St. Brendan was born in 484 in Ciarraighe, Luachra near Tralee, County Kerry in Ireland. He was ordained as a priest in 512. Between 512 and 530 Brendan built monastic cells (sacred space in which a monk enters into relationship with God). The two main monasteries were Ardfert and Clonfert where Brendan served as abbot of a community of over 3,000 monks — uncommon for sixth century Ireland.

Brendan had a craving for the sea and when he built his boat, he launched it in the name of the Lord and sailed it under the ensign of the cross. His now famous seven-year voyage for the “Land of Delight/Garden of Eden” likely took him to many different islands and the accounts are full of fanciful images: a mysteriously hospitable dog; birds that sing psalms; a coagulated sea; God protecting them from a sea creature; a gryphon and bird battle; blacksmiths; a volcano; Judas sitting on a rock; and Paul the Hermit. As a result, St. Brendan’s voyage is considered an immran (an Irish navigational story) and there is some difficulty determining fact from fiction. Nonetheless, many scholars believe it has historical foundation. His voyages are the most remarkable and enduring of European legends. Brendan died in 577. His remains are buried in the Cathedral of Clonfert. He was one of the twelve Apostles of Ireland and his feast day is celebrated on May 16. Brendan is the Patron Saint of Sailors, Mariners and Boaters.