Unmasking the distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design

What is the meaning of St. Brigid’s Cross?

The first day February each year is a special date in the Irish calendar and marks St. Brigid’s Day and is traditionally seen at the start of spring in Ireland. For centuries it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day for the Irish people to fashion a St. Brigid’s Cross and place it inside the house over the door. St. Brigid’s Day symbolises the ushering in of a new season of hope, growth and new beginnings and was typically recognised as a time of joy and celebration.

The distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design, constructed from woven rushes, has four arms which are tied at the end and a woven square found in the middle. It is believed to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed. The tale of its creation is a little more unclear, and there appears to be no definitive version.

Where does St. Brigid’s Cross get its name?

Brigid was born in Dundalk in 450 AD and was one of Ireland’s three patron saints. St.Brigid, also known as “Mary of the Gael” is said to have created the first unique cross which now bears her name. Additionally, she was an early Irish Christian nun, abbess and the founder of the Irish monastery in County Kildare.

From what we know, the legend of St. Brigid goes something like this:

There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some believe this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the saintly woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. She explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain while she weaved, and it is thought her calming words brought inner peace to his soul. He was so enamoured by her words that the old Chieftain requested that he be baptised as a Christian just before his passing.

St. Brigid’s emblem, the iconic rush cross, continues to be used in Irish designs, with many modern designers integrating the popular Irish symbol into their creations and designs of celtic jewelry and Irish gifts.

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