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May 18, 2005

This Week in Church History

May 16, 583

He was more famous than Patrick in the Middle Ages. But we know very little about Saint Brendan the Navigator, who (we think) died on this date. Tales of his adventures abound, but most (if not all) have to be regarded as legendary, fictitious. Brendan offered an Easter communion from the back of a whale. On his voyages he was "raised up on the back of sea monsters." The expedition was pelted by flaming rocks thrown by the inhabitants of a nearby island.

But Brenden may have found the 'New World' 900 years before Columbus. Many people think that Newfoundland is the "St. Brendan's Isle" that the stories speak of -- and that maps ion the 15th century show as being in the Atlantic Ocean west of Europe.

In 1976 Tim Severn recreated the voyage of Saint rendan, showing that even with the technology of the time the voyage was possible. And there are some people who believe that there is evidence of Irish exploration as far south as West Virginia by apx. 1000AD.

Much of Brendan's voyages are legendary. But legend has to be based on something. I think this Irish saint's life and work needs to be studied more -- without modern cultural biases that relegate anything that we cannot believe or understand to the realm of myth or legend.

Posted by Warren Kelly at May 18, 2005 10:13 AM | TrackBack
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