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E06130: Cogitosus' Life of *Brigit (abbess of Kildare, ob. c. 525, S01885) recounts the saint's foundation of Kildare and appointment of *Conleth (bishop of Kildare, ob. c. 518/20, S02259); her miracles; and describes her death, posthumous cult, and feast-day. Written in Latin, probably at Kildare, c. 675/80.

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posted on 2018-08-17, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Cogitosus, Life of Brigit (BHL 1457)

Summary (using chapter divisions from Connolly and Picard):

The author states that he has been asked by the brethren to compose a life of the virgin Brigit, who 'built her monastery on the plains of Mag Liffe on the firm foundation of faith. It is the head of almost all the Irish churches with supremacy (culmen praecellens) over all the monasteries of the Irish and its parochia extends over the whole land of Ireland, reaching from sea to sea.' She appointed Conleth as 'high priest' (summus sacerdos) there, 'a famous man and a hermit ... through whom God wrought many miracles' (illustrem virum et solitarium ... per que Deus virtutes operatus est plurimas). Together they ruled their 'primatial Church' (principalem ecclesiam) as bishop and abbess, and their successors have ruled as 'archbishop of the bishops of Ireland and the abbess whom all the abbesses of the Irish revere' (archiepiscopus Hibernesium episcoporum, et abbatissa, quam omnes abbatissȩ Scottorum venerantur).

(1.) Brigit's birth in Ireland to 'Christian and noble parents'; her chastity and restraint from childhood; and a miracle of her youth whereupon the butter she had given away to the poor was replenished.

(2.) Her veiling as a virgin by Bishop Mac Caille, and how the wooden base of the altar she touched 'flourishes fresh and green to the present day.'

(3.) Further miracles worked through Brigit during her lifetime, involving: bacon, which miraculously replenished after being given to a dog; (4.) a dry harvest on a rainy day; (5.) a cow milked thrice in one day; (6.) the hanging of clothes on a sunbeam; (7.) sheep; (8.) water turned into beer; (9.) a nun whose pregnancy was reversed; (10.) a stone turned into salt; (11.) the curing of a blind man; (12.) the curing of a speechless girl; (13.) bacon, which was miraculously left uneaten by a dog; (14.) raw meat which did not stain her clothes; (15.) a cow and a calf; (16.) cows saved from thieves; (17.) her chariot, pulled by only one horse; (18.) a tamed boar; (19.) wolves who acted as swineherds; (20.) a fox, temporarily tamed to placate a king and free an enslaved family; (21.) obedient birds; (22.) nine wicked men, fooled into murdering an apparition, who then repented; (23.) a man cured of gluttony; (24.) the moving of a very heavy tree; (25.) a lost brooch, found in a fish, which saved a woman's chastity; (26.) a burnt loom and cooked calf, miraculously restored; (27.) a silver vessel, divided equally into three parts; (28.) Bishop Conleth's vestments, miraculously replaced after she had given them away to the poor; (29.) honey found beneath the floor of a house; (30.) a river which changed course.

(31.) Brigit's posthumous miracles: how a millstone was hurled down a mountain without becoming damaged; how the same millstone would not mill the grain of a pagan; and how the same millstone was later saved when the mill burnt down, and then placed at the doorway of the monastery [in Kildare], where it has since healed those who touch it.

(32.) On the restoration of the church, where the 'glorious bodies' of Conleth and Brigit rest in tombs to the right and left of the altar (gloriosa... corpora, a dextris et a sinistris altaris decorati, in monumentis posita): how, after the workmen had prayed, a door that did not fit into its new frame expanded in size. The church is now 'the safest city of refuge in the whole of Ireland for all fugitives ... the treasures of kings are kept there' (civitas est refugii tutissima... in tota Scotorum terra omnibus fugitivis. In qua thesauri servantur regum), and many visit for the feast of Brigit on 1 February.

Cogitosus apologises for his rustic speech, and for only recounting a few of Brigit's miracles. He asks the reader to pray for him.

Text: AASS, Feb. I, 135-41. Translation: Connolly and Picard 1987. Summary: B. Savill.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Brigit, abbess of Kildare (Ireland), ob. c. 525 : S01885 Conleth, bishop of Kildare (Ireland), ob. 518/20 : S02259

Saint Name in Source

Brigida Conleus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Kildare St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Power over objects Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Miracle with animals and plants

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Relatives of the saint Slaves/ servants The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves) Monarchs and their family Pagans

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other object closely associated with saint

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Cogitosus, who identifies himself as the author of this Life of Brigit (sometimes called the Vita II) in its epilogue, is an otherwise obscure figure, although we may assume from his advocacy of the episcopal monastery of Kildare that he served as a member of that community. Muirchú, in his Life of Patrick (E06132), speaks of Cogitosus as his 'father,' whose work served as a hagiographical precedent: according to this, we can probably date the Life of Brigit to somewhere around 675 (Charles-Edwards) or 680 (Sharpe). There is some debate about the relationship between Cogitosus' Life and the anonymous, so-called First Life of Brigit (Vita I), and arguments have been made both ways over which of the two works precedes the other. However, since only Cogitosus' Life is securely datable to before 700, we have not included the Vita I in our database.


Cogitosus' selection of miracles have little worth as evidence for the cult of Brigit as it may have been understood during, or in the decades after, the saint's (purported) 5th-/6th-century lifetime. Yet elements of his Life, particularly the preface and chapters 31-32, do provide valuable information about the activity surrounding Brigit and Conleth's shrine at Kildare in the (probably later) 7th century: the monastery's church appears to have undergone serious renovation to accommodate (and attract still further) the pilgrims visiting the site, and may well have been supported by generous royal patronage. While relics per se are not explicitly invoked in the Life, it seems clear that the tombs of Brigit and Conleth were the central focus of the cult at Kildare, and that they had been arranged around the church's altar accordingly. Cogitosus appears particularly keen to connect Brigit and Conleth's wonder-working in the distant 'age of saints' to the rightful ecclesiastical supremacy of Kildare in his own day. Alongside Adomnàn's Life of Columba (E06056), and Tírechán and Muirchú's works on Patrick (E06131, E06132), Cogitosus' Life of Brigit is one of only four Irish Latin Lives securely datable to the period before 700 (on this group, see Sharpe 1991, 8-19).


Edition: Acta Sanctorum, Feb. I (1658), 135-41. Translation and discussion: Connolly, S., and Picard, J.-M., "Cogitosus's "Life of St Brigit": Content and Value," Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 117 (1987), 5-27. Further reading: Charles-Edwards, T.M., "Brigit [St Brigit, Brigid] (439/452–524/526)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), McCone, K., "Brigit in the Seventh Century: A Saint with Three Lives?" Peritia, 1 (1982), 107-45. Sharpe, R., "Vitae S Brigitae: the Oldest Texts," Peritia, 1 (1982), 81-106. Sharpe, R., Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives: An Introduction to the Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford, 1991).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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