Coinciding with the 1,500th anniversary of her death, Four Courts Press has just published a new book in time for Saint Brigid’s Day 2024. Two Lives of Saint Brigid has been edited and translated by Professor Philip Freeman who recounts the life and ministry of Saint Brigid, one of Ireland’s earliest and best-known female saints.
In the generation after Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid established a monastery for men and women at Kildare that became one of the most powerful and influential centres of the Church in early Ireland. The stories of Brigid’s life and deeds survive in several early sources, but the most important are two Latin Lives written a century or more after her death. The first was composed by a churchman named Cogitosus and tells of her many miracles of healing and helping the poor.
The second source, known as the Vita Prima, continues the tradition with more tales of marvellous deeds and journeys throughout the island. Both Latin sources are a treasure house of information not just about the legends of Brigid but also about daily life, the role of women, and the spread of Christianity in Ireland.
For the first time, Two Lives of Saint Brigid presents both an English translation of the life of Brigid by Cogitosus and the Vita Prima, along with the Latin text of each which has been carefully edited from the best medieval manuscripts. With an introduction by Professor Freeman, the publication makes these fascinating stories of Saint Brigid accessible to general readers, students and scholars.
Professor Freeman is the Fletcher Jones Chair of Western Culture at Pepperdine University and was formerly professor of classics at Luther College and Washington University.