Also known as St. Brendan the Voyager
, St. Brendan the Navigator
, and St. Brandon
Born near Tralee in County Kerry
, Brendan spent his childhood in the care of St. Ita
at Killeedy, continued his studies under a number of other Irish saints, and was ordained a priest in 512. From an early age Brendan was a great traveler
, establishing a number of monasteries in Ireland, of which the most famous was Clonfert
, founded about 560. Brendan also reputedly journeyed to Scotland, Wales, and Brittany, furthering the spread of Christianity to these areas.
But Brendan's fame as a traveler really rests on The Voyage of St. Brendan
, a tale popularized during the Middle Ages. According to this account, Brendan and a company of monks set sail on a fantastic journey in search of a fabled paradise. Along the way they visited a number of islands in the Atlantic — one of which turned out to be the back of a whale! — and possibly even reached the Americas
. Although there is no historical proof of this journey, an expedition organized in the mid-1970s demonstrated that it was possible for the monks to have sailed a coracle
of wood and leather that far. Whether or not the monks reached the New World centuries before Columbus will probably never be known.