Jul 9, 2010
Kildare means "Church of the Oak." It's the place where St. Brigid established her duel monastery (both men and women) on land granted to her by the king of Leinster.
Kildare was a sacred place long before Brigid came, and long before St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Oaks were sacred to the pre-Christian Celts, and Kildare was one of those treasured spots.
Brigid is said to have tended a sacred flame at Kildare. From Celtic Wisdom, Treasures of Ireland:
"It is said that the sisters tended a continuously burning fire there for centuries. In Brigid's lifetime, she and nineteen other sisters perpetuated the fire. After Brigid's death it is said that no one was needed to tend the fire on the twentieth night; it continued as if Brigid herself was tending it. The fire pit was surrounded by brush and no man was allowed to enter. Some sources say that in the year 1220, fearing the practice was pagan, an archbishop ordered the fire to be extinguished. It was soon relit and continued on until the Reformation, when it was smothered once again."
Today the flame is still burning. It was relit in 1993. You can read about that here.
Watch this YouTube video at St. Brigid's Cathedral. The church dates much later than St. Brigid, but it's still very old and beautiful.