Vita prima sanctae Brigitae

  • Hiberno-Latin
  • prose
  • Irish hagiography
Latin Life of St Brigit. BHL 1455-1456.

Use has been made of the list of 25 manuscripts in Seán Connolly, ‘The authorship and manuscript tradition of Vita I sanctae Brigitae’, Manuscripta 16 (1972):

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 10864
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Clm 2531
Ghent, University Library, MS 499
London, British Library, MS Cotton Otho D xiii
ff. 12r–26v
Not included by Connolly.
Bruges, Public Library, MS 403
Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, MS 433
Lincoln, Cathedral Library, MS 149
London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 94
Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 207-208
London, British Library, MS Harley 2800
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS 339
Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, MS M. p. th. f. 122
Frankfurt, Universitätsbibliothek, MS Barth 2
Chicago, University Library, MS 190
Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 581
Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS Thott 225 quarto
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 803
  • Hiberno-Latin
Several scholars have argued that it belongs to the 7th century and that it may be the earliest extant Life of the saint, predating [[Vita sanctae Brigitae (Cogitosus) |that written by Cogitosus in the same century]]. Other critics, however, favour a later date of composition, in the 8th or late 9th century.
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Betha BrigteBetha Brigte


Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography

Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography


Brigit of Kildare
Brigit of Kildare
(c. 439/452–c. 524/526)
patron saint of Kildare, whose cult spread both within and outside of Ireland.

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Hochegger, Karina, “Untersuchungen zu den ältesten Vitae sanctae Brigidae”, MPhil thesis, Universität Wien, Philologisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, 2009.  
This thesis shall provide a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the two oldest Lives of saint Brigid of Kildare, the “Life by Cogitosus” and the so-called “Vita prima”. It will also illustrate the most important findings concerning the intentions of the presumed authors in writing these Lives. Dating of the Life by Cogitosus to the third quarter of the 7th century appears to be appropriate based on the reference that Muirchú makes to Cogitosus and his work. Cogitosus was likely an intellectual member within Kildare’s monastic society and he would have been able to write. His political aim in creating a Life of saint Brigid and establishing her as one of the main saints was to strengthen both the influence and power of the monastic centre and its parochia. The Life contains accounts of miracles describing the beauty and greatness of the church of Kildare, the sepulture of Brigid and her bishop Conleth, and the wonders that supposedly took place after Brigid’s death. This would inspire believers from across Ireland to make pilgrimages to Kildare. The reason for establishing the Life may have been the competition between the two main churches of Ireland during the 7th century, Kildare and Armagh. Both of them wanted to spread their power and their parochia. There is no proof of a direct relationship between Cogitosus and the Uí Dúnlainge, the ruling dynasty of Leinster at that time. But it is clear that the expansion of the sphere of control of Kildare was on behalf of the governance of Leinster. There are compositional and structural aspects which support McCone’s theory that the Vita prima came after the Life by Cogitosus, in the middle of the 8th century. This is because passages from the Life by Cogitosus can be found at the end of Vita prima and because of the friendly relationship between Patrick and Brigid, the two main saints of Armagh and Kildare. Despite the efforts of Vita prima’s author to create a thorough account of Brigid’s travels, there can be found inconsistencies throughout this Life. The author also neglected Kildare, and emphasized Brigid as a nomad saint; he intended to establish a national saint in Brigid by compiling miraculous stories in order to illustrate her nationwide political-ecclesiastic influence.
(source: Abstract)
E-theses Universität Wien: <link>
Edition, with translation into German, introduction and commentary.
[ed.] Colgan, John, Triadis Thaumaturgæ seu divorum Patricii, Columbæ et Brigidæ, trium veteris et maioris Scotiæ, seu Hiberniæ sanctorum insulae communium patronorum acta, Louvain: apud Cornelium Coenestenium, 1647.  
comments: The title page reads in full (normalised spellng): Triadis Thaumaturgæ, seu divorum Patricii, Columbæ, et Brigidæ, trium veteris et majoris Scotiæ, seu Hiberniæ, Sanctorum insulæ, communium patronorum acta, a variis, iisque pervetustis ac Sanctis, authoribus Scripta, ac studio R.P.F. Joannis Colgani, in conventu F.F. Minor. Hibernor, Stritior, Observ., Lovanii, S. Theologiæ Lectoris Jubilati, ex variis bibliothecis collecta, scholiis et commentariis illustrata, et pluribus appendicibus aucta; complectitur tomus secundus sacrarum ejusdem insulæ antiquitatum, nunc primum in lucem prodiens.
Digital.onb.ac.at: <link> Google Books: <link>, <link>
527–542 ‘Tertia S. Vitae Brigidae’
[ed.] Bollandus, Ioannes, and Godefridus Henschenius, Acta sanctorum quotquot toto orbe coluntur, vel a catholicis scriptoribus celebrantur, 68 vols, vol. 3: Februarius I, Antwerp: Ioannes Meursius, 1658.
Google Books: <link>
118–134 ‘Vita I S. Brigidae auctore anonymo’
[tr.] Freeman, Philip, Two lives of Saint Brigid, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2024.  
St Brigid is the earliest and best-known of the female saints of Ireland. In the generation after St Patrick, she established a monastery for men and women at Kildare which 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.This book for the first time presents together an English translation of both the Life of Brigid by Cogitosus and the Vita Prima, along with the Latin text of both, carefully edited from the best medieval manuscripts. With an Introduction by Professor Freeman, this book makes these fascinating stories of St Brigid accessible to general readers, students and scholars.
[tr.] Connolly, Seán, “Vita prima sanctae Brigitae: background and historical value”, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 119 (1989): 5–49.
Translated at 14–49.

Secondary sources (select)

Connolly, Seán, “Vita prima sanctae Brigitae: background and historical value”, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 119 (1989): 5–49.
Bray, Dorothy Ann, “The Vita Prima of St. Brigit: a preliminary analysis of its composition”, in: Joseph F. Eska (ed.), Narrative in Celtic tradition: essays in honor of Edgar M. Slotkin, 8, 9, New York: Colgate University Press, 2011. 1–15.
McKenna, Catherine, “Between two worlds: Saint Brigit and pre-Christian religion in the Vita Prima”, in: Joseph Falaky Nagy (ed.), Identifying the 'Celtic', 2, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002. 66–74.
McCone, Kim R., “Brigit in the seventh century: a saint with three lives?”, Peritia 1 (1982): 107–145.
Sharpe, Richard, “Vitae S Brigidae: the oldest texts”, Peritia 1 (1982): 81–106.
Connolly, Seán, “Verbal usage in Vita Prima Brigitae and Bethu Brigte”, Peritia 1 (1982): 268–272.
Maney, Laurance, “The date and provenance of Vita prima sanctae Brigitae”, Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 23 — 2003 (2009): 200–218.
Connolly, Seán, “The authorship and manuscript tradition of Vita I sanctae Brigitae”, Manuscripta 16:2 (July, 1972): 67–82.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter IV: The monastic churches, their founders and traditions: I. The primitive foundations”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 288–371.
361 (§ 151.iii) [id. 151.3.]
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
June 2012, last updated: February 2024