Brendan : biography
Saint Brendan of Clonfert or Bréanainn of Clonfert (c. 484 – c. 577) (Irish: Naomh Breandán; Icelandic: Brandanus) called "the Navigator", "the Voyager", or "the Bold" is one of the early Irish monastic saints. He is chiefly renowned for his legendary quest to the "Isle of the Blessed," also called Saint Brendan’s Island. The Voyage of Saint Brendan could be called an immram (Irish navigational story). He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
Saint Brendan’s feast day is celebrated on 16 May by Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. . ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
Brendan travelled to Wales and the holy island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland; returning to Ireland, he founded a monastery at Annaghdown, where he spent the rest of his days. He also founded a convent at Annaghdown for his sister Briga. He was recognised as a saint by the Church, and his feast day was celebrated on 16 May . Having established the bishopric of Ardfert, St Brendan proceeded to Thomond, and founded a monastery at Inis-da-druim (now Coney Island), in the present parish of Killadysert, County Clare, about the year 550. He then journeyed to Wales, and thence to Iona, for he is said to have left traces of his apostolic zeal at Kil-brandon (near Oban) and Kil-brennan Sound. After a three years’ mission in Britain he returned to Ireland, and did more proselytising in various parts of Leinster, especially at Dysart (County Kilkenny), Killiney (Tubberboe), and Brandon Hill. He established churches at Inchiquin, County Galway and at Inishglora, County Mayo. He died c. 577 at Annaghdown, while visiting his sister Briga. Fearing that after his death his devotees might take his remains as relics, Brendan had arranged before dying to have his body secretly carried back to the monastery he founded at Clonfert concealed in a luggage cart. He was buried in Clonfert Cathedral.
St Brendan is chiefly renowned for his legendary journey to the Isle of the Blessed as described in the ninth century Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator. Many versions exist that tell of how he set out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixty pilgrims (other versions have fourteen, plus three unbelievers who join at the last minute) searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to have been Saint Malo, the namesake of Saint-Malo. If it happened, this would have occurred sometime between AD 512–530, before his travel to the island of Great Britain. On his trip, Brendan is supposed to have seen Saint Brendan’s Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encountered a sea monster, an adventure he shared with his contemporary Saint Columba. The most commonly illustrated adventure is his landing on an island which turns out to be a giant sea monster called Jasconius or Jascon. This too, has its parallels in other stories, not only in Irish mythology but in other traditions, from Sinbad the Sailor to Pinocchio.
The Voyage of Saint Brendan
The earliest extant version of The Voyage of Saint Brendan was recorded around AD 900. There are over 100 manuscripts of the story across Europe, as well as many additional translations. The Voyage of Saint Brendan is an overtly Christian narrative, but also contains narratives of natural phenomena and fantastical events and places, which appealed to a broad populace. The Voyage of Saint Brendan contains many parallels and inter-textual references to the Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of Máel Dúin.
- Saint Barrid tells of his visit to the Island of Paradise, which prompts Brendan to go in search of the isle.
- Brendan assembles 14 monks to accompany him.
- They fast at three-day intervals for 40 days, and visit Saint Enda for three days and three nights.
- Three latecomers join the group. They interfere with Brendan’s sacred numbers.
- They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.
- One latecomer admits to having stolen from the mysterious island, Brendan exorcises the Ethiopian devil from the latecomer, latecomer dies and is buried.
- They find an island with a boy who brings them bread and water.
- They find an island of sheep, eat some, and stay for Holy Week (before Easter).
- They find the island of Jasconius, have Easter Mass, and hunt whales and fish.
- They find an island that is the Paradise of Birds, and the birds sing psalms and praise the Lord.
- They find the island of the monks of Ailbe, with magic loaves, no ageing, and complete silence. They celebrate Christmas.
- A long voyage after Lent. They find an island with a well, and drinking the water puts them to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 days based on the number of cups each man drank.
- They find a "coagulated" sea.
- They return to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. A bird prophesies that the men must continue this year-long cycle for seven years before they will be holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise.
- A sea creature approaches the boat, but God shifts the sea to protect the men. Another sea creature comes, chops the first into three pieces, and leaves. The men eat the dead sea creature.
- They find an island of 3 choirs of anchorites (monks), who give them fruit, and the second latecomer stays behind when the others leave.
- They find an island of grapes, and stayed for 40 days.
- They find a gryphon and a bird battle. The gryphon dies.
- To the monastery at Ailbe again for Christmas.
- The sea is clear, and many threatening fish circle their boat, but God protects them.
- They find an island, but when they light a fire, the island sinks; it is actually a whale.
- They pass a "silver pillar wrapped in a net" in the sea.
- They pass an island of blacksmiths, who throw slag at them.
- They find a volcano, and the third latecomer is taken by demons down to Hell.
- They find Judas sitting unhappily on a cold, wet rock in the middle of the sea, and discover that this is his respite from Hell for Sundays and feast days. Brendan protects Judas from the demons of Hell for one night.
- They find an island where Paul the Hermit has lived a perfect monastic life for 60 years. He wears nothing but hair and is fed by an otter.
- They return to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds.
- They find the Promised Land of the Saints.
- They return home, and Brendan dies.