St. Brendan the Navigator

Of all the Irish saints, St. Brendan The Navigator was the most adventurous. He loved travelling on the sea and was very skilled with the coracle (small boat). On some of his earlier ventures, he visited Britain, many of the islands off the coast of Scotland and possibly even Iceland.

Yet, St. Brendan’s longest adventure at sea was still to come. A manuscript was written in the 9th century that tells the story of his famous voyage in search of Hy Brasail, or the Island of the Blessed. This manuscript is called Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. That is Latin for ‘Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot’.

This voyage lasted for seven years. He probably travelled to Iceland, Greenland and maybe even America. The manuscript is full of the adventures of St. Brendan’s journey. One story tells how St. Brendan landed on an island that was actually a great big sea-monster. Another story tells how he narrowly escaped a sea-cat as big as a horse!

In the 1970s, an explorer called Tim Severin read The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot. He decided to follow St. Brendan’s journey and to travel in the same type of boat St. Brendan had – a coracle. He proved that St Brendan may have been the first European to set foot in America.

St. Brendan The Navigator died in 578 at Annaghdown. His feast day is celebrated on 16th May, and he is known as the patron saint of seafarers and travellers.