Brendan of Clonfort

Brendan of Clonfort (c.484-577), or Saint Brendan, was an Irish priest. According to legend, he set sail in a currach with a group of monks to find the Earthly Paradise. Brendan was born in 484 among the people called Ciarraighe Luachra, who lived near the port of Tralee, in County Kerry, in the province of Munster, in the southwest of Ireland. In 512, he was ordained to be a priest.

In the Navigatio Sancti Brendani [Voyage of Saint Brendan], written in the 9th century, St.Brendan and brothers from his monastery set out on a seven year journey to finally reach Paradise. The geography of the rhymed tale has piqued the imagination of later readers. When Brendan and his crew were looking for “the Isles of the Blessed,” otherwise known as the earthly paradise, they came across mountains and volcanoes. Stories of the monks included multiple references of sea monsters, whales, huge crystals and flaming rocks.  This fictitious geography has been correlated by some to various points along the trajectory from Ireland to the Americas, passing by the volcanoes of Iceland and mountains of Greenland. Were this story to describe an actual trip to the Americas, Brendan would be one of the earliest Europeans to reach the New World.