, midwives, nuns, and more
Bríd, “the Mary of the Gael,” is held in high esteem in Ireland and her feast day is celebrated on the 1st February. She died at the age of 75 in AD 525 and was buried in the church she created. Her remains were exhumed years later and brought to Downpatrick to be buried alongside Saints Patrick and Columcille. However, her skull was brought to Lisbon where it remains today.
Illustration shows St. Bríd Carried By Angels, a painting by Scottish artist, John Duncan, 1913
The Cuala Press print collection holds this print by Kathleen Verschoyle depicting St. Brigid and some lambs with a poem by Winnifred M.Letts. The manuscript number for this print is MS11574/27 and you can find it in our Cuala Press Print Collection.
In the village of Lumiar, about six miles from Lisbon, and in the parish church of St. John the Baptist, is a chapel, dedicated to Saint Brigid. Here, a relic of the saint, her actual skull, has been preserved and revered for centuries.
Her remains are said to have been moved to Downpatrick, Co Down in the year 835 AD for fear of the Danish Vikings, who were plundering Irish towns and monasteries.
Downpatrick was also at risk of Viking attack so St Brigid’s remains, along with those of St Patrick and St Colmcille were reburied in a place that was kept secret.
By 1185, when St. Malachy was bishop of Down, the site of the three saints’ burial place was unknown. In response to St. Malachy’s prayers, a beam of light showed him the place on the floor of a church beneath which he found the saints’ graves.
Pope Urban the third, gave St Malachy permission to move the bodies to Down Cathedral, where they were interred on Jun 9th 1186 AD, on the Feast of St. Columcille.
Saint Brigid’s skull was brought to Portugal by three Irish knights in the 13th century. It is not known why and the question as to why they brought it with them on their way to the crusades in 1283 remains unknown.