St Brendan of Birr

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Irish abbot. St Brendan was one of the early monastic Irish saints. He was a friend and disciple of St Columba. Brendan of Birr is said to have been of a noble Munster family.

He studied at the Clonard monastery and it was here that he became a friend and companion of Ciarán of Saigir and Brendan of Clonfert. It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction at Clonard was 3,000. Twelve students who studied under Saint Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Brendan of Birr was one of these.

Brendan went on to found the monastery at Birr, in central Ireland in about 540, serving as its abbot. He emerges from early Irish writings as a man of generous hospitality with a reputation for sanctity and spirituality who was an intuitive judge of character.

When Brendan died in 573, Columba saw a vision in Iona of angels carrying his friend's soul to heaven.

At St Brendan's monastery in Birr, the MacRegol Gospels were made, years after his death. The manuscripts are now kept at the Bodleian Museum in Oxford.

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