Given how famous Saint Patrick is both in Ireland and around the world, it’s perhaps no surprise that many people don’t know that Ireland actually has three patron saints. They are Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and the lesser known Saint Columba.
Saint Brigid is Ireland’s only female patron saint. She was born around the year 451 AD. During her life she was an early Irish Christian nun and founder of several convents.
Her most famous was the one built in Kildare in 480 AD. According to tradition she picked that place because it was the location of a shrine to an Irish goddess also called Brigid.
There are many legends told about Saint Brigid, perhaps the most famous one was her apparent ability to turn water in to beer. During her life though she was totally devoted to God and was well known for her compassion and generosity towards the poor.
There is much crossover between stories of the history of Saint Brigid and the pre-Christian goddess Brigid. Like the Saint, the pagan goddess is associated with poetry, healing, protection and the care of animals.
Born in 521 AD in what is now known as County Donegal, Saint Columba was an Irish abbot and missionary. He is known as Saint Colmcille in Ireland and is credited with spreading Christianity from Ireland to Scotland.
The saint founded an abbey on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. It soon became an important and influential centre for the spread of Christianity in Scotland and quickly became a place of pilgrimage - it’s said that 48 Scottish kings, 8 Norwegian kings and 4 Irish kings are buried there!