St. Brendan is a Celtic saint who was born in what is now County Kerry, Ireland, about 486 A.D., approximately 25 years after the death of St. Patrick. He had a very strong influence on the Celtic church and is regarded as one of Ireland's most important saints. He was responsible for founding a number of abbies and monasteries, including the one at Clonfert in Galway, where he died about 578 A.D.
He is known as Brendan the "Voyager" or the "Navigator" because of the many voyages he made around the British Isles and to the coast of Brittany. However, the voyage for which Brendan is best known is shrouded in the midst of legend. This is the story of his search for the Land of Promise, far away in the west.
Brendan built a boat out of ‘oak- bark’’ tanned oxen hides stretched over a framework of ash, provisioned it for a voyage of 40 days, and set off with 17 other monks. They encountered bad weather, stormy seas and high winds and were blown onto islands and visited settlements. They stopped over on islands with exotic sheep and birds, streams full of trout and islands devoid of all vegetation - completely bare. They were visited by vast numbers of sea birds, whales and dolphins who broke the monotony of the day. They were welcomed to Hell where giant demons threw great lumps of burning slag at them from huge fiery furnaces, and they could see rivers of gold fire running down from the furnaces. They took days to circumnavigate tall crystal pillars in the sea before eventually emerging from the fog to the Land of Promise.
In the l970's Tim Severin became fascinated with the Brendan story. He researched the ancient script "Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis" - 'The Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot' and planned a stepping stone route to the ‘Land of Promise’. By using prevailing winds and currents, in a small boat built out of a framework of ash and covered with oxen hides, Tim and his crew were able to travel from Ireland to the ‘Land of Promise’, North America.