Patron of Sailors
c. 484-c. 577
Though one of the most popular of the Irish Saints, much of what we know of him is through tradition. Son of Findlugh, he was probably born near Tralee, Kerry, Ireland, and was placed as an infant in the care of St. Ita. When six he was sent to St. Jarlath's monastic school in Tuam for his education, and was ordained by Bishop St. Erc in 512. He founded numerous monasteries in Ireland, the most famous of which was Clonfert, which he founded about 559 and which was a center of missionary activity for centuries. Some three thousand monks lived, studied, and prayed there under his direction. He made made missionary journeys to England, Ireland, and Scotland, established several sees in Ireland, and became famed for his voyages, particularly a seven-year journey to the Land of Promise, which he described in his epic saga Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. It was tremendously popular in the Middle Ages and was translated into most European languages. Though scholars long doubted the voyage to the Promised Land he described in the Navigatio in the middle of the sixth century could have been to North America, as was sometimes claimed, some modem scholars now believe he may have done just that. In 1976-77, Tim Severin, an expert on exploration, following the instructions in the Navigatio, built a hide-covered curragh and then sailed it from Ireland to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, demonstrating the accuracy of its directions and descriptions of the places Brendan mentioned in his epic. Brendan probably died while visiting his sister Brig, abbess of a community of nuns at Enach Duin (Annaghdown).