The relics of St. Brigid are set to return to her native Kildare for the first time in nearly 1,000 years in late January as part of celebrations marking the 1,500th anniversary of her death.
The relics will return to Kildare on Sunday, January 28, starting with a procession from the Solas Bhride Centre in Tully at 10:30 a.m. The procession will later arrive at St. Brigid's Parish Church in Kildare Town for a special mass at 11 a.m.
Bishop Denis Nulty, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, will celebrate the mass, while thousands of people are expected to be in attendance.
Organizers are encouraging people to arrive at the church early to avoid congestion.
It is believed that St. Brigid died in 524 AD and that her remains were buried inside the monastic church that she founded in County Kildare. Her grave, along with the grave of St. Conleth who was buried beside her, became a popular shrine for pilgrims in Ireland.
However, her body was moved to an unmarked grave alongside St. Patrick and St. Columba in Downpatrick, County Down, following the arrival of Vikings in Ireland around 800 AD.
With Vikings plundering towns and churches across Ireland, religious figures anticipated an attack on Kildare Town and moved Brigid's body to prevent it from being stolen.
Over the course of time, the location of the three unmarked graves was forgotten and the site remained a secret for over 300 years until the Bishop of Down discovered the sacred relics in 1185.
The bodies were enshrined in 1186 and remained there for over 400 years until they were destroyed by Lord Leonard Grey, an appointee of King Henry VIII.
Brigid's remains were later taken to continental Europe, with Irish knights reportedly taking a bone fragment from her head to the small Portuguese town of Lumiar.
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Following their return to Kildare on January 28, the relics of St. Brigid will go on permanent display at St. Brigid's Parish Church, providing pilgrims and visitors with a space for veneration and reflection.
David Mongey, Chairman of Kildare tourism board Into Kildare, described efforts to bring the relics back to Kildare as a "long process".
"The relics of St. Brigid have not been in County Kildare for nearly 1,000 years. This year is the 1500th year of the passing of the saint and what could be more special than to bring St. Brigid’s relics home, where she belongs?" Mongey said in a statement.
"She built her church in Kildare and her legacy as a peacemaker and a protector of nature is still as relevant today as ever.
"It has been a long process to finally bring her relics back to the county and together with my colleagues at Into Kildare, we would like to thank Kildare County Council and the Brigidine sisters for their great work in bringing Brigid home."