Was St. Brendan first to America?

Tim’s book, The Brendan Voyage, is a remarkable account of a remarkable event, that started in May 1976. As he writes in his book, he found himself and his three-man crew sailing out of Brandon Creek, and within 30 miles off Kerry coast they were heading into a rising gale, aboard a craft that looked like a floating banana, and was made of leather. “Her hull was nothing more than 49 oxhides stitched together to form a patchwork quilt and stretched over a wooden frame…Why on earth were my crew and I sailing such an improbable vessel in face of a rising gale? The answer lay in name of our strange craft: she was called Brendan in honor of great Irish missionary, St. Brendan. “Tradition said that St. Brendan had made a voyage to America,” Tim continues, “and this astonishing claim was not just a wild fairy tale, but a recurrent theme based on authentic and well-researched Latin texts dating back to at least A.D. 800. These texts told how St. Brendan and a party of monks had sailed to a land far across ocean in a boat made of oxhides. Of course, if claim was true, then St. Brendan would have reached America almost a thousand years before Columbus and four hundred years before Vikings. “The obvious way of checking truth of this remarkable story was to build a boat in similar fashion (as described in texts) and then see if it would sail Atlantic. So there we were, my crew and I, out in ocean to test whether St. Brendan and Irish monks could have made an ocean voyage in a boat of leather.”


After fifty days at sea, described in brilliant detail in Tim’s book, Brendan made landfall in New World, on an island northwest of St. Johns in Newfoundland. And news went around globe: St. Brendan could well have made same voyage. An interesting footnote: one of islands described in Navigatio could well be Bahamas – same group of islands where Columbus made his most northerly landfall on his first trip. The bold Christopher made four transatlantic trips in all, and never set foot on North American mainland; instead he landed in Cuba, Central America and South America.

The Brendan Voyage, www.gillmacmillan.ie


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