St. Brendan, the Navigator

St Brendan is the Patron of Shepparton Catholic Church. A legend claims that St. Brendan crossed the Atlantic ocean in a coracle. St Brendan was venerated by Celtic peoples for his missionary outreach to unknown lands.


Best known as the hero of an adventure legend of the 10th century, St Brendan became widely known as “the Navigator”. Translated from the Anglo-Norman into several European languages, the story of his life was one of the first books to be published after Caxton’s invention of the printing press in 1476.


Brendan was fostered by Ita, a much—loved Irish nun and saint who founded a small convent where she lived in solitude. Her nuns were encouraged to care for the sick and Ita herself educated needy boys, instilling into them her own faith.

As a youth, Brendan studied with St Erc, the bishop of Kerry. Brendan became a monk and later was appointed as abbot of Clonfert monastery. Some reports also claim he became abbot of Llancarvan in Wales.

He founded four monasteries in Ireland, one in Scotland, and evangelized in Wales and Brittany. In imitation of the apostles, Brendan was an indefatigable missionary. His life of extensive travel, criss-crossing the Irish Sea and the English Channel to France, became the source of legends about St Brendan.


In the legend of St Brendan, he and his band of monks take to the sea in search of the Island of Promise. They sail in a traditional vessel, a coracle, made of leather stretched over a wicker frame. During the journey, unwittingly, they make camp on the back of a Whale and light a fire there. One Christmas Eve, they come upon Judas Iscariot. Every year on this night, Christ’s betrayer is allowed to sit on a rock in the middle of the ocean to cool off before returning to fiery hell. Within these stories of adventure there are hints that Brendan reached the shores of distant America.

Researchers say that a close study of the text allows for an interpretation that confirms that he conducted an expedition across the Atlantic Ocean.

Brendan’s popularity is shown by the survival of 116 Medieval Latin manuscripts of his story.


Painting on vellum depicting St Brendan and his companions meeting a siren on their travels from the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (German School, c. 1476).

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St Brendan's Church Shepparton

St Brendan’s Church, Shepparton


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