29th January - St Bláth or Bláthnaid of Kildare

Written by Anne Newman 30th January 2020 updated 2023

Bláth is the Irish word for 'flower', and so the Martyrology of Gorman makes a pun by recording her as 'blooming Bláth'.

Her name is thus Latinized as Flora. The notes to the Martyrology of Oengus also simply record her name for this day, but in the notes for the feast of Saint Brigid on 1st February we find that Saint Bláth was a member of the monastic household of Kildare, where she had the role of cook.

She is recorded as having been borne to heaven in the year 523, about two years before the death of the great St. Brigid.

The stories of Saint Brigid often have a domestic aspect to them and the miracle of Loch Lemnachta is a classic example:

Eight bishops came to Brigit out of Hui Briuin Cualann, i.e. From Telach na n-epscop to Loch Lemnachta beside Kildare on the north. Brigit asked her cook, Blathnait, whether she had food for the bishops. (There was only a little amount.) Brigit was ashamed: so the angel told her to milk the cows again. The cows were milked and they filled the tubs, and they would have filled all the vessels in Leinster, so that the milk went over the vessels and made a lake thereof, Loch Lemnachta 'New-milk Lough'.

This story can also be found in The Story of Loughminane in the Duchas Schools Collection.

Thanks to a website focussing on saints and food, for their information.

Most saint lists give little information about Blath, but one thing they all agree on – the bacon and bread she produced for the table were better than a banquet elsewhere. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and Blath’s bacon sandwiches were good enough that she was seen as holy, so, next time you make yourself a bacon sandwich, remember Blath, the cook whose food was so good she had to be canonised, and whose bacon sandwiches were better than a king’s feast! Strange Saints - St. Blath