Today is St. Brigid’s day, I’m sure if you grew up in Ireland you’ll remember this as the day when you got to make a St. Brigid’s cross in school. This cross consists of a woven straw (or rushes) square in the centre with four radials tied at the ends. Every year on 1st February we would be asked to bring in rushes so we could make our St. Brigid’s cross. Once we had our cross made we could bring it home where it would be hung over a doorway to protect the house for the year. I have since read that the cross protects the household from fire and evil.
I decided to mark the day by researching Ireland’s partron saint and find out where the design of this cross came from.
St Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland along with St. Patrick. She was born in 450AD in Faughart Co. Louth but she is probably best known for her work in Co. Kildare. It was here that she founded a monastery and convent which became an established center for Christian learning which continued to flourish even after her death.
When looking for land for her community she asked the King of Leinster for a piece of land next to the forest as this was the perfect site on which to build. The King refused so Brigid asked only for as much land as her cloak would cover. The King thought she was joking as her cloak was so small and so agreed to the request. When she spread out her cloak it miraculously covered acres of land. This is just one of the numerous extravagant miracles attributed to her!
The story of the cross describes how St. Brigid wove the cross when teaching a dying man about Christianity. She was visiting a dying pagan chieftain. While she prayed at his beside she picked up rushes from the floor and began plaiting them into a cross. Rushes were the common floor material that were used in an Irish home. The chieftain saw the cross and asked her to explain it’s meaning. On hearing the story the chieftain converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died.
I’m not sure if children in Irish schools still make these crosses but if you get one to hang up this evening, now you’ll know its origin!
We don’t have a silver version of the Saint Brigid’s Cross yet – Maybe leave a comment and let us know if you would like one. In the mean time, maybe the Celtic Cross is the one for you.