The Grotto

St Brigid's Shrine

According to tradition, Saint Brigid was born at Fochard Muirtheimne, about 450 AD. The place was later known as Fochard Bríde. For centuries pilgrims have been visiting the Holy Well in the graveyard on Faughart Hill, believed to be St Brigid's birthplace and also visiting St Brigid's Stream, where a series of penitential stations are performed. The old stations, numbers 6 to 10, are practiced at some very ancient looking stones. Station 7 known as the knee stone is actually a double bullaun stone, see image below. The stone at Station 8 ( The Waist Stone) appears to be a mushroom stone, the shape caused by water erosion and lately by the pilgrims rubbing it.

The stones are believed to have the power to cure certain ailments. Station 9 which at first glance would appear to be a cure for backache, has a small depression in the top that gathers water, which is believed to cure eye problems. The most curious looking stone is at station 10. Known as the headstone it has a shallow depression with a white circle painted around it. I was perplexed as to what its purpose might be, suddenly a man came along, knelt down at the stone and placed the top of his head in the white circle-mystery solved. Although totally surprised by his actions I managed to get a reasonable shot of this probably ancient practice. Station 6 is also performed at a weird looking stone known as the Hoof stone, for obvious reasons. These customs were practiced on the 1st February, St Brigid's feast day, which is also the first day of Irish spring time.

Station 5 An Bruach Abhus ( Near Bank)

Station 6 Cloch na Crúibe ( The hoof stone)

The original part of the shrine was quite primitive until the 1930s when the new shrine was erected to Saint Brigid. A national pilgrimage was set up on the first sunday of July. In 1934 between 10 -15,000 people attended the pilgrimage at Faughart, including Eamonn de Valera. A series of modern stations of the cross have also been erected along the banks of the stream and a grotto was built at the northern end. A candlelight procession still takes place on the saints feast day the 1st of February. Saint Brigid also founded the now famous monastery at Kildare, where a Holy Well is also dedicated to her. If you are in the vicinity of Faughart this shrine and the nearby well on Faughart Hill are strongly recommended.

Station 7 Cloch na Glúine ( The knee stone)

Station 8 Cloch an Choim ( The waist stone)

Station 9 Cloch na Súile ( The eye stone)

Station 10 Cloch an Chinn ( The head stone)

Situated: Take the M1 north towards Armagh. Take exit 18 and at the roundabout take the first exit for Faughart. The car park for the shrine is down this road on your left.

Discovery Map 29: J 049 127. Last visit February 2011.

Longitude: 6° 23' 52" W

Latitude: 54° 3' 11" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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