St. Brigid’s Skull — Lumiar, Portugal and Killester, Ireland

Here are some pictures of S. João Baptista Igreja (St. John the Baptist Church) in Lumiar, Portugal.

In 1283, somebody decided it was a good plan to dig up St. Brigid of Kildare’s bones, in the cathedral up in Armagh (St. Patrick’s see, and thus the premiere see in Ireland), and to send her skull to somewhere safer. Some say the Holy Land, some say to Portugal.

All went well until they sailed into Lisbon harbor and got off to take a break. At which point they got killed in a field outside Lumiar. Apparently the precious relic was discovered on their bodies or in their personal effects, and was placed in the nearest parish church. And there it still lies today, close to the tombs of the three knights.

Others, more tamely, say that the relic was supposed to go to Odivelas, where King Diniz had built a church, or to a convent of Irish nuns, but that when the knights suddenly died or were killed in Lumiar, this was taken as a sign that the relic had to stay there. Either way, the relic and the tombs of the three knights are definitely in Lumiar, along with a memorial inscription from 1283.

Here’s a video of the church and the relic.

The present church dates to 1601, but there was an older church there before (from which the skull and the tombs were transferred), which was built in 1267. The Jesuits have run the parish since 2006.

Now, obviously it’s a sad thing that the Norse, the Reformation, and the English destructiveness in Ireland have left Ireland with a lot of its heritage gone. But Portugal sent back a fragment of St. Brigid’s skull in the 1920’s, and this fragment can be venerated at St. Brigid’s Church in Killester, in County Dublin, Ireland.

Unfortunately, this year, just before St. Brigid’s Day, the beautiful reliquary for the fragment was stolen. Fortunately, the skull relic itself was not lost, because it was out of the reliquary from blessing people. The parish would like people to pray for the return of the reliquary.

UPDATE: There’s another skull fragment, brought to Ireland sooner, at St. Brigid’s Church in Kilcurry.
(Here’s a map of where the church is.)

This page from St. Brigid’s birthplace, Faughart, talks about the skull fragment at Kilcurry and about Faughart’s shrine. Here’s a map. A bigger picture of St. Brigid’s birthplace shrine. Here’s a nice video of the shrine, showing the holy stream and various other pilgrimage features. It’s all outdoors.

The poet Peadar O Doirnin is buried at Faughart’s “Urnai” graveyard, where there was an oratory used for Mass during the Penal times, so there’s another thing to see.

(Here’s a poem by Peadar O Doirnin. The tune was used on the TV show Avonlea, but as you can tell, it’s a very old air!)

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