Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

St Brigid

Today is the feast of St Brigid, who died circa 524 and who is one of the great patron saints of Ireland.

A great figure enmeshed in legend and folk piety and the subject of many Vitae, Brigid was the founding abbess of the double monastery (principally a house for women) at Cill Dara (Church of the oak), today's Kildare. There is an online account of the monastery which can be read here.

Her cult was not confined to Ireland. Irish missionaries and other Irish emigrants took devotion to her continent. There is a restored eighth-tenth-century chapelle Sainte-Brigide at Fosses-la-Ville (Namur) in Belgium and in Italy her cult is closely associated with her ninth-century countryman bishop St. Donatus of Fiesole, who in 850 granted to the monastery of Bobbio (founded by St. Columban) an existing church at Piacenza dedicated to her with the stipulation that it be used to provide hospitality to Irish travellers and to whom is ascribed a metrical Vita of Brigid written for a continental audience - it used to thought that that only the introduction was his. This poem includes the account of Brigid hanging her cloak on a sunbeam to dry.

The early thirteenth-century cathedral of Kildare (Church of Ireland; restored from a state of virtually total ruin by G.E.Street the nineteenth century) is dedicated to St Brigid.


The cathedral before restoration - a view from the north


Kildare Cathedral today
Image: Wikipedia

There are online articles about Kildare here and about the cathedral here . There is an excellent set of linked articles on the history of Kildare, St Brigid, the cathedral and much more besides here.

With acknowledgements to John Dillon's post for today on the Medieval Religion discussion group

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