St. Brigid is one of the three patron saints of Ireland. You might see her name listed as Brigid of Ireland or Brigid of Kildare in honor of her roots. You can find out about the work that she did during her life and how she helped those in her home country in this article.
Interesting Facts About St. Brigid
- Feast Day: February 1
- Patron Saint of Kildare, babies, travelers, blacksmiths, chicken farmers, cattle, poets, nuns and others
- Born: circa 451
- Death: circa 525
- Beatified: Unknown
- Canonized: Unknown
Brigid was born in County Louth circa 451 to Dubhthach and Brocca. Her father was a leader of the Leinster clan, and her mother was one of his slaves. When her father sold her mother to hide her pregnancy, Brigid became a slave too. She exhibited signs of her holiness from a young age, including the witnessing of miracles and the inability to drink or eat anything a druid gave her.
There are several legends surrounding how the young woman obtained her freedom. One claims that the King of Leister saw her holiness and released her. Another claims that she became a servant in her father’s home and that he eventually let her go. After becoming a free woman, Brigid moved to Kildare and established a monastery that she ran with seven other women. She would eventually establish separate monasteries for men and women.
During her final days, Brigid remained close to her pupils and fellow teachers. St. Ninnidh came to see her and noticing her weakness, he administered her last rites. She died on February 1, 525 and left the abbey to her favorite pupil, Darlugdach. Legend claims that the new abbey would die just one year later on the anniversary of Brigid’s death.
The Church attributes several miracles to Brigid, including one in which witnesses claim that she made pitchers of water become beer. Another story came from Darlugdach who claims that she shared a bed with Brigid and tried to sneak out one night to meet a local boy. She prayed for a sign and saw a fire that injured her feet. Brigid commented on the fire the next morning and told her that she was now safe from the flames before healing her burns. There is another story in which Brigid’s cloak grew after the King agreed to give her any land that it could cover.
Quick Facts About St. Brigid
- St. Ninnidh later adopted the nickname of Ninnidh of the Clean Hand because he covered the hand he used for Brigid’s last rites with metal. He claimed that he didn’t want anything to defile the hand that touched her.
- Originally buried in the Kildare Cathedral, Brigid’s tomb featured precious metals and gemstone decorations. After attackers stole many of those decorations, parishioners removed her relics for safekeeping. John de Courcy later had her body moved to Down Cathedral.
- Though historians believe that much of the saint’s body disappeared over the years, her body was saved. A chapel in Austria had it for many years before giving it to a Lisbon branch of the Society of Jesus. Crusaders carried her skull on several of their travellers, but fragments of the skull later found their way to different chapels and churches.
- Historians credit the saint with the popularity of the name Brigid. So many Irish women used this name after immigrating to the United States that it became a nickname for a woman of Irish descent.
- Killorglin holds an annual festival in honour of St. Brigid on the first of February. It features a parade and a display of a doll called a biddy, which locals believe will bring good luck to visitors.