Relic of St Brigid returns to Co. Kildare after hundreds of years

Relic of St Brigid returns to Co. Kildare after hundreds of years

A RELIC of St Brigid has today returned to Co. Kildare as the county prepares to mark 1,500 years since the death of one of Ireland's patron saints.

St Brigid's remains were said to have been buried in Kildare after her death in 524AD but were removed to an unmarked grave in Downpatrick in the ninth century.

The relic, which was obtained by the Brigidine Sisters in Tullow, Co. Carlow in the 1930s, was presented to Kildare Town Parish Church to mark the 1,500th anniversary of St Brigid's death.

A procession accompanied the relic from the Solas Bhride Centre in Tully to the church, where Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, Fr Denis McNulty, marked the occasion with a special Mass.

Among those attending the event were Cathaoirleach Daragh Fitzpatrick, Tourism Minister Catherine Martin and Fr Francisco Rodrigues, parish priest of St John the Baptist Church in Lumiar, Portugal.

The relic presented today is a fragment of one that is still venerated at the church in Lumiar, after three three Irish knights brought it to the Portuguese town in the 13th century.

Addressing those gathered at today's Mass, Fr McNulty said: "In many ways if Capernaum was the home city of Jesus, Kildare is the home place of St Brigid and today we have brought her home.

"At least, a relic taken from the bone fragment of her head, which rests in the Church of St John the Baptist in Lumiar outside Lisbon, having been brought there by three Irish knights."

He added: "May we ensure in Kildare and in Ireland that the creator is at the heart of all we do and say in the name of Brigid on this day of her homecoming."


Today's Mass formed part of Kildare County Council's Brigid 1500 programme of events to mark the anniversary of St Brigid's death.

Speaking ahead of the Mass, David Mongey, chair the Kildare Tourism Board, welcomed the timely return of the relic.

"This year is the 1,500th year of the passing of the saint and what could be more special than to bring St Brigid's relics home, where she belongs?" said Mr Mongey of Into Kildare.

"She built her church in Kildare and her legacy as a peacemaker and a protector of nature is still as relevant today as ever."

St Brigid was said to have been buried beside the main altar of her monastic church in Kildare and a shrine was built to mark the site.

However, her remains were reputedly taken to Downpatrick in the ninth century in anticipation of a Viking attack on the town.

At Downpatrick, her body was buried in an unmarked grave beside fellow patron saints, St Patrick and St Columba, in an attempt to keep the location secret.

Around 300 years later, the location of the bodies was revealed by God to the Bishop of Down and they were properly enshrined in Down Cathedral a year later in 1186.

Almost four centuries after that, the shrine and relics were thought to have been desecrated and destroyed by Leonard Grey, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who had been appointed by King Henry VIII.

However, Brigid's remains were reputedly saved and secretly transported to the continent, eventually finding their way to Lisbon in Portugal by way of Austria.

Separately, tradition holds that in the 13th century, three Irish knights transported a fragment of the remains, namely a piece of skull, to Lumiar in Lisbon.

The Brigidine Sisters in Tullow, Co. Carlow procured a portion of the Lumiar relic in the 1930s, which is the fragment that was today presented to Kildare Town Parish Church.

The relic will go on permanent display at the church, providing pilgrims and visitors with a sacred space for veneration and reflection.