Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/865

This page needs to be proofread.




laudatory notice by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill". Small wonder that Gerald Barry assumed the book to have been written night after night as St. Brigid prayed, "an angel furnishing the designs, the scribe copying". Even allowing for the ex- aggerated stories told of St. Brigid by her numerous biographers, it is certain that she ranks as one of tlie most remarkable Irishwomen of the fiftli century and as the Patroness of Ireland. She is lovingly called the "Queen of the South: the Man,' of the Gael" by a ^\Titer in the "Leabhar Breac". St. Brigid died lea\-ing a cathedral city and school that became famous all over Europe. In her honour St. L Itan wrote a hjinn commencing: — Christus in nostra insula Que vocatur Hibernia Ostensus est hominibus Maximis mirabilibus Que perfecit per felicem Celestis vite virginem Precellentem pro merito Magno in mundi circulo. (In our island of Hibernia Christ was made known to man by the very great miracles which he per- formed through tlie happy virgin of celestial life, famous for her merits through the whole world.)

The sixth Life of the saint printed by Colgan is attributed to Coelan. an Irish monk of the eighth centurj', and it derives a peculiar importance from the fact that it is prefaced by a foreword from the pen of St. Donatus, also an Irish monk, who became Bishop of Fiesole in 824. St. Donatus refers to previous lives by St. Ultan and St. Aileran. When lying, St. Brigid was attended by St. Ninnidh, who was ever afterwards known as "Ninnidh of the Clean Hand" because he had his right hand encased with a metal covering to prevent its ever being de- filed, aftev being the medium of administering the viaticum to Ireland's Patroness. She was interred at the right of the high altar of Kildare Cathedral, and a costly tomb was erected over lier. In after years her shrine was an object of veneration for pilgrims, especially on her feast day, 1 February, as Cogitosus relates. About the year 878, owing to the Scandinavian raids, the relics of St. Brigid were taken to Dowiipatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of St. Patrick and St. Columba. The relics of the three saints were discovered in 1185, and on 9 June of the following year were solemily translated to a suitable resting place in Downpatrick Cathedral, in presence of Cardinal Vivian, fifteen bishojjs, and numerous abbots and ecclesiastics. Various Continental breviaries of the pre-Reforma- tion period commemorate St. Brigid, and her name is included in a litany in the Stowc Missal. In Ire- and to-day, after 1.500 years, the memory of "the Mary of the Gael" is as dear as ever to the Irish heart, and, as is well known, Brigid preponderates as a female Christian name. Moreover, hundreds of place-names in her honour are to be found all over the countr\% e. g. Kilbride, Brideswell. Tubberbride, Tcmplebride, etc. The hand of St. Brigid is pre- served at Lumiar near Lisbon. Portugal, since 1587, and another relic is at St. Martin's, Cologne.

Viewing the biography of St. Brigid from a critical standpoint we must allow a large margin for the vivid Celtic imagination and the glosses of medieval writers, but still the personality of the founder of Kildare stanils out clearly, and we can with tolerable accuracy trace the leading events in her life, by a careful study of the old "Lives" as found in Colgan. It seems certain that Faughart, a.ssociated with memories of Queen Meave (Medhbli), was the scene of her birth; and Faughart Church was founded by St. Morienna in honour of St. Brigid. The old well of St. Brigid 's

adjoining the ruined church is of the most venerable antiquity, and still attracts pilgrims; in the immediate vicinity is the ancient mote of Faughart. As to St. Brigid's stay in Connacht, especially in the County Roscommon, there is ample evidence in the "Trias Thaumaturga", as also in the many churches founded by her in the Diocese of Elphin. Her friend-

ship -with St. Patrick is attested by the following paragraph from the "Book of Armagh", a precious manuscript of the eighth century, the authenticity of which is beyond question: "Inter sanctum Pa- tricium Brigitamque Hibernensium columpnas ami- citia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per ilium illamque virtutes multas peregit". (Between St. Patrick and St. Brigid, the columns of the Irish, there was so great a friendship of charity tliat they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many miracles.) At Armagh there was a "Templum Brigidis"; namely, the little abbey church known as "Regies Brigid", which contained some relics of the saint, destroyed in 1179, by William Fitz Aldelm. It may be added that the original manu.script of Cogitosus's "Life of Brigid", or the "Second Life", dating from the closing years of the eighth century, is now in the Dominican friary at Eichstatt in Bavaria.

Ada xSS.; Acta Sand. Hib. ei Cod. Salmant; Colgan, TrUis Thaumaturga (Louvain, 1647): Stokes, Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore; Id., Three Middle Irish Homilies; O'Hani.on, Lives of the Irish Saints (1 February), 11; Todd, Liber Hymnorum; Stowe Missal; Leabhar Breac; Messingham, Florilegium; Atkinson, St. Brigid in Essays (Dublin, 1892); Healy, Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars; Stokes, Early Christian Art in Ireland; Hyde, Literary History of Ireland (1900); Knowles. Life of St. Brigid (1907). Cf. Chevalier, Biii-bihlioijr. (Paris, 1905, 2ntl ed.), .■'. v.

W. H. Ghatt.\n Flood.

Brigittines. — The Brigittine Order (also, Order OF St. Saviour) was founded in 1346 by St. Brigit, or Bridget, of Sweden at Vadstena in the Diocese of Linkoping. The saint, who was canonized twenty years after lier death, was a Swedish princess re- nowiied for her piety from her childhood; slie was given in marriage to Ulf, Prince of Mercia, by whom she had a large family. Ulf died in 1344, and two years later tradition relates that St. Bridget had re- vealed to her the rule of the new order she was to found at Vadstena. Here with the help of King Magnus she established on her own estate the first monasterj' for men and women, of which Katharine, her daughter, became the first abbess soon after her death in 1375. At this time double monasteries were not unusual; the monks and nuns used the same chapel, but lived in separate v%nngs of the monastery, the confessor alone having access to the nuns. In