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On St Brigid’s Day, National Museum of Ireland unveils unique new display of 21 St Brigid’s crosses

Marking both the announcement of the new national St Brigid’s Day holiday from 2023, and the twenty-first anniversary of the opening of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, the National Museum has today unveiled FOLK 21 a unique new series of events that will run throughout 2022.

FOLK21 will showcase four sets of 21 objects from the Irish Folklife collection, with the first of these being a collection of 21 St Brigid’s crosses from regions throughout Ireland. As the year progresses the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life plans to continue to display an out of storage exhibition of 21 objects associated with each quarter day. 

St. Brigid’s Day - Lá Fhéile Bríde - celebrates Ireland’s only female patron saint on 01 February and is associated with the popular tradition of making crosses in St Brigid’s honour. St Brigid's Day was an important Irish festival in folk tradition, celebrating fertility, blessings and protection.

Dedicated to collecting objects that reflect traditions and life in Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries, the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, has an exhibition of objects, archive photography and film footage depicting how this day, and especially the eve of her feast day, was traditionally celebrated.

St Brigid was believed to have travelled through the land on the eve of her feast day and gave blessings and protection to homes and farms where crosses were hung in her honour. 

As part of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life’s celebration of its twenty-first anniversary, 21 St Brigid’s Crosses from the Irish Folklife Collection will go on display to mark the first quarter day of this year-long celebration. 

While the four-armed cross is the most familiar St Brigid’s cross, many people will be surprised that there were different regional styles and variations. Although rushes were very popular, crosses were also made of straw and wood. Families would recite prayers, bless the rushes or straw with holy water and then each make the crosses. They would hang them over the door of the home and farm-buildings to welcome St Brigid. 

Clodagh Doyle, Keeper Irish Folklife Division of the National Museum of Ireland, said “We have hundreds of St Brigid’s Crosses in our collection, more than we could ever display. The selection of 21 is difficult but is also an opportunity to showcase the variety that existed. 

“It is 21 years since we found a home for the National Museum of Ireland’s folklife collection in Co. Mayo. We are so incredibly lucky to have a purpose-built Museum and storage building here at Turlough Park. Opening the Boxes, a video showing the ‘behind the scenes’, concentrates on opening these boxes so that viewers get to see so much of our reserve collection. I feel privileged to be in a position to work with these important artefacts and I encourage people to come and see this display and the other pieces that we will be showing throughout the year.”

FOLK21: St. Brigid's Crosses



For more information on St Brigid's Day Traditions 

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