Saint Brigid’s Cross is as much a symbol of Ireland as the Shamrock and the Harp. Celebrated every year on the 1st of February St Brigid’s Day is a major event in the Irish calendar. Over the years the cross has become a prominent feature of Irish art, design and culture. Born in Dundalk in 450AD St Brigid was the founder of the first monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. She died in 525AD aged 75 and was buried within the church she created. Her remains were exhumed years later and brought to Downpatrick to rest alongside Saints Patrick and Columcille. In the year 2023 Saint Brigid’s Day is set to become a national holiday in Ireland.
This is my own design of the cross, surrounded by Snowdrops to welcome the arrival of Spring. The panel is 17 inches in diameter, made using the copper foil method and edged in lead came.
A brief history
The presence of Brigid’s cross in Ireland is likely far older than Christianity. The Celtic Goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann and her day was the feast of Imbolc. Imbolc is an ancient Celtic festival now also known as St Brigid’s Day, marking the beginning of spring. This was celebrated at the start of February, halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
There are many stories and legends surrounding the creation of the cross. The cross made of rushes today is very likely the descendant of the pagan sunwheel. This symbol invoked the great cosmic powers to bless the Earth with fertility, life, prosperity, and peace. The cross divides the circle into four parts, which represent the solar calendar. These symbolize the four annual seasons which have a very significant influence on the agricultural cycles.
Saint Brigid’s Crosses are made and displayed across Ireland today to ward off evil, fire and hunger.