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Brigid’s eternal sacred flame in Kildare Ireland: extinguished and re-kindled

The perpetual flame of Brigid
The perpetual flame of Brigid

In Kildare Ireland, an eternal flame sacred to Brigid had been tended, first by the Goddess’s priestesses, then by the saint’s nuns, for millennia.

In 1220 CE, the bishop of Dublin ordered the flame extinguished on the grounds that it was too pagan. (1) Whether he succeeded in effecting this order is not clear; if he did, the sisters re-lit the flame. During the Reformation in the 16th century, however, “archbishop George Browne of Dublin ensured the extinction of the sacred flame.” (2)

In 1993, the flame was re-lit by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, then the congregational leader of the Brigidine Sisters. (3) In 2005 the Kildare County Council commissioned a sculpture to house the flame tended by the Brigidine Sisters, and on St. Brigid’s Day (February 1) in 2006 it was moved there. It burns in the sculpture in Kildare Town Square to this day. (4) The sculpture is in the shape of oak leaves and acorns, which are sacred to both the Goddess and the saint, and which honor the origin of the word "Kildare," Cill Dara, or "Church of the Oak." The website of the Brigidine Sisters says, “The Brigid Light is still guarded and tended in Solas Bhríde as it was in Kildare many centuries ago by the Sisters of St Brigid. The flame burns as a beacon of hope, justice and peace for Ireland and our world.” (3)

The story of Brigid's flame is the story of a people honoring their Holy One through centuries, despite oppression and regardless of minor changes in Her name and in the titles of those honoring Her.

(1) Daughtery, Christi and Jack Jewers. Frommer’s Ireland 2011. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2011. Page 252.
(2) Minehan, Rita. Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare. Kildare, Ireland: Donovan Printing Ltd/, Newbridge, Co. 1999. Page 26.
(3), 2010

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