Icon of St. Brigid of Kildare. (c.451-525) One of the three patron saints of Ireland. Tradition claims that St. Brigid was born the daughter of a chieftan in Eastern Irleand. She was given the name Brigid in honor of one of the most powerful goddesses of the celtic land.
Being inspired by the preaching of St. Patrick, she felt called to religous life from an early age, despite her father’s protests. After receiving the veil, she was credited with the foundation of several monastic houses, but the most famous and influential would be Kildare Abbey, founded around 470. This was a double monastery, open to men and women. Her version of monasticism was rooted in Celtic Christianity, long before Rome banished it from Irleland in the 12th century. As a Celtic abbess, she was higher in authority than the bishops in her area, as the bishops were actually under her rule as members of her community. Kildare Abbey eventually became one of the greatest centers of monastic and religious educaiton in all of Ireland.
In close relation to her namesake, an “inextinguishable” fire was kept burning at the Abbey since the time of Brigid. The fire was finally extinguished for good during the reign of Elizabeth I following her crackdown of all monastic houses under British rule.
In this icon, I have given her distinctly fair skin with a freckled face, in response to the numerous traditional orthodox icons of her that make her appear olive skinned like all other middle eastern saints. Her hair is red, again in acknowledgement of her actual heritage. The crosier she carries in her right hand is pointed inward in recognition of her episcopal authority within her monasteries. It is decorated with celtic knotwork, symbolising her distinctly Celtic Christian context. In her left hand is the eternal flame of St. Brigid serving as a reminder of her celtic pagan past, it’s transformation into Christianity and also to symbolize her quest for learning and education of others. Lastly, her robes are green for the Emerlad Isle of which she is a patron.
St. Brigid, pray for us. Amen.