The Legend of St. Brendan of Clonfert

According to the Catholic Church, St. Brendan was born in Ireland, taken from his home as a small boy, and raised to become a monk. It is known that he was the founder of a monastery in Clonfert near Galway. He died around 580AD.

In Ireland, St. Brendan is known as the patron saint of travelers and sailors. He earned this title because of the numerous voyages accredited to him. Although most of the legends of St. Brendan agree that he was an adventurous traveler, discrepancies concerning the direction of his travels remain. A few sources talk about his trips to Scotland and Wales. Others cite the coast of Brittany and islands surrounding Ireland where he worked tirelessly to establish monasteries and spread the word of God.

The voyager story that is the most famous is Brendan’s search for a land of plenty in the far west. He and his companions had several adventures along the way including an encounter with a talking bird, a visit to Hell complete with demons, and an enormous whale that they mistook for an island. Whether St. Brendan actually took this journey and “discovered” America is question for debate. There are several individuals, scholars, and groups that firmly believe that the voyage took place. Indeed, in the 1970’s, after much preparation and research, a man named Tim Severin duplicated the trip to the best of his knowledge. It is also said that artifacts have been found in America proving that Brendan and his fellow monks had landed there.

It doesn’t matter if the legend is fact or fiction. The story is a captivating one showing the spirit, determination, courage and initiative of a man who was on a journey to spread the Holy Word.

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