Saint Brigid is revered in churches all over Ireland and gives her name to many a townsland – ‘Kilbride’, literally means Church of Brigid. She was born in Co Louth in 451, daughter of a pagan chieftain. Throughout her childhood, Brigid was said to have had healing powers and continuously gave food to the poor. Her father was not pleased when she decided to enter religious life, keeping her at home first. He had plans to marry her off to a local landowner but Brigid had other plans.
In 468 Brigid converted to Christianity, having followed the teachings of Saint Patrick for some time. Receiving the veil from Saint Mel, Brigid embarked upon setting up the first convent in Ireland. According to tradition Brigid founded a monastery in Kildare around 480. She acquired the site from a local landowner who agreed to give her as much land as her cloak would cover. Her cloak miraculously spread over the land to a large oak tree hence the name in Irish Cill Dara (Kildare). Brigid lived until 525 and was an Irish nun, abbess, founder of several convents, and held the rank of bishop. It’s believed she is buried beside St Patrick and St Columcille in Downpatrick.
Today, Brigid is considered to be one of Ireland’s patron saints second only to Saint Patrick in importance. Her feast day, St Brigid’s Day is February 1st, also the first day of Spring in Ireland. Her symbol is the St Brigid’s cross which according to legend, Brigid made a cross from rushes for a dying man she was keen to convert. Today many households in Ireland have a Saint Brigid’s Cross hanging inside the front door. It is believed that hanging the cross from the ceiling or the roof itself is a way to preserve the home from fire.