St. Brigid is one of three patron saints of Ireland. Venerated for over a millennium as an abbess and ruler, provider of miraculous ale and dairy products, protector of cattle and of people, she has been a constant of Irish folk and religious life. Still referenced by groups as diverse as neopagans, female religious, and abortion rights activists, Brigid has been remolded repeatedly to suit the cultural needs of contemporaries. The arrival of print and the division of western Christendom into Protestant and Catholic confessions created new challenges for those who wanted to remember Brigid. This article delineates the various ways in which her seventh-century hagiography was edited, translated, conflated, and cut in order to render her into a female figure fit for the purposes of a resurgent Tridentine church. The abbess of Kildare was too big to be forgotten yet too culturally awkward to be left unchanged.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.