The Voyage of St Brendan
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The Voyage of St Brendan. Music from The Brendan Voyag e, an orchestral suite for uilleann pipes Played by Liam O'Flynn; Composed by Shaun Davey; Tara BCD 501. Menu Maps: 1. Voyage 2. Ireland The voyage – medieval sources Outline of Brendan’s life Preparing for the voyage

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The Voyage of St Brendan

Music from The Brendan Voyage, an orchestral suite for uilleann pipes

Played by Liam O'Flynn; Composed by Shaun Davey; Tara BCD 501

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Maps: 1. Voyage2. Ireland

The voyage – medieval sources

Outline of Brendan’s life

Preparing for the voyage

Scenes from the voyage

Fact or fiction?

Inspiring modern art

Matching music & pictures

Notes on the voyages of Brendan & Tim Severin – pdf format Internet connection required

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The story of St Brendan

Fourteenth century manuscript

Brendan Voyage: Track 3 Jig Water under the Keel

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The story of St Brendan’s voyage

Modern tapestry

There are twenty-four different pictures

Begin reading at bottom left-hand corner

People bringing stores onto the boat.

People waving farewell to the monks.

Casks, waterskins and other supplies for the journey.

Scenes from early Irish life:

A harper.

A piper.

A warrior on horseback.

A huntsman.

A chariot.

The burial of one of the travellers at sea.

Inhabitants of the land which Brendan visited.

The young man who directed Brendan home.

Brendan’s boat.

Click here for a note on what can be seen in the tapestry

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Brendan's life - an outline

Born around 500 AD.

A monk from County Kerry.

He wanted to take the Christian faith of other lands.

He and fourteen other monks built a boat and sailed the Atlantic.

The boat was made from skins stretched over a wooden frame with a kind of hood for shelter.

Behind the more imaginative stories of their many adventures, there is probably some historical event or a genuinely hard-won experience.

In 1977 Tim Severin sailed to America in a boat exactly like St Brendan’s.

Click here for a note on St Brendan’s voyage in pdf format - internet connection required

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Brendan's sea

Dingle peninsula & Atlantic

This and the following eleven drawings by David Rooney

are taken from Brendan the Navigator by G.O. Simms

O'Brien Press, ISBN 0-86278-241-4

Brendan Voyage: Track 2 The Brendan Theme

Click here for map of Ireland

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Visiting Enda

Island monastery of Aran

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An alternative

An illustrated narrative poem

ISBN: 1-85390-645-X

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Preparing the boat

Wooden frame and skins

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The bird messenger

The voyage ahead

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The friendly whale

Brendan Voyage: Track 1 Introduction

Click here for picture

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The friendly whale

Medieval picture

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St Ailbe greets Brendan

In remembrance of Christ

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The sparkling pillar

The beauty of God's creation

Brendan Voyage: Track 5 The Cliffs of Mykines

Click here for picture

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Rescued from a monster fish

By a fire-breathing creature

Brendan Voyage: Track 8 The Gale

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Rescued from a monster fish

By a fire-breathing creature

Medieval picture

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Attacked by a gryphon

Medieval picture

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The volcano

Brendan comforts the monks

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Comforting Judas

Driving away the demons

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Visiting Paul the Hermit

Brendan Voyage: Track 2 The Brendan Theme

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Brendan ponders on

the meaning

of his

wonderful voyage

Medieval drawing

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Fact or fiction?

Some people think that the story of Brendan’s voyage is more fiction than fact, saying:

1. Such a fragile vessel as a currach could not possibly sail in the open sea.

2. Many of the tales seem incredible, such as, the monks:

were ‘raised up on the back of sea monsters’;

passed by ‘crystals that rose up to the sky’;

were ‘pelted with flaming, foul smelling rocks by the inhabitants of a large island on their route’, and finally

arrived at the beautiful land they called ‘Promised Land of the Saints’.

  • Others point to the success of Tim Severin’s voyage, 1977-79:

  • 1. His boat, constructed on the same lines, successfully crossed the Atlantic.

  • 2. He witnessed similar sights:

  • whales swam around and even under their boat – they could have been even friendlier in Brendan’s time, before motorized

  • ships would make them wary of man, so friendly that they may well have lifted the monks’ boat in a playful gesture;

  • island of Mykines, one of the Danish Faroe islands, with its thousands of seabirds – Brendan’s ‘The Paradise of Birds’;

  • ‘Island of Sheep’, the larger of the Danish Faroe islands - the word Faroe itself means Island of Sheep;

  • Labrador-Greenland iceberg belt (‘The Crystal Pillar’) - the monks had never seen icebergs before, so their description

  • of them as ‘towering crystals’ would make sense;

  • Iceland, with Icelandic volcanoes - the ‘Island of Smiths’ and the ‘Fiery Mountain’ - the volcanoes, active for many

  • centuries, might well have been erupting when the monks stayed there, pelting the monks 'with flaming, foul

  • smelling rocks’; and

  • landed on the island of Newfoundland - might well have been Brendan’s ‘Land promised to the Saints’.

  • Severin’s journey did not prove that Brendan and his monks landed on North America. However it did prove that a leather currach could have made a voyage such as that mapped out in medieval accounts.

Click here for fact

Click here for fiction

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Inspiring art today


Sculpted and carved in clay

by the artist in Michigan.

The plaques are then cast in a sand/stone compound.

Finally a patina is applied

by hand to bring out the details

Brendan peers toward the western sun from the helm of his craft.

His face is weathered, clothes are tattered; his monk's tonsure long grown out.

A whale's tale breaks through the waves.

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Inspiring art today


Colin Wilkin

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Inspiring art today


joint issue



(‘Island of Sheep’)


(‘Fiery Mountain’)




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Music A

Music B

Music C

Music D