(Dia de St. Brigid)

Saint Brigid of Ireland (Bridget, Bridgit, Brigit, Bride) (451- 525) was born at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. Legend states that her parents were Dubhthach, pagan king of Leinster, and Brocca, a Christian Pictish slave who had been baptized by Saint Patrick.

According to this legend, which suffers inconsistencies common to such legends, Brigid was named after one of the most powerful goddesses of the Pagan religion that Dubhthach practiced. Brigid was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. Brigid supposedly became a virgin in service to the Goddess Brigid and eventually ascended to 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. Other tales likewise exist, and the only agreement between the various stories is that a girl was born to an Irish king named Dubhtach and that her name was Brigid.

Around 470 she founded a Christian double monastery (nuns and monks) at Kildare (Cill-Dara) by either converting the pagan sanctuary or by building on unused ground there, depending upon the particular story consulted. She went on to found a school of art at the monastery 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 co-patron of Ireland. Similar to the association between St. Patrick and the shamrock, a tiny cross made of rushes was linked with St. Brigid.

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