Today is the feast day of St. Brendan the Voyager.
Brendan is one of my favorite early medieval saints. There is no doubt that he was a real Irish abbot who had a bit of wanderlust. His most likely real area of travel was along the Irish sea, up along the northern isles in western Scotland, along western Ireland and probably reaching Brittany. Legends claim that Brendan founded monasteries all around Ireland and the Irish Sea. So how did he do it? Well, Brendan’s monasteries of Clonard and Ardfert were huge with hundreds of monks. When left on his voyages he would take many adventurous monks with him who were willing to remain in monasteries he founded in places of need during his travels. Some of these monasteries were in lonely isolated places and may not have last long, others remained long enough to leave Brendan’s name scattered around the Irish and North sea. While its unlikely that Brendan ever tried to reach North America, he was the one adventurous abbot who his fellow monks could imagine making such a voyage.
The Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot survives in its oldest copy from about the 9th century (about 250-300 years after Brendan) Germany. Yes, Germany…. Brendan’s monks wondered far from the sea as well. At about the same time near Tallaght in Ireland the Martyrology of Oengus (c. 825) commenorates Brendan and the 60 monks who accompanied him to the Land of Promise.
I have blogged on St Brendan and the Navigiato frequently on my other blog Heavenfield. This page indexes those posts.