Posted by: anna | May 29, 2010

St Brendan the Voyager

Icon image from WSIP, no provenance given
Today (16 May) we commemorate St. Brendan the Voyager (Navigator), abbot of Clonfert (ca. 575). Today we have the unusual problem of too much information – Brendan is one of the best-known of the Irish saints, and his voyages (not the rest of his life so much, it seem) have a very long manuscript history in Latin, Irish and other European vernaculars throughout the Middle Ages. As he is mentioned in the Russian calendar, I’ll use the entirely too brief summary on the Holy Trinity pages:

“Brendan was born around 484 at Tralee in Kerry, Ireland. He founded several monasteries in Ireland, of which the chief was Cluain Ferta Brenaind (anglicized as Clonfert) in County Galway. His missionary and pastoral travels took him on voyages to the Scottish islands, and possibly to Wales; thus in his own time he was known as ‘Brendan the Voyager.’ He reposed in peace.  Early in the ninth century, a Latin saga, Navigatio Brendani (The Voyage of Brendan) made him the hero of a Christian adventure that included voyages to unknown lands far to the west of Ireland. The account provides strong evidence that Irish voyagers visited America as early as the 8th century, before the Vikings; but whether St Brendan himself made these voyages is disputed.”
Claude Lopez-Ginisty has composed a lovely Akathist to St Brendan the Navigator, available in French only on orthodoxengland. The French is not particularly difficult but I hesitate to attempt a translation because any translation, perhaps especially of a liturgical text, is necessarily an act of composition as well, and there are rules and conventions about pointing and who knows what else for such things that I know I am not aware of. An entirely different Akathist to St Brendan the Navigator in English (author not named) is available here.
It’s good to have the feast of one of the great Irish saints just before the beginning of the Apostles’ Fast, which for us on the Old Calendar is long this year. The saints of the Irish church were great athletes of the ascetic life – good friends to call on during the fast!

Troparion in Tone V

Thine angelic life of fasting hath spread thy glory throughout the Church of Christ, O venerable father Brendan. For thou didst sail the waters of the thundering sea like a merchant seeking a pearl of great price, but didst obtain it in the heavens from the hand of thy Lord. Wherefore, O God-bearing father, bestow this treasure upon those who now call upon thee with faith and who cherish thine honored memory.

Holy Father Brendan, pray to God for us.


  1. How lovely! thanks for the links for the Akathist!

    Yes, the fast will be a long one! I am also on the old calendar!

    One of my friends prayed to him before hitchhiking and one of the people that picked him up was named Brendan and it never rained when he slept outside… he made it back in time to celebrate this Saint's feast!

  2. Another troparion in French to St Brendan here:

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