Broadcast October 30, 2006 on CBC Radio IDEAS
Saint Brendan: Regarded as one of Ireland's most important saints, Brendan was born in what is now County Kerry in 484 A.D. At a time when the Celtic church was poorly organised, he founded many abbeys and monasteries, including one in County Galway where he died in about 577 A.D.
"…A young man of resplendent features, and very handsome aspect, came to them, and joyfully embracing and addressing each of them by his own name, said: 'Peace be with you, brothers… This is the land you have sought after for so long a time; but you could not hitherto find it, because Christ our Lord wished, first to display to you His divers mysteries in this immense ocean. Return now to the land of your birth… for the days of your earthly pilgrimage must draw to a close, when you may rest in peace among your saintly brethren."
Spiritual voyage or a real one? Some scholars insist that the saint described a purely spiritual voyage. Others suggest he could have made a real journey across the Atlantic to North America. In 1976 a British navigation scholar set out to determine if the voyage of Brendan and his fellow monks was possible. Tim Severin constructed a carrach using the same material as described in the ancient text. He charted a route similar to one Lief Erikson would have taken in the 10th century. It would pass close to Iceland and Greenland with a probable landfall at Newfoundland (St. Brendan's Isle).
of the Promised Land of the Saints
For millennia, the Atlantic ocean tantalised the European imagination with visions of what might lie on the other side.
Produced for the CBC by Battery Radio.
Voices heard in the program:
Berni Stapleton reads from the John O'Meara translation of Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abatis.
Music from Shawn Davey's suite The Brendan Voyage is performed by uilean piper Liam O'Flynn. Susie Arioli sings the Irving Mills/Edgar Sampson/Benny Goodman tune If Dreams Come True.
If you would like further information about the events mentioned in this feature here is a
Suggested Reading List:
THE BRENDAN VOYAGE by Tim Severin, Modern Library 2000.
THE VOYAGE OF ST BRENDAN translated by John O'Meara with illustrations by Daniel De'Angeli (Four Courts Press 1994)
This is a partial listing of research resources.