St Brigid’s Chair, Donegal, Ireland

This boulder of gneiss rock known as St Brigid’s Chair is situated on the old pilgrimage route to Lough Derg. This route follows the old medieval path not to Station Island/St Patrick’s Purgatory, where people visit today, but to the threshold of the larger Saint’s Island, which was the penultimate stop on the way to Station island at that time. Though this blog has mostly featured structures in the built environment I do find these natural stones to which we as a country have attached such folklore and with that a ‘lived history’ very intriguing. It should be noted that this is not the only St Brigid’s Chair I have come across, another is situated at Kilranelagh Graveyard in Wicklow, a place I visited in the early days of doing this site (link here). The Pilgrim Route starts near Lough Derg visitor centre and measures around 10 kilometres. At around 1.2kms a wooden signpost points down to a stepped path where one can observe St Brigid’s Chair from the bank, of course I felt the need to climb the fence and sit on the stone myself to see the views across to Station Island, a place renowned in history throughout Ireland and Europe. Another stone ‘chair’ lies along this route, that of a hermit and is known as St Dabheaog’s Chair, as does a well dedicated to St Brigid. For those unfamiliar with St Patrick’s Purgatory this is believed to have been a cave situated on Station Island that in some texts was an entrance to purgatory and in others a gateway to the hell. It is mentioned in texts from as early as 1185 and is the only Irish site on Martin Behaim’s world map of 1492. The cave was blocked up October 1632. Throughout the medieval period there were visitors to the site from all over Europe and I highly recommend an episode of the Irish History Podcast called ‘A Journey to the Gates of Hell’ which documents a description of the route written by Ramón de Perellós from the city of Avignon in France to Lough Derg in 1397 as it gives a full flavour of the importance to this area (link here)

GPS: 54.60069, -7.86266

One thought on “St Brigid’s Chair, Donegal, Ireland

  1. Apparently “Brigid” translates from old Irish as something akin to “wise woman” or “honoured woman” and could be applied as a title to holy women, pagan goddesses, healers, etc. For me, it explains why we find so many places associated with the name.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.