St. Brendan was born around 484, near the port of Tralee, in Country Kerry. He was a holy man, a monk, and an abbot. He developed several monasteries in Ireland and attracted many disciples. The most famous of his monasteries was Clonfert, in County Galway, built in 560 which lasted until sometime in the 16th century. That's almost a thousand years! St. Brendan's Cathedral which was built in the 11th century still resides in Clonfert, and is renowned for its large Romanesque doorway. In Annaghdown, (Co. Galway), he also built a convent, which his sister Brig presided as abbess.
There are many landmarks in Ireland named after St. Brendan, including Brandon Mountain located in the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry. He built a small monastic cell at the bottom of the ridge. It is believed he climbed this steep hill and had a vision of the Americas before he set sail. Although, he didn't know it was the Americas. He thought it was Tir na nOg, or the Land of Eternal Youth, the Garden of Eden.
On the north side of Brandon Mountain lies the small village of Brandon and beyond that Brandon Bay. I have been to Brandon and climbed Brandon Mountain. My maiden name is actually Brandon, and my family came from Brandon to the U.S. in 1898. It is a beautiful little town, and the mountain really is a hill. I have a picture of myself standing atop the ridge and Brandon Bay in the background. I got to see the ancient beehive shaped remains of his chapel. Sheep roam the 3200 foot high summit. If you ever get a chance to visit Ireland, it is a must see.
St. Brendan loved to travel and was known for voyaging to Scotland, where he met St. Columba if Hynba Island. He travelled to Brittany with Welsh monk, St. Malo, and reportedly stayed at the Welsh monastery Llancarfan, built by St. Cadoc. But his biggest voyage of all, the one called The Voyage of Saint Brendan, was his journey to America. It was an epic journey. Some say he took sixty monks, others say fourteen plus 3 non-believers. They built boats called curraghs, that were made from a wooden frame, and leather made from dried ox hides. In 1970, Tim Severin replicated the journey, and proved that it was possible. (I put the book by Tim Severin about his journey on the book list on the right.)
It took Saint Brendan 7 years to complete his journey in which it is believed he traveled to Iceland, Greenland, and the Americas. The tale describes Saint Brendan as meeting St. Patrick. He lands on an island fo Easter celebration, which turns out to be a sea monster. It was the making of such stories as The Odyssey and Pinnochio. St. Brendan and his group explored the Land of Promise bringing fruits and precious stones with them upon their return.
There are some who believe Columbus used the manuscripts journeling Saint Brendan's voyage to navigate his way to the Americas. Speculation also states thatVikings began serious raids on Ireland by the end of the eighth century. Is it possible the Norsemen learned about the lands from the Irish travellers?
Saint Brendan is now known as the Patron Saint of sailors and travellers. Saint Brendan died in 578, at Annaghdown in Ireland. He is buried at Clonfert Cathedral. His Feast Day is May 16th, the day of his death.
So what do you think? Did St. Brendan travel to the Americas before Columbus?