Brigid’s Bones Return to Kildare
The relics of St. Brigid are coming home to County Kildare after nearly a millennium. Pilgrims and locals are eagerly anticipating the return of the relics of St. Brigid and to welcoming her “home” to county Kildare on Sunday, 28th of January. A procession will accompany the relics from Solas Bhride Centre in Tully outside Kildare Town at 10.30am where they will then proceed to St. Brigid’s Parish Church in Kildare Town. Thousands are expected to attend, and organisers are asking people to come early.
David Mongey, Chairman of Into Kildare, the Kildare Tourism Board, said:
“The relics of St. Brigid have not been in County Kildare for nearly 1,000 years. This year is the 1500th year of the passing of the saint, and what could be more special than to bring St. Brigid’s relics home where she belongs? It has been a long process to finally bring her relics back to the county, and together with my colleagues at Into Kildare, we would like to thank Kildare County Council and the Brigidine sisters for their great work in bringing Brigid home.”
It is believed that Brigid died in 524 AD and was buried beside the main altar in her monastic church in Kildare along with Conleth, and their graves became an attraction for pilgrims throughout Ireland and Europe. In the eight century, shrines were built for the two saints, which were adorned with gold, silver and precious stones.
When the Vikings came to Ireland around the year 800, they started to attack and plunder towns and churches. In anticipation of a Viking attack on the town, the body of St. Brigid was moved to Downpatrick in Northern Ireland where she was buried in an unmarked grave beside St. Patrick and St. Columba. The grave was unmarked to protect it and to keep the location secret, however over the passage of time, the location of the saints’ bodies was lost and forgotten, and for some three hundred years the location of the patron saints of Ireland was unknown.
In 1185 the Bishop of Down prayed to God to show him the location of the sacred relics and bodies of the three saints. A beam of light shone on a section of the floor in the dark church. The floor was taken up, and the bodies of the three saints were found with Saint Patrick in the middle and St. Brigid and St. Columba on either side. The bodies were properly enshrined in 1186 where they remained for the next 400 years until the shrine was destroyed by Lord Leonard Grey, the appointee of King Henry VIII.
Although the shrine was gone, Brigid’s remains were saved and secretly transported to the continent. Tradition also holds that three Irish knights took a bone fragment from her head to Lumiar, a small town outside Lisbon in Portugal in the 13th century. The relic is still venerated in the church of St. John the Baptist in Lumiar where the knights continued to spend their lives. An inscription outside the church attests to this and states that the knights are interred within the building.
The Brigidine Sisters in Tullow, Co. Carlow, procured a portion of the Lumiar relic in the 1930’s, which will now return to St. Brigid’s Parish Church in Kildare Town.