St Brendan the Navigator

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Abbot. St Brendan was probably born near Tralee in around 486. He was fostered by St Ita at Kileedy and Erc, bishop of Kerry. He became a monk and later abbot. Many landmarks in the west of Ireland are named after him including Mount Brandon in the Dingle peninsula. He founded several monasteries including Clonfert in 559, Annadown in Galway, Inishadroum, Co Clare, and Ardfert Co Kerry.

Like many of his contemporaries he was a great traveller. St Brendan is said to have visited Columba at Hinba in Argyle. Other accounts say he founded a Scottish monastery, became abbot of Llancarven in Wales, and went Brittany with St Malo.

Much of what we know about him today is based on the Navigation of St Brendan, an eighth century chronicle which transformed the historical seafaring abbot into a mythical adventurer who accomplished incredible exploits. One story tells of a sea voyage with a band of monks across the Atlantic to an island - a beautiful Land of Promise.

For a long time historians thought this was just fantasy, but in 1976-7 an expedition which studied the account in detail, demonstrated that it was quite possible for the monks to have reached North America. A book, The Brendan Voyages, describes their journey.

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