The name of several Irish saints: Brendan of Clonfert, Irish abbot, patron of the Diocese of Kerry; b. Annagh on Tralee Bay, c. 486; d. 578. He is said to have been fostered by St. ita of killeedy before further studies with Bishop Erc at St. Finian's Clonard and with St. Jarlath of tuam. Later, Brendan took charge of the monastery at Ardfert, making a number of new foundations in both Ireland and Scotland. Of these his principal monastery was Clonfert, County Galway, founded in 561. Brendan was a great traveler—he is mentioned in the Hebrides with columba of iona (Colmcille) in ad amnan's biography of Columba; he may also have visited
Wales and perhaps Brittany. He is associated with Mt. Brandon, County Kerry, Ireland's second highest mountain, on the summit of which a ruined oratory and cells are claimed to mark the saint's hermitage. It was once among the most famous places of pilgrimage in Ireland. Probably in the first half of the 10th century, an unknown Irish resident on the Continent chose Brendan of Clonfert as the hero of a voyage romance. Such romances were an Irish literary form, conveniently linking adventures on several islands into a unified story. Of these, the Voyage of Brendan is the most famous and has been translated into all the languages of Europe. St. Brendan's Island continued to be marked on charts into the 18th century. The author drew on what he knew of world geography, and on mythological and adventure themes from many sources. C. Selmer considers the work to be a deliberately Christianized Aeneid. Voyage romances were also attached to other Irish saints beside Brendan, but they have not been preserved in their entirety. Any idea that Brendan's voyage represents a historical reality, happening to a historical person, must be dismissed.
Brendan of Birr, Irish abbot. He was a contemporary of Brendan of Clonfert, known only from references to him in accounts of other saints. He would appear to have been an important individual, famous enough to be called "the chief of the prophets of Ireland." His principal monastic foundation was at Birr, County Offaly.
Feast: (Brendan of Clonfert) May 16. (Brendan of Birr) Nov. 29.
Bibliography: brendan, Navigatio sancti Brendani Abbatis, ed. c. selmfr (Notre Dame, IN 1959). j. f. kenney, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland 1:406–420. f. o'briain, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et. al. 10:532–534. c. plummer, comp., Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae, 2 v. (Oxford 1910) 1:98–151; 2:270–294; ed., Bethada náem nÉrenn, 2 v. (Oxford 1922) 1:44–102; 2:44–98. l. gougaud, Les Saints irlandais hors d'Irelande (Louvain 1936). k. hughes, "On an Irish Litany of Pilgrim Saints Compiled c. 800," Analecta Bollandiana 77 (1959) 305–331. g. a. little, Brendan the Navigator (Dublin 1945). g. ashe, Land to the West: St. Brendan's Voyage to America (New York 1962).
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