« Bremen, Bishopric of Brendan, Saint, of Clonfert Brent, Charles Henry »

Brendan, Saint, of Clonfert

BRENDAN, SAINT, OF CLONFERT (called "the Navigator"); Irish saint; b. at Tralee (on Tralee Bay, west coast of Ireland, County Kerry) 484; d. at the monastery of his sister, Brigh, at Annadown (on the east shore of Lough Corrib, County Galway), 577. After studying with the most distinguished Irish masters, he was ordained presbyter, and then undertook the expedition or expeditions which form the basis of "The Navigation of St. Brendan," one of the most popular legends of the Middle Ages. In 552 or 553 (according to others in 556 or 557) he founded the monastery of Clonfert (in the barony of Longford, County Longford) and ruled it for twenty years, during which time it was the most famous school in West Ireland. He is said also to have founded a monastery in Brittany. A visit to Columba on Hinba Island, near Iona, is recorded, which must have been after 563, and he is last heard of in 570, when he acted as bard at the inauguration of the first Christian king of Cashel.

According to an Irish life of St. Brendan, when he was ordained he pondered on the words in Luke xviii, 29–30, and determined to forsake country and brethren and seek a mysterious unknown land which he saw in visions. Under angelic guidance he set forth in a coracle of wicker work and hides, but after seven years was directed to return, as work was waiting for him at home. Some years later the impulse to travel again sent him forth, this time in a fine ship, fully equipped, and with a crew of sixty. "The whole story of the saint's adventures bears neither repetition nor criticism: but in the midst of much crude fiction we find occasional touches which have evidently, been derived from the reports of genuine voyagers. In the course of their seven years' adventures they visit the Isle of Sheep, a full fair island full of green pasture: another fair island, full of flowers, herbs, and trees, where they thank God of his good grace: a little island wherein were many vines full of grapes: they meet with great tempests, in which they are greatly troubled long time and sore forlaboured; at other times calm airs and water so clear that they might see all the fishes that were about them, whereof they are full sore aghast: again they behold an hill all of fire and a foul smoke and stink coming from thence: and finally reach an attemperate land, ne too hot ne too cold, the fairest country that any man might see, in which the trees are charged with ripe fruit and flowers. Here they walk forty days, but find no end thereof, and at length lade their ships with its fruits and return home" (E. J. Payne, 260History of the New World, i, Oxford, 1892, 106–107). The story was known in France, Spain, and Holland in the eleventh century, and was very popular with all classes. It exists in translation into eight languages. Some of its incidents are derived from classical sources; others resemble the Arabian Nights. An expedition to the Hebrides and northern islands may have furnished the basis of fact.

Bibliography: Lanigan, Eccl. Hist., ii, 28–38; St. Brandan, a metrical and a prose life, in English; ed. T. Wright, in Percy Society Publications, vol. xiv, London, 1844; W. J. Rees, Lives of the Cambro-British Saints, pp. 251–254, 575–579, Llandovery, 1853; W. Reeves's Adamnan's Life of St. Columba, p. 221, Dublin, 1857; C. Schröder, Sanct Brandon, ein lateinischer und drei deutsche Texte, Erlangen, 1871; A. P. Forbes, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, pp. 284–287, Edinburgh, 1872; F. Michel, Les voyages merveilleux de S. Brandan, Paris; 1878; J. Healy, Insula sanctorum et doctorum, pp. 209 sqq., Dublin, 1890: D. O'Donoghue, Brendaniana, Dublin, 1893;T. Olden, The Church of Ireland, pp. 63–64, London, 1895; C. Plummer, Some New Light on the Brandon Legend, in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, v (1904), 124–141; J. O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, v, 389–472, Dublin, n.d.

« Bremen, Bishopric of Brendan, Saint, of Clonfert Brent, Charles Henry »
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