Saint Brigid of Kildare, patroness of livestock
Brigid of Kildare (c. 453-c.525) is one of Ireland’s patron saints, along with Saint Patrick and Saint Columba. Baptized by a pupil of Saint Patrick she was one of the first Irish nuns and the foundress and abbess of the convent of Kildare.
Bridget built the convent on land that traditionally was a sacred place, marked by a majestic oak. A place called ‘Kil Dara’ (kil/cill = cell, kluis; dare/dara = oak). According to legend she had initially lived as a hermit in a cavity under that oak. Soon several young women joined her; this was the beginning of the first female monastic order.
Her feast day is February 1, in former days a pagan festival that marks the beginning of spring. Brigid is the patroness of livestock. She was especially revered in the Celtic regions, in the eastern part of the Dutch provinces of North Brabant and Limburg and in the Lower Rhine region.
Already in the 16th century pilgrims visited the church of Saint Brigid in Noorbeek. Late 16th century there was a decline in the cult but pilgrimages flourished from the 18th century again. In 1772 a new chapel for Brigid was built that still exists.
Every year, on the second Saturday after Eastern, the inhabitants of Noorbeek donate a pine tree to Saint Brigid which is planted before her chapel. This tradition is based on an unconfirmed story about a promise made by the inhabitants of Noorbeek at the time of an infectious disease among cattle in 1634. That way her assistance could be invoked when needed. This tradition is listed in the National Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2015.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007