St. Brigid of Kildare

Conference: Brigid: Woman of Mystery, Woman of Inspiration

Highlights from the Conference

Dr Niamh Wycherley and participants

It was a full house at Solas Bhríde on Saturday 22nd April for a conference marking 30 years of the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare town. Approximately 100 attendees gathered to hear two wonderful and inspiring speakers, Dr Niamh Wycherley and Dr Niamh Brennan, address the legacy and relevance of Brigid today from two very different perspectives. 

A warm welcome was provided by the Solas Bhríde Team and Cairde Bhríde members. The morning began on a lovely note with music from a local group of traditional Irish musicians led by Treasa Harkin.

Marking the opening, closing and other points during the day were a series of beautiful rituals with music, chant and spoken word. Crafted by Margaret, Mary, and Brenda from Cairde Bhríde, these were designed to bring us into mindfulness through our five senses and back to our own intention for the day. 

Lunch was an opportunity to mix and mingle with friends old and new. In the afternoon, as part of her presentation, Dr Niamh Brennan invited us to walk in the Solas Bhríde gardens and connect with nature. We emerged refreshed, renewed, and looking forward to another gathering in Kildare.


‘Boss Brigid: the lasting legacy of the founder of Kildare’,
Is Brigid for real? Most certainly according to Dr Niamh Wycherley! A medieval scholar with a deep interest in Brigid of Kildare, her lecture, ‘Boss Brigid: the lasting legacy of the founder of Kildare’, firmly established her in the reality of medieval Christian Ireland as a living, breathing individual.

According to Niamh, while the ancient goddess and miracle-working saint are both worthy subjects for our attention, with virtues like inclusivity, strength, hospitality and healing, the real ‘flesh and blood’ woman behind it all is actually much more extraordinary. She revealed how in a patriarchal society and religious culture that kept women very much in a secondary and subservient role, only a strong, visionary and influential individual could have succeeded. 

Tradition tells us that Brigid invited Conleth a hermit of Old Connell (Newbridge) to take charge of the male side of the monastery. However, there was never any doubt about who was in charge. Brigid of Kildare led a vibrant community and created a legacy that has lasted to this day.

Dr Niamh Wycherley works in Maynooth University Department of Early Irish as a medieval historian, specialising in the early Irish Church. She won the NUI Publication Prize in History in 2017 for her book, “The Cult of Relics in Early Medieval Ireland”. She contributes regularly to RTÉ Brainstorm and television programmes such as the RTÉ 1 documentary ‘Finding Brigid’, with Siobhán McSweeney.

 ‘The Wild and the Sacred: Listening to the Voices of Earth’,
Our morning with the real Brigid of Kildare brought into sharp detail a particular time in medieval life and politics. By contrast, our afternoon with Dr Niamh Brennan led us into the infinite world of the cosmos to explore, in Thomas Berry’s words, “the deep wonder that we are”.  Niamh’s presentation explored our sense of detachment from that source of wonder and how Nature can provide the map that leads us home to ourselves.  

Using images of the Voices of Earth, accessed through our five senses, Niamh focused on reconnecting us with that source of wonder. She asked us how we respond to the sound of the lark or the sea waves crashing, the night sky or birds in flight. Niamh explained how we are in no way separate from Nature and the Cosmos. We all emerged from the same source, Science’s “Big Bang” or the “Flaring Forth” as she prefers to describe it. As such, we are part of the Wild and Sacred, not separate.

Dr. Niamh Brennan

During Niamh’s presentation we were invited to walk in the gardens and ask ourselves what voice of Earth resonated with each of us personally. If we silence the Voices of Earth, then we silence ourselves…

Niamh Brennan Ph.D. is a writer and lecturer in cosmology, ecology and spirituality. She is author of The Human in the Universe (Wyndham Hall Press 2014) and co-author with Greg Morter of The Universe Story in Science and Myth (Green Spirit 2016). She has contributed to several journals including Religions; Worldviews: Global Religions, Ecology and Culture; Spirituality; and The Furrow.

At the conclusion of the conference centre co-ordinator Sr. Phil O Shea invited attendees to take a handout showing the summer events, these will also be available to view on the Solas Bhride website. Phil in thanking the Brigidine Sisters and Brigid 1500 for sponsorship toward the conference said later in the year we would be publishing a full programme of events for 2024 celebrating St. Brigid, A Woman, A Life, A Legacy and that a conference would be part of this programme.

Join us as we celebrate May and the coming of Summer through dance and reflection on Wednesday, 24th May.

Venue: Solas Bhride Centre

Time: 7.30pm – 9.00pm

Cost: €15.00

Facilitated by: Terry Hennessy & Betty White

“In a society that worships love, freedom and beauty, Dance is sacred.
It is a prayer for the future, a remembrance of the past
and a joyful exclamation of thanks for the present”
Atwater Rhodes

Sacred dance helps bring about harmony between body, mind and spirit and creates a real sense of belonging and a feeling of togetherness. Dancing in a circle to beautiful music helps to develop a sense of community and offers moments of stillness, peace and healing for ourselves, our families and our planet. It is inclusive, enjoyable and FUN.

Come dance with us at Solas Bhride
Terry & Betty

From ancient mythology and folklore, we know that our Celtic ancestors worshipped trees long before science discovered the benefits they provide for the environment. Their respect for trees can be seen throughout history.  The first European alphabet, the Ogham alphabet, has every letter named for a tree or an important companion of trees. There are over ten thousand places in Ireland that contain a tree in their name.  This, of course, includes Kildare, Cill Dara, the church of the oak. In Celtic history the oak, ash and hawthorn trees were held as the most sacred.

How well do you know the native trees in your area? Do you know the story and folklore associated with them?

Why not join us at Solas Bhride where Paddy will lead us on a tree and shrub discovery walk through the grounds not only informing us of their environmental significance but also sharing much of the ancient folklore and mythology associated with our native species.

A family friendly event with a tree naming activity for the younger members.

Car parking space available at the centre.

Drawing wisdom from ancestral wellsprings. On this pilgrim journey we invite you to spend time in reflection, to visit sites associated with St. Brigid with a long spiritual heritage, to slow the pace and feed the spirit.

Date:  Saturday, July 1st
Time:  10.30 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Assemble at Solas Bhride Centre, Tully Road
Cost:  €20.00 (Inclusive of tea/coffee) (You might like to bring a packed lunch)

This pilgrimage will include a visit to:

  • Solas Bhride Centre
  • St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Fire Temple
  • St. Brigid’s Parish Church
  • St. Brigid’s wells for reflection and ritual
  • Meditative walk in the grounds of Solas Bhride

The pilgrimage will be approximately 4 km in length with time at each of the sites to absorb its history and spiritual significance.

“At the heart of the longing of all pilgrims lies the hope and dream that, by travelling to a special place associated with the divine, they might somehow be changed and renewed.  ….. As a pilgrim to Kildare, you will be able to contemplate its historic past, nourish your pilgrim heart and imbibe a sense of mystery and timelessness as you walk ancient paths.”  Rita Minehan “Rekindling the Flame: A pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Brigid

The pilgrimage will conclude at Solas Bhride Centre.  Afterwards pilgrims may wish to return to the Market Square and visit the Heritage Centre and experience their virtual reality adventure “Legends of Kildare”.

N.B. there is a requirement for a minimum of ten participants for this pilgrimage to proceed

Without the sun (at its precise distance from us) there would be no life on earth. Without the tilt of our axis, there would be no seasons. These are the cosmic truths within which we have our life, our breath, our being. All that occurs within the course of a year is but an outworking of this relationship with the light of life.

Hope Horton -Reflections on the Summer Solstice.

The summer solstice invites us to celebrate the nourishing light of the Sun and The Light within each of us.

In ancient Ireland, at this time when the sun was at its most powerful it was considered a sacred time. Our ancestors built monuments (Lugh Gur and Newgrange for example) aligning with the annual phases of the sun. At this mid-summer point, we celebrate and appreciate the nourishment we and planet Earth receive from the sun.

At this solstice time we raise our hearts in gratitude for the mystery of the sun, the mystery of light and of fire. Let us be open to receive this mystery with an open heart:

Creator God
You brought fire forth from your burning heart.
You seeded it like yeast
in each atom, plant and animal,
each bird, fish, man and woman.
And you gave us a special star, our sun,
aflame with a life-evoking energy
To make our planet green and fertile,
sun-soaked in your love.
Pierre Teihard de Chardin.


Solas Bhride Launches Rekindling the Flame

Eileen Dunne, former newsreader with RTE news, speaking at the launch of Rekindling the Flame

Solas Bhride Spirituality Centre is pleased to announce the release of the revised edition of Rekindling the Flame – A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare by Rita Minehan CSB.

Rekindling the Flame is a beautiful reflective collection of story, legend, poems, and meditations – the perfect companion for your pilgrim journey in Kildare Town.

Speaking at the launch, the author Rita Minehan, a Brigidine Sister based in Kildare said, ‘the book has evolved from the personal experience of over thirty years of accompanying, talking and sharing stories with pilgrims and visitors who come to Solas Bhride from all over the world’.

Rita went on to say that it is her hope that ‘it will help those who read the book and those who walk the pilgrim path as outlined in the book, to connect with Brigid at a deeper level, that it will both nourish and challenge them on life’s journey’

Launching the book was Eileen Dunne, former newsreader with RTE news. At the launch Eileen Dunne commended the book as a companion guide whether physically or spiritually walking in the footsteps of St Brigid.

Eileen said that having viewed the RTE documentary on St Brigid earlier this year, a visit to Kildare and to Solas Bhride was on her bucket list, but little did she think that this would be happen so soon. Eileen believed that the book was timely as interest in Brigid will only grow in the coming months.

Cathy O Connor CSB a member of the Brigidine Central Leadership Team congratulated Rita, saying that through the book we are skilfully led on a spiritual pilgrimage.

Rita Minehan and Eileen Dunne

Rekindling the Flame is available from Solas Bhride Spirituality Centre, Kildare Town,  Kildare Heritage Centre and bookstores locally.

You can also purchase here through the Solas Bhride website – simply click the button below to go to our new online shop.

Photographs by Fran McCormack

May 2nd – A Celebration of Bealtaine

“Just living is not enough” said the butterfly “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower” – Hans Christian Anderson

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

In our Bealtaine celebration we look forward to welcoming summer and marking May as the month of Mary.

Time:   7.30pm – 9.00pm  |    Admission:  €15   |   In-Person Event  |   Booking Essential

The 30th Anniversary Of Féile Bríde : Darkness, Dawning, Light

Conference: Brigid: Woman of Mystery, Woman of Inspiration

Saturday, April 22nd, 2023 10:30am – 4:00pm.
Cost: €25.00 (inclusive of light lunch)

Venue: Solas Bhride Centre, Tully Road Kildare Town R51 Y281


‘Boss Brigid: the lasting legacy of the founder of Kildare’

In this talk Dr Wycherley will discuss the early history of Brigid and her church of Kildare. She will explain how a focus on a ‘pagan goddess’ of the same name overshadows what is truly interesting about St Brigid, especially in light of her new bank holiday and the implications for modern feminism.  While the miracle-working saint and the awesome goddess are both worthy subjects for veneration, encapsulating virtues such as inclusivity, strength, kindness and healing, Dr Wycherley will show how the real ‘flesh and blood’ woman behind it all was much more extraordinary.

Dr Niamh Wycherley works in the Department of Early Irish as a medieval historian, specialising in the early Irish Church. She won the NUI Publication Prize in History in 2017 for her book, The Cult of Relics in Early Medieval Ireland. She is the Principal Investigator of the 4-year SFI-IRC Pathway project ‘Power and Patronage in Medieval Ireland: Clonard from the sixth to twelfth centuries’. She contributes regularly to RTÉ Brainstorm and television programmes such as the RTÉ 1 documentary ‘Finding Brigid’, with Siobhán McSweeney.

Dr. Niamh Wycherley

‘The Wild and the Sacred. Listening to the voices of Earth’

Thomas Berry has written that “We know the deep wonder that we are, but we also sense how detached we have become from the source of that wonder.” This talk focuses on reconnecting with that source of wonder through specifically focussing on the voices of Earth, and how they might guide us through this ecologically perilous time.

Niamh Brennan, PhD., is a writer and educator. For the past ten years she has been engaged in research and teaching in the area of eco-cosmology and the environmental humanities. Her research focuses on the ecological crisis, whose effects are growing in our daily lives and raising concerns about the future of all life. She underscores the role philosophy and spirituality play in ecological thinking. She is author of ‘The human in the Universe’ (Wyndham Hall Press, 2014) and co-author with Greg Morter of ‘The Universe Story in Science and Myth’ (Green Spirit, 2016). She has contributed to several journals including ‘Religions’, ‘Worldviews: Global Religions, Ecology and Culture’, ‘Spirituality’ and ‘The Furrow’.


Dr. Niamh Brennan

Revised edition of Rekindling the Flame, a Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare by Rita Minehan

Rekindling the Flame – A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare was first published in 1999. The intention then, as now, was to provide a guide to pilgrims to Kildare ‘this sacred place, this ground revered by all who honour the name of Brigid’.  

The book begins with a brief introduction to St. Brigid and her foundation and later the Brigidine foundation. The guide to pilgrimage then begins leading the pilgrim from the Market square to St. Brigid’s Cathedral, Here time is taken to observe the detail of the stained glass windows, before moving outside to the High Cross, Round Tower and St. Brigid’s Fire Temple to reflect their significance.

The Pilgrim continues to make their way to St Brigid’s parish church and on to Solas Bhride Spirituality Centre and St. Brigid’s well.

Rita Minehan csb

Since the first edition of the book was published in 1999, Solas Bhríde Spirituality Centre on Tully road was opened in 2015. This new chapter provides the visitor with an overview of the vision of Solas Bhríde and invites them to visit in particular the Brigid room that holds the Brigid Flame. The spark, taken from the Brigid flame, relit in 1993 is tended here and burns as a beacon of hope, justice, and peace for the world. This visit also includes strolling in the grounds to take in St. Brigid’s sculpture, the Labyrinth, and the mini Oak grove. A more detailed history of development of Solas Bhríde Spirituality can be found at the end of the book.

The visitor is presented with many opportunities and practices to pause and reflect on St. Brigid, a ‘Woman for our time’ and also on their own inner journey. If unable to come to Kildare, with guidance from this book, it is possible to take this pilgrimage in one’s own place, at one’s own time.