Brigid of Kildare
Saint Brigit of Kildare, or Brigit of Ireland (variants include Brigid, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd and Bride), nicknamed Mary of the Gael (c. 451–525) is one of Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

's patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

s along with Saints Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

 and Columba
Saint Columba —also known as Colum Cille , Colm Cille , Calum Cille and Kolban or Kolbjørn —was a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts during the Early Medieval Period...

. Irish hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 makes her an early Irish Christian nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

, abbess, and founder of several monasteries of Christian nuns, including that monastery of ‘Kildare’ Ireland ((53.15772°N 6.91128°W.),), which was considered legendary and was highly revered. Her feast day is 1 February, celebrated as St Brigid’s Day or Imbolc
Imbolc , or St Brigid’s Day , is an Irish festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on 1 or 2 February in the northern hemisphere and 1 August in the southern hemisphere...

in Gaelic Ireland
Gaelic Ireland
Gaelic Ireland is the name given to the period when a Gaelic political order existed in Ireland. The order continued to exist after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans until about 1607 AD...

, one of the four quarter days of the pagan year, which marked the beginning of spring, lambing, and lactation in cattle. Saint Brigid is one of the few saints who stands on the boundary between pagan mythology, Druidism and Christian spirituality. Saint Brigid is the most famous female leader of the early Celtic Christian Church.


In liturgical iconography and statuary Saint Brigid is often depicted holding a bishop's staff because she was a consecrated Bishop, and holding a lamp said to be a 'lamp of learning and wisdom', as lamps and fire were regarded sacred to the Celts and Druids. Nuns at her monastery are said to have kept a sacred eternal flame burning there, which was a custom that originated with female Druids residing at the monastery's location long before Saint Brigid built the monastery. Early hagiographers also portray Saint Brigid's life and ministry as touched with fire. Light motifs, some of them borrowed from the apocrypha
The term apocrypha is used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", ancient Chinese "revealed texts and objects" and "Christian texts that are not canonical"....

 such as the story where she hangs her cloak on a sunbeam, are associated with the wonder tales of her hagiography and in folklore. In her Lives, Saint Brigid is portrayed as having the power to multiply such things as butter, bacon and milk, to bestow sheep and cattle and to control the weather. Plant motifs associated with St Brigid include Madonna Lily
Madonna lily
Lilium candidum is a plant in the genus Lilium, one of the true lilies. It is native to the Balkans and West Asia. It forms bulbs at ground level, and unlike other lilies, has a basal rosette of leaves through the winter, which die back in summer...

 (since medieval times, also associated with the Virgin Mary) and the Brigid anenome
Anemone coronaria
Anemone coronaria is a species of flowering plant in the genus Anemone, native to the Mediterranean region.-Description:...

 (the Windflower or Poppy Flowered Anemone, since the early 19th century), while Cill Dara
-External links:*******...

, the church of the oak, is associated with a tree sacred to the Druids. Her colour, white, was worn by the Kildare United Irishmen during the 1798 rebellion and is worn by Kildare
Kildare GAA
For more information see Kildare Senior Club Football Championship or Kildare Senior Club Hurling Championship.The Kildare County Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association , or Kildare GAA, is one of the 32 county boards of the GAA in Ireland, and is responsible for Gaelic games in County Kildare...

 sports teams.

Lives of Brigid

The first life of Brigid seems to have been written within a generation of her death. The source of the various later medieval Lives appears to have been a lost Life written by Ultán
Ultan was an Irish monk who later became an abbot. He was the brother of Saint Fursey and Foillan. He was a member of Fursey's mission from Ireland to East Anglia in c. 633, and lived there both as a monastic probationary and later alone as an anchorite. In c...

 (d. 657), bishop of Ard Breccáin
Ardbraccan is an ancient place of Christian worship in County Meath, Ireland. It is the location of the former residence of the Roman Catholic, then, after the Reformation, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath. It is located approximately 30 miles from Dublin.-Origins:Ardbraccan originated as a...

The three principal Lives that survive date from the seventh to the ninth centuries and are preserved in over 100 medieval manuscripts, mostly written on the Continent. The oldest is Vita Sanctae Brigidae, a Latin Life by Cogitosus
-Biography:Cogitosus was a monk of Kildare who wrote the oldest extant vita of Saint Brigit, Vita Sanctae Brigidae, around 650. There is a controversy as to whether he was related to Saint Brigit....

 dating from c.650. An anonymous Latin Life confusingly known as ‘Vita Prima’ (as classified in the 1658 Acta SS, February 1 edition) has been dated to the seventh or eighth-century and an anonymous Life, ‘Bethu Brigte’, in Old Irish and Latin was compiled early in the ninth-century.

In the controversy about the existence of Brigid that erupted in the last third of the 20th century, it was noted that eleven people with whom Brigit is associated in her Lives are independently attested in annalistic sources, sources which place her death at 524 (in the Annals of Tigernach
Annals of Tigernach
The Annals of Tigernach is a chronicle probably originating in Clonmacnoise, Ireland. The language is a mixture of Latin and Old and Middle Irish....

 and Chronicon Scotorum
Chronicon Scotorum
Chronicon Scotorum is a medieval Irish chronicle.According to Nollaig Ó Muraíle, it is "a collection of annals belonging to the 'Clonmacnoise group', covering the period from prehistoric times to 1150 but with some gaps, closely related to the 'Annals of Tigernach'...

) and her birth at 439 (calculated from the alleged age of 86 at death).

The Lives are traditional in form
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 and draw references from the Old
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

s, the apocrypha
The term apocrypha is used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", ancient Chinese "revealed texts and objects" and "Christian texts that are not canonical"....

 and the early Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

. They are sparse in specific biographical detail, and have been described as “primarily concerned with Brigit's way of life rather than her life as such, and focused on her saintliness and the miracles that testified to it.” Their appearance coincided with the rise to power of the new Ui Dunlainge
Uí Dúnlainge
The Uí Dúnlainge, from the Old Irish "grandsons of Dúnlaing", were an Irish dynasty of Leinster kings who traced their descent from Dúnlaing mac Énda Niada. He was said to be a cousin of Énnae Cennsalach, eponymous ancestor of the rival Uí Chennselaig....

 sept as Kings of Leinster
Kings of Leinster
The following is a provisional list of the kings of Leinster who ruled the Irish kingdom of Leinster up to 1632 with the death of Domhnall Spainnach MacMurrough-Kavanagh, the last legitimately inaugurated head of the MacMurrough Kavanagh royal line...

 in the early seventh century. Cogitosus
-Biography:Cogitosus was a monk of Kildare who wrote the oldest extant vita of Saint Brigit, Vita Sanctae Brigidae, around 650. There is a controversy as to whether he was related to Saint Brigit....

 in particular was asserting Brigit's reputation and the status of Kildare at a time when it was in competition with Armagh
Armagh is a large settlement in Northern Ireland, and the county town of County Armagh. It is a site of historical importance for both Celtic paganism and Christianity and is the seat, for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland, of the Archbishop of Armagh...

 for precedence in the Irish church.

Life Story

Brigit was born at Faughart
Faughart is a town in County Louth, Ireland, situated between Forkill and Dundalk. It was the birthplace of St. Brigid , and Edward Bruce is buried in the graveyard on the hill above the town. Bruce, who had taken the title King of Ireland, was defeated and killed at the Battle of Faughart in 1318....

 near Dundalk
Dundalk is the county town of County Louth in Ireland. It is situated where the Castletown River flows into Dundalk Bay. The town is close to the border with Northern Ireland and equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast. The town's name, which was historically written as Dundalgan, has associations...

, County Louth
County Louth
County Louth is a county of Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Louth. Louth County Council is the local authority for the county...

, Ireland. Because of the legendary quality of the earliest accounts of her life, there is much debate among many scholars and even faithful Christians as to the authenticity of her biographies. According to her biographers her parents were Dubhthach, a pagan chieftain of Leinster
Leinster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the east of Ireland. It comprises the ancient Kingdoms of Mide, Osraige and Leinster. Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the historic fifths of Leinster and Mide gradually merged, mainly due to the impact of the Pale, which straddled...

, and Brocca, a Christian Pict
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 and slave who had been baptised by Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

. Some accounts of her life suggest that Brigit's father was in fact from Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

, kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, in much the same way as Saint Patrick. Many stories also detail Brigit's and her mother's statuses as pieces of property belonging to Dubhthach, and the resulting impact on important parts of Brigit's life story.

Saint Brigit is celebrated for her generosity to the poor. According to one tale, as a child, she once gave away her mother's entire store of butter. The butter was then replenished in answer to Brigit's prayers..

The ceremony is performed, according to different accounts, by one or other of the bishops Mel  (d. 487) or Mac-Caille
Saint Maughold of Man is venerated as the patron saint of the Isle of Man...

  (d. c.489), the location probably being in Mág Tulach (the present barony of Fartullagh, Co. Westmeath
Tyrrellspass is a Georgian village in County Westmeath, Ireland. It is located 81 km from Dublin and is situated in the south of the county on the R446 road. Tyrrellspass won the Irish Tidy Towns Competition in 1969.-History:...

). Mel also granted her abbatial powers. She followed Saint Mel into the Kingdom of Teathbha, which is made up of sections of modern Meath, Westmeath and Longford. This occurred about 468.

Brigit's small oratory at Cill-Dara (Kildare) became a center of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed Saint Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to Saint Conleth
Saint Conleth
Saint Conleth was an Irish hermit and metalworker, also said to have been a copyist and skilled illuminator of manuscripts...

, Bishop of Kildare
Bishop of Kildare
The Bishop of Kildare was an episcopal title which took its name after the town of Kildare in County Kildare, Ireland. The title is no longer in use by any of the main Christian churches having been united with other bishoprics. In the Roman Catholic Church, the title has been merged with that of...

, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose Saint Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general
Superior general
A Superior General, or General Superior, is the Superior at the head of a whole religious order or congregation.The term is mainly used as a generic term, while many orders and congregations use other specific titles, notably:* Abbot general...

 of the monasteries in Ireland. So great and powerful was the wisdom and management of Saint Brigid, that she is one of the few abbesses to be ordained and consecrated a Bishop by Bishop Saint Mel in Telcha Mide[5], an honour not usually conferred upon women.

Brigit also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which Conleth presided. The Kildare scriptorium produced the Book of Kildare, which elicited high praise from Giraldus Cambrensis
Giraldus Cambrensis
Gerald of Wales , also known as Gerallt Gymro in Welsh or Giraldus Cambrensis in Latin, archdeacon of Brecon, was a medieval clergyman and chronicler of his times...

, but which has disappeared since the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. According to Giraldus, nothing that he had ever seen was at all comparable to the book, every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and he concludes by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill".


The differing biographies written by different authors, giving conflicting accounts of her life, are regarded of considerable literary merit in themselves. Three of those biographies agreed that she had a slave mother in the court of her father, Dubhthach, a king of Leinster. An ancient account of her life is by Saint Broccan Cloen
Saint Brogan
Broccán Clóen was an Irish cleric who lived in the sixth or seventh century.Several persons noted for their holiness seem to have borne this name, which is variously written Brogan, Broccan, Bracan, and even Bearchan and Bearchanus....


Ni bu Sanct Brigid suanach
Ni bu huarach im sheirc Dé,
Sech ni chiuir ni cossena
Ind nóeb dibad bethath che.

Saint Brigid was not given to sleep,
Nor was she intermittent about God's love of her;
Not merely that she did not buy, she did not seek for
The wealth of this world below, the holy one.

One, the Life of Brigit dates from the closing years of the eighth century, and is held in the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 friary at Eichstatt
Eichstätt is a town in the federal state of Bavaria, Germany, and capital of the District of Eichstätt. It is located along the Altmühl River, at , and had a population of 13,078 in 2002. It is home to the Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, the lone Catholic university in Germany. The...

 in Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

. It expounds the metrical life of Saint Brigit, and versified it in Latin. The earliest Latin "life" of Brigit was a short vignette composed by Colman nepos Cracavist
Colman nepos Cracavist
Colman , called nepos Cracavist , was a Hiberno-Latin author associated with the Carolingian Renaissance. His poetry is full of classical allusions and quotations of Virgil. He may have been a cleric at Rome, as the manuscript which nicknames him states; there were several such Colmans at Rome in...

 around 800. Brigit is at times known as "the Patroness of Ireland" and "Queen of the South: the Mary of the Gael" by a writer in the "Leabhar Breac". Brigit died leaving a cathedral city and school that became famous all over Europe. In her honour Saint Ultan of Ardbraccan
Ultan of Ardbraccan
For the brother of Saint Fursey, see Ultan.St. Ultan of Ardbraccan was an Irish saint and Abbot-Bishop of Ardbraccan during the 7th Century CE....

 wrote a hymn commencing:

Christus in nostra insula
Que vocatur Hibernia
Ostensus est hominibus
Maximis mirabilibus
Que perfecit per felicem
Celestis vite virginem
Precellentem pro merito
Magno in mundi circulo.

Christ was made known to men

On our island of Hibernia

by the very great miracles
which he performed
through the happy virgin of celestial life,
famous for her merits
through the whole world.

The sixth life of the saint is attributed to Coelan, an Irish monk of the 8th century, and it derives a peculiar importance from the fact that it is prefaced by Saint Donatus, also an Irish monk, who became Bishop of Fiesole in 824. Donatus refers to previous lives by Ultan and Ailerán
Saint Ailerán , an Irish saint, was generally known as "the Wise", and was one of the most distinguished scholars at the School of Clonard in the 7th century...

. When dying, Brigit was attended by Saint Ninnidh
Ninnidh was a 6th-century Irish Christian saint. St. Ninnidh is regarded as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland...

, who was afterwards known as "Ninnidh of the Clean Hand" because he had his right hand encased with a metal covering to prevent it ever being defiled, after being the medium of administering the last rites
Last Rites
The Last Rites are the very last prayers and ministrations given to many Christians before death. The last rites go by various names and include different practices in different Christian traditions...

 to "Ireland's Patroness".

Various Continental breviaries
A breviary is a liturgical book of the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially by bishops, priests, and deacons in the Divine Office...

 of the pre-Reformation period commemorate Brigit, and her name is included in a litany in the Stowe Missal.

In addition, Brigit is highly venerated by many Eastern Orthodox Christians
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 as one of the great Western saints before the schism
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 between the Eastern and Western Churches. Her feast day, as in the West, is February 1, although churches following the Julian calendar (as in many Orthodox countries) celebrate her feast on February 14, the corresponding date on the Julian calendar. The troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

 to her is in Tone 1:

O holy Brigid, thou didst become sublime through thy humility, and didst fly on the wings of thy longing for God. When thou didst arrive in the Eternal City and appear before thy Divine Spouse, wearing the crown of virginity, thou didst keep thy promise to remember those who have recourse to thee. Thou dost shower grace upon the world, and dost multiply miracles. Intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.

The corresponding kontakion
Kontakion is a form of hymn performed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The word derives from the Greek word kontax , meaning pole, specifically the pole around which a scroll is wound. The term describes the way in which the words on a scroll unfurl as it is read...

 is in Tone 4:

The holy virgin Brigid full of divine wisdom, shy of men, went with joy along the way of evangelical childhood, and with the grace of God attained in this way the summit of virtue and charity. Wherefore she now bestows blessings upon those who come to her with faith. O holy Virgin, intercede with Christ our God that He may have mercy on our souls.

According to the tradition of the Orthodox church, Saint Brigit lost one of her eyes which saved her from being married against her will. In another version of the legendary story of Saint Brigid losing her eye, is that she suffered an eye disease making her lose one eye. In the book 'Saint Brigid' by Iain MacDonald, Saint Brigid had an eye disease, she put her finger under her eye and plucked it out of her head so that it lay on her cheek, and when Dubthach and her bretheren beheld that, they promised that she should never be told to go to a husband except for the husband whom she should like; then Saint Brigid prayed to God put her palm to her eye, and it was healed at once, Saint Brigid was able to miraculously put her eye back in its socket in her head, restoring and healing her own eye. The following are the first and second troparia of the fourth ode of the canon
Canon (hymnography)
A canon is a structured hymn used in a number of Eastern Orthodox services. It consists of nine odes, sometimes called canticles or songs depending on the translation, based on the Biblical canticles. Most of these are found in the Old Testament, but the final ode is taken from the Magnificat and...

 of the saint from the Orthodox Matins service:

Considering the beauty of the body as of no account, when one of thine eyes was destroyed thou didst rejoice, O venerable one, for thou didst desire to behold the splendour of heaven and to glorify God with the choirs of the righteous.

Spurning an earthly betrothed, and praying beyond hope that the refusal of thy parents be changed, thou didst find aid from on high, so that the beauty of thy body was ruined.

Veneration and relics

It seems that Faughart was the scene of her birth. Faughart Church was founded by Saint Moninne in honour of Brigit. The old well of Brigit's adjoining the ruined church still attracts pilgrims. There is evidence in the Trias Thaumaturga for Brigit's stay in Connacht, especially in County Roscommon and also in the many churches founded by her in the Diocese of Elphim. Her friendship with Saint Patrick is attested by the following paragraph from the Book of Armagh
Book of Armagh
The Book of Armagh or Codex Ardmachanus , also known as the Canon of Patrick and the Liber Armachanus, is a 9th-century Irish manuscript written mainly in Latin. It is held by the Library of Trinity College, Dublin...

: "inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit". (Between Patrick and Brigid, the columns of the Irish, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many miracles.) At Armagh there was a "Templum Brigidis"; namely the little abbey church known as "Regles Brigid", which contained some relics of the saint, destroyed in 1179, by William FitzAldelm.

Brigit was interred at the right of the high altar of Kildare Cathedral
Kildare Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of St. Brigid, Kildare is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Kildare, County Kildare in Ireland. It is in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.-History:...

, and a costly tomb was erected over her "Adorned with gems and precious stones and crowns of gold and silver." Over the years her shrine became an object of veneration for pilgrims, especially on her feast day, February 1. About the year 878, owing to the Scandinavian raids, Brigit's relics were taken to Downpatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of Patrick and Columba. The relics of the three saints were discovered in 1185, and on June 9 of the following year were reinterred in Down Cathedral
Down Cathedral
Down Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, is a Church of Ireland cathedral located in the town of Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. It stands on Cathedral Hill overlooking the town.-History:...


In modern Ireland, "Mary of the Gael" remains a popular saint, and Brigit remains a common female Christian name.


Hundreds of placenames in her honour are to be found all over both Scotland and Ireland.

Kilbride is one of Ireland’s most widely spread placenames, there are 43 Kilbride
Kilbride could refer to:*Kilbride, St. John's, Canada*Kilbride, Ontario, Canada*Kilbride, County Antrim, a village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland...

s located in 19 of Ireland’s 32 counties: Antrim (2), Carlow, Cavan, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny (3), Laois, Longford, Louth, Mayo (5), Meath (4), Offaly (4), Roscommon (2), Waterford, Westmeath (2), Wexford (4), and Wicklow (8) as well as two Kilbreedy’s in Tipperary, Kilbreedia and Toberbreeda in Clare, Toberbreedia in Kilkenny, Brideswell Commons in Dublin, Bridestown and Templebreedy in Cork and Rathbride and Brideschurch in Kildare..

Brigit-related names in Scotland and England include several Bridewells or Brideswells, (commemorating in their names the presence of a sacred well dedicated to Brigit or her pre-Christian antecedent), East Kilbride
East Kilbride
East Kilbride is a large suburban town in the South Lanarkshire council area, in the West Central Lowlands of Scotland. Designated as Scotland's first new town in 1947, it forms part of the Greater Glasgow conurbation...

, West Kilbride
West Kilbride
West Kilbride is a village in North Ayrshire, on the west coast of Scotland by the Firth of Clyde, looking across the water to Goat Fell and the Isle of Arran...

, Kilbride, Brideswell, Templebride and Tubberbride, derived for the word for well, "Tobar" in Irish or Gaelic
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

). These Brigidine sites include the original Bridewell Palace
Bridewell Palace
Bridewell Palace in London, originally a residence of King Henry VIII, later became a poorhouse and prison. The name "Bridewell" subsequently became synonymous with police stations and detention facilities in England and in Ireland...

 in London which became synonomous with jail houses through the English speaking world.


Brigit's skull has been preserved in the church of St Joao Baptista at Lumiar near Lisbon, Portugal since 1587 and is venerated on February 2 (not February 1, as in Ireland). St Brigid’s head was reputedly carried to King Diniz of Portugal in 1283 by Irish Knights traveling to the Aragonese Crusade
Aragonese Crusade
The Aragonese Crusade or Crusade of Aragon, a part of the larger War of the Sicilian Vespers, was declared by Pope Martin IV against the King of Aragon, Peter III the Great, in 1284 and 1285...

. A fragment of her skull was brought to St Bridget’s Church, Kilcurry in 1905 by Sister Mary Agnes of the Dundalk Convent of Mercy and in 1928 another fragment was sent by the Bishop of Lisbon to St Brigid’s church in Killester
Killester is a small, largely residential suburb of Dublin and lies on the Northside of the city.-Location and access:Killester is located between Clontarf, Donnycarney, Raheny and Artane, and it falls within the postal districts of Dublin 3 or 5. St. Anne's Park lies just beyond Killester on the...

 in response to a request from Fathers Timothy Traynor and James McCarroll. The inscription on the tomb in Lumiar reads:
“Here in these three tombs lie the three Irish knights who brought the head of St. Brigid, Virgin, a native of Ireland, whose relic is preserved in this chapel. In memory of which, the officials of the Table of the same Saint caused this to be done in January AD 1283.”

The cult overseas

Church dedications, artwork, folklore and medieval manuscripts indicate the extent of the cult of Brigid in England, Scotland and Wales, Brittany, northern and eastern France, the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy.
  • Alsace: Devotion to Brigid dates to the eight century, there are relics of the Saint in the Church of Pierre de Vaux in Strasbourg.
  • Belgium: A fragment of a medieval Irish shawl known as ‘St Brigit's Mantle’ is venerated at Bruges, to where the cult of Brigid was introduced by Foillan
    Saint Foillan is an Irish saint of the seventh century.- Family :Foillan was the brother of Saints Ultan and Fursey. He is described as the 'uterine brother' of Fursey, meaning that they had the same mother but not the same father...

     (d655). There is a chapel (7th-10th century) dedicated to Sainte-Brigide at Fosses-la-Ville, a church in Liege and an altar in Hesse.
  • Brittany: Saint-Denis in St Omer is the best known of over thirty church and chapel dedications to Brigid, she is venerated in folklore as midwife to Mary and protectress of cattle. A palton is held at Morimer each year.
  • Cologne: four parish churches and seven chapels are dedicated to Brigid and a relic is preserved at Great St. Martin Church
    Great St. Martin Church
    The Great Saint Martin Church is a Romanesque Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. Its foundations rest on remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then an island in the Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery...

    . A church dedicated to St Brigid was destroyed in the Napoleonic period. She had a chapel at Mainz.
  • Italy: Donatus of Fiesole compiled the metrical Life of Brigit. There is a church in Bobbio.
  • Netherlands: and Saint Brigid is the patron saint of the Dutch city of Ommen
    Ommen is a municipality and a Hanseatic city in the Vecht valley of the Salland region, which is at the heart of the province of Overijssel in the eastern Netherlands. Historical records first name Ommen in the early 12th century and it was officially founded as a city in 1248...

  • Portugal: Brigit's skull preserved in the church of St Joao Baptista at Lumiar was traditionally venerated on February 2 (not February 1, as in Ireland) and in former times was carried in procession as a sacred conduit in the blessing of children and animals throughout the parish.
  • Spain: A cult of Brigid at Olite
    Olite is a town and municipality located in the province and autonomous community of Navarre, northern Spain....

     in Navarre
    Navarre , officially the Chartered Community of Navarre is an autonomous community in northern Spain, bordering the Basque Country, La Rioja, and Aragon in Spain and Aquitaine in France...

     was introduced from Troyes
    Troyes is a commune and the capital of the Aube department in north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about southeast of Paris. Many half-timbered houses survive in the old town...

     and Picardy
    This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

     in northern France around 1200 and a church dedicated to her in Seville.
  • Switzerland: A sacred flame, Lumen Sanctae Brigidae, was tended at Liestal
    Liestal is the capital of the canton of Basel-Country in Switzerland, south of Basel.It is an industrial town with a cobbled-street Old Town.-History:...

     in the 13th century and there is a chapel in St Gallen.

Saint Brigit, in the alternative spelling of her name, Bride, was patron saint of the powerful medieval Scottish
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

 House of Douglas
Clan Douglas
Clan Douglas is an ancient Scottish kindred from the Scottish Lowlands taking its name from Douglas, South Lanarkshire, and thence spreading through the Scottish Borderland, Angus, Lothian and beyond. The clan does not currently have a chief, therefore it is considered an armigerous clan.The...

. The principal religious house, and Mausoleum of the Earls of Douglas and latterly Earls of Angus being St. Bride's Kirk, Douglas
Douglas, South Lanarkshire
Douglas is a village in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is located on the south bank of the Douglas Water and on the A70 road that links Ayr, on the West coast of Scotland, to Edinburgh on the East, around 12 miles south west of Lanark. The placename is of Gaelic origin, derived from the Old Gaelic...

. Another saint Bridget of Sweden
Bridget of Sweden
Bridget of Sweden Bridget of Sweden Bridget of Sweden (1303 – 23 July 1373; also Birgitta of Vadstena, Saint Birgitta , was a mystic and saint, and founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks after the death of her husband of twenty years...

 (1303–1373) was given a Swedish variant of the old Irish name named in honour of Brigit.

20th century

Even as the lore of the pious saint was being spread to America, Australia and other English speaking countries by Irish missionaries including the Brigidine Sisters
Brigidine Sisters
The Brigidine Sisters are a global Roman Catholic congregation, founded by Bishop Daniel Delany in Ireland on February 1, 1807...

 founded in her honour in 1807, Brigit was adopted as an icon by 20th century feminists who admire her achievement in a patriarchal society. Her political proponents included Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne
Maud Gonne MacBride was an English-born Irish revolutionary, feminist and actress, best remembered for her turbulent relationship with William Butler Yeats. Of Anglo-Irish stock and birth, she was won over to Irish nationalism by the plight of evicted people in the Land Wars...

 and Inghinidhe na hÉireann
Inghinidhe na hÉireann
Inghinidhe na hÉireann , abbreviated InaÉ, was a revolutionary women’s society founded by Maud Gonne on Easter Sunday 1900.Gonne was elected President of the association; Vice-Presidents were Alice Furlong, Jenny Wyse Power, Annie Egan and Anna Johnston...

 who promoted her as a model for women. Within the institutional church, there were many who hailed her achievement (and her successor abbesses) of holding a position superior to their male counterparts and the claim, consistent in her Lives, that she had the status of a bishop, a status afterwards accorded to successive abbesses of Kildare until the twelfth century, was a source of inspiration despite being downplayed in times of high misogynism by more Anglo-centric writers and translators.

Finally, growing interest in Celtic mysticism, folk spirituality and alternative forms of religion has attracted new age activists to the supposed goddess aspects of Brigit. As a result Brigid’s popularity has proven remarkably robust through all the tumultuous changes in belief systems in the 1600 years since her death.


As with all saints, Brigit was not able to be declared so without proof of her miracles. These were commonly recorded by those who had witnessed the miracles or had some relation to a person who had. In Saint Brigit’s case, most of her miracles were related to healing and domestic tasks usually attributed to women. If Brigit wished or predicted something to occur then it came to pass. A few examples of her miracles are described below.

Several of Brigit’s miracles occurred on Easter Sunday. On this day, a leper had come to Brigit to ask for a cow. She asked for a time to rest and would help him later; however, he did not wish to wait and instead stated he would go somewhere else for a cow. Brigit then offered to heal him, but the man stubbornly replied that his condition allowed him to acquire more than he would healthy. After convincing the leper that this was not so, she told one of her maidens to have the man washed in a blessed mug of water. After this was done, the man was completely cured and vowed to serve Brigit.

On another occasion, Brigit was traveling to see a physician for her headache. They were welcomed to stay at the house of Leinsterman. His wife was not able to have children that survived except for two daughters that had been dumb since their birth. Brigit was traveling to Áth with the daughters when her horse suddenly startled, causing her to wound her head on a stone. Her blood mixed with the water here. Brigit then instructed one of the girls to pour the bloodied water onto her neck in God’s name causing the girl to be healed. The healed sister was told to call her sister over to be healed as well, but the later responded that she had been made well when she bowed down in the tracks. Brigit told the cured sisters to return home and that they also would birth as many male children that their mother had lost. The stone that Brigit had injured herself cured any disease of the head when they laid the head on it.

Brigit also performed miracles that included curse elements as well. When on the bank of Inny, Brigit was given a gift of apples and sweet sloes. She later entered a house where many lepers begged her for these apples, which she offered willingly. The nun who had given the gift to Brigit was irritated by this saying that she had not given the gift to the lepers. Brigit was angered at the nun for withholding from the lepers and therefore cursed her trees so they would no longer bear fruit, rendering them barren. Yet another virgin also gave Brigit the same gift as the nun, and again Brigit gave them to begging lepers. This time the virgin asked that she and her garden be blessed. Brigit then said that a large tree in the virgin’s garden would have twofold fruit from its offshoots, and this was done.


Not all Kilbride or St Bride’s churches are directly associated with Brigit the daughter of Dubhthach. Seathrún Céitinn
Geoffrey Keating
Seathrún Céitinn, known in English as Geoffrey Keating, was a 17th century Irish Roman Catholic priest, poet and historian. He was born in County Tipperary c. 1569, and died c. 1644...

’s History of Ireland 1841 edition edited by Dermod O’Connor lists 14 Saints gleaned from the martyrologies and heroic literature each called Brigid, and not including Brigit of Kildare..

This dizzying abundance of Brigits had the effect of confusing those scholars in the 16th and 17th centuries who compiled the calendars
Calendar of saints
The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saints and referring to the feast day of said saint...

 from older manuscript sources, many of them now lost. For example John Colgan
John Colgan
John Colgan was an Irish hagiographer and historian.-Life:...

 states Brighit of Moin-miolain was the daughter of Neman in one reference and the daughter of Aidus in another.

The Martyrology of Donegal, for example, lists Brighit daughter of Diomman (feast day May 21), Brighit of Moin-miolain (feast day on March 9), and what may be five more: Brigid the daughter of Leinin (associated with Killiney
Killiney is a suburb of Dublin in south County Dublin, Ireland. It is within the administrative area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County. The area is by the coast, south of neighbouring Dalkey, and north to Shankill area in the most southern outskirt of Dublin....

, feast day March 6), Brighit of Cillmuine (November 12), Brighe of Cairbre (feast day January 7). and two other Brighits (feast days March 9, the second Brigit of that date, and Sept 30).

Connection with pagan Brigid

Saint Brigit of Kildare, the Christian saint, is often confused as being the same person as the Celtic pagan
Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism, commonly known as Celtic paganism, refers to the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts...

  goddess Brigid
In Irish mythology, Brigit or Brighid was the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the wife of Bres of the Fomorians, with whom she had a son, Ruadán....

 who was a goddess of fertility blessing many births and harvests to Celtic pagans, and long preceded the saint from Kildare, the goddess Brigid was originally revered by the Brigantes of northern England; and a parallel conversion and adoption there may partly account for the cult of Saint Brigid spreading so rapidly in, around and outside Ireland, Scotland and England in the United Kingdom. Saint Brigid had an uncanny gifted and saintly ability to see into the souls of others, and confronted the Devil. Saint Brigid remains one of the United Kingdom's most popular saints after Saint Patrick. Saint Brigid born of a pagan father Dubthach, who was a powerful magical Druidic wizard and warlock [5], was given the name of the highly honored Celtic pagan goddess Brigid. Henceforth, with God, Saint Brigid is a patron saint and guardian of the poor pastoral folk who work the land, she protects the harvest; she increases the yield of cow, dairy and sheep. She lights the fire which is never extinguished, the ever-burning fire in the hearth of the humble croft. Saint Brigid is also the patron saint of studies and learning, just as the older Celtic goddess Brigid succoured the creative arts and poetry [5]. Saint Brigid is recognised as one of the most potent symbols of Christian womanhood and fertility for all times. Her saintly glory is suffused in legend with her role as 'the Bride of Christ', and at times confused almost with the identity of the Virgin Mother herself. Some neo-pagans and historians question the historicity of Saint Brigid, or how much of her life as traditionally recounted is historically accurate. The Irish 'Book of Lismore', a traditional book on the lives of the ancient Celtic Irish saints written in Irish, Saint Brigid is described: 'She is the prophetess of Christ; she is the Queen of the South; she is the Mary of the Gael.'

See also

  • Cogitosus
    -Biography:Cogitosus was a monk of Kildare who wrote the oldest extant vita of Saint Brigit, Vita Sanctae Brigidae, around 650. There is a controversy as to whether he was related to Saint Brigit....

  • Brigid's Cross
    Brigid's cross
    Brigid's cross, Brighid's cross, or Brigit's cross, often with the "Saint" prefix, or Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde, though not recorded before the seventeenth century, is an Irish symbol. Though a Christian symbol, it possibly derives from the pagan sunwheel. It is usually made from...

Saint Brigit of Kildare, the Christian saint, is often confused as being the same person as the Celtic pagan goddess Brigid, who was a goddess of fertility, that 'blessed' many births to pagans.

External links

Saint Brigid's cross

Legends about Saint Brigit

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