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Died c. 519; feast day also on May 10. Conleth, an Irish recluse at Old Connell (County Kildare) on the Liffey, was a metal- worker and very skilled as a copyist and illuminator. Saint Brigid, according to her vita by Cogitosus, came to know him and invited him to make sacred vessels for her convent and asked him to be the spiritual director of her nuns at Kildare.

Eventually, he became the first bishop of Kildare, which the Annuario Pontificio quotes as being founded in 519. Conleth, Tassach of Elphin (Saint Patrick's craftsman), and Daigh (craftsman of Kieran of Saigher were acclaimed the three chief artisans of Ireland during their period. Conleth, who was the head of the Kildare school of metal-work and penmanship, is traditionally regarded as the sculptor of the crosier of Saint Finbar of Termon Barry, which can now be seen in the Royal Irish Academy. He also created the golden crown that was suspended over Brigid's tomb.

A gloss in an Irish martyrology says that he was devoured by wolves on his way to Rome--a journey undertaken against the wishes of Brigid. This could be an explanation of his name: coin to wolves and leth "half" (Benedictines, Curtayne1942, D'Arcy, Farmer, Montague, Neeson).

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Cogitosus, who write as St Brigid's biographer a century after her death, has interesting things to say about her monastery, about her grave, and about the presence of many "painted pictures":


"......The hermit-bishop who joined Brigid at Kildare was St. Conleth, now revered as patron of the diocese of Kildare. He was a craftsman in metal; a crozier, said to be of his workmanship, is extant. Brigid's brazier, he was called, in old writings. Under him a community of monks grew up which excelled in the making of beautiful chalices and other metal objects needed in the church, and in the writing and ornamentation of missals, gospels, and psalters.

".......This double monastery, as we have said, was unique in Ireland. It continued in existence for several generations. Cogitosus, who wrote the life of Brigid at the request of the sisterhood in the seventh century, describes the great monastic church at Kildare as it existed in his own time, when the bodies of Conleth and Brigid lay entombed at the Gospel and Epistle sides of the altar, deposited in monuments which were decorated with various embellishments of gold and silver and precious stones, with crowns of gold and silver hung above them.

".......Saving the tombs, the description of the church in the days of Cogitosus probably applies to the building as it stood when Conleth and Brigid built it. We gain an interesting picture of the ancient Irish churches of timber, of the larger kind.

COGITOSUS WRITES: The church occupied a wide area, and was raised to a towering height, and was adorned with painted pictures. It had within it three spacious oratories, separated by plank partitions, under the one roof of the greater house, wherein one partition, decorated and painted with figures and covered with linen hangings, extended along the breadth of the eastern part of the church from one wall of the church to the other. That means that the sanctuary was shut off by an ornamented screen like the iconostasis in a Greek church. The partition, Cogitosus continues, has at its end two doors. Through one, the bishop enters the sanctuary, accompanied by his monks and those who are to offer the Dominical sacrifice; through the other, placed in the left of the same cross-wall, enter the Abbess with her virgins and faithful widows to enjoy the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Cogitosus goes on to tell that a central partition reaches from the lower end of the church to the cross-wall before the sanctuary, dividing the nave into two portions. These divisions are entered by separate, ornamental doors, at right and left of the church; men occupy the right (or Gospel) half, women the left. Thus in one very great temple, a multitude of people in different order and ranks, separated by partitions, but of one mind, worship Almighty God.

More may be perused at http://www.cin.org/saints/bridget.html



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