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Clonfert - Monastic Settlement in Galway
Founded by Brendan the Navigator.
If you're travelling to Ireland, why not take a peek and see how the weather's behaving here in the West.
This is the third page of four which brings you on a journey to the tiny Church of Ireland Cathedral of Saint Brendan on Clonfert, County Galway. Here we look briefly at the history of Saint Brendan as founder of the 6th century monastic settlement here and his connections to this most rural of places in South County Galway .

The other three pages, for those who arrived here first, describe Saint Brendan's Cathedral in Clonfert, the Bishop's Palace and Yew Walk and that historic day that this little cathedral was included in the World Monuments Watch 2000 listing. Please join me on the full journey back in time to the 6th century and the Middle Ages and forward into the 21st century - each era highlights today's interest and is linked by a unique and beautiful 12th century Hiberno-Romanesque doorway. (Links below)

Saint Brendan the Navigator

Saint Brendan was born in Ciarraighe Luachra, near Tralee in County Kerry in the Year of Our Lord 484. It is said Bishop Erc baptized him at Tubrid, near Ardfert. Saint Ita supervised his earlier education, and he completed his later studies under St. Erc, who ordained him as a priest in 512.

Better known as Brendan the Navigator, his love of the sea could have developed from his growing up years in a coastal town in the south of Ireland. He was very much a leader of men and attracted many followers. He is associated with a number of monastic sites close to the River Shannon and around the West Coast of Ireland. 

He started monastic communities in Ardfert, and at Shanakeel or Baalynevinoorach, at the foot of Brandon Hill. This work took place over a period of almost 30 years and it was from Baalynevinoorach that it is said he embarked on his most famous of journeys - " to the Land of Promise " or the seven-year voyage, accompanied by 60 other monks.

Brendan was a keen sailor as well as an avid missionary and his sea voyages brought him to Wales, Iona in Scotland as well as to France and other parts of mainland Europe.

He was instrumental in starting monasteries in Kilbrandon near Oban and Kilbrennan Sound, both in Scotland. After a three year mission in Britain he returned to Ireland, where he started to move further north from his home county of Kerry.

Ceramic Depiction of Saint Brendan
This Ceramic Depiction of Saint Brendan i
s to be found in St. Brendan's 
Catholic Church in Clonfert.

 His fame as a missionary voyager soon spread and his monastery in Ardfert became a place of pilgrimage to hear his travelling tales. As a result, many religious houses were developed at Gallerus, Kilmalchedor, Brandon Hill, and the Blasquet Islands, in order to meet the needs of those students of the church and other visitors who came to him for spiritual guidance.

He established many of the diocesan centres in the south and west of our country. St. Brendan made his way to Thomond in Limerick and further north where he founded a monastery at Inis-da-druim about the year 550. This is more commonly known now as Coney Island, County Clare in the present parish of Killadysert.

In Leinster he was active in places such as Dysart in Co. Kilkenny, Killiney, and Brandon Hill. He founded the Sees of Ardfert and of Annaghdown, and established churches at Inchiquin, County Galway, and at Inishglora, County Mayo. His most celebrated foundation was Clonfert in County Galway. Saint Brendan died in 577 in the convent of his sister Briga at Enachduin, now Annaghdown. He is said to be interred in a grave facing the front door of the Cathedral in Clonfert.

St. Brendan's Voyage

'Navigatio Sancti Brendani' is an account written by an Irish monk in the ninth or tenth century and describes the 7-year voyage of Saint Brendan. More than 100 medieval Latin manuscripts of this Voyage of Brendan still exist today with many pointers to the very real possibility that it was in fact Saint Brendan who discovered North America, some 900 years earlier than Columbus.

The old Irish Calendars assigned a special feast for the "Egressio familiae S. Brendani", on 22 March; and St Aengus the Culdee, in his Litany at the close of the eighth century, invokes "the sixty who accompanied St. Brendan in his quest of the Land of Promise".

As has been mentioned already, he most certainly was a notable sailor and his many earlier voyages took him to Scotland where he founded a monastery on Arran, and Wales as well as Brittany in France.

He is said to have met Saint Columba on Hynba Island in Scotland, and even to have gone to Brittany with Saint Malo, a Welsh monk. Of interest here is the town named after St Malo was the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, first European thought to set foot in Canada in 1534. It begs a further question if perhaps Brendan's voyage was well known at the time and Cartier followed in his footsteps.

St. Brendan and his travelling monks  He is said to have undertaken the voyage with sixty monks in search of the Isles of the Blessed. Brendan and his group of monks are reputed to have reached the coast of America on a 7-year voyage.

The writings of the monks about Brendan's journey report that the sailing monks kept monastic rule aboard their ships and met with many adventures and supernatural creatures in their travels. 

These were special men, these men of the sea, and zealous missionaries who carried the Christian message. They sought the lands beyond the horizon, the wondrous realms to be revealed by God—the Promised Lands.

There is scant evidence of this western voyage but as recently as 1998 some interesting Irish artifacts containing Latin and Ogham inscriptions were unearthed in Groton, Connecticut. Where they came from we don't know - all we know is that they should not be there and could only have come from seafarers or very early travellers.

A sea journey, re-enacted by Tim Severin in 1977 called 'The Brendan Voyage' successfully sailed across the Atlantic in a currach built as it would have been in the 6th. Century, proving that the journey could have been done. I don't know that it will ever be proved beyond doubt but it certainly cannot be disproved beyond doubt either.

The Plight of the Cathedral Doorway Comes to the Public

The President, 
Mary McAleese 
with Bishop Edward Darling

On the 22nd. May 1999, the eve of the feast day of Saint Brendan, an Ecumenical Youth Service was held in the cathedral and attended by our President Mary McAleese and her husband. 

This gave an opportunity for photographs highlighting the plight of the cathedral doorway and was reported by the local paper, the Connacht Tribune. They covered the service as well as the fundraising by the Foundation in the US, taking place for the much needed saving restoration work to be carried out. 

The Cathedral, which is in use as a parish church, is the Cathedral Church of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Clonfert and is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Kilaloe and Limerick. Dr. Edward Darling.

On Tuesday September 14th. 1999, Saint Brendan's Cathedral in Clonfert, Co. Galway was officially listed on the World Monuments Watch 2000 millennium listing as one of the top one hundred of the World's Most Endangered Monuments.

Read  about the ceremonies in Clonfert to commemorate this very special event on the final of our 4 pages on Clonfert. Our other pages look at the lovely little cathedral of Saint Brendan and also at the Bishop's Palace and the Yew Walk.

If anybody reading these pages ever gets the chance to come here and visit this most beautiful of ancient Irish churches with its doorway from over 8 centuries ago yet opening into the new millennium, please leave a donation towards the restoration work. Or if anyone is interested in donating towards the Foundation please contact Reverend Wayne Carney by email.

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the Rest of the Journey

For those who have just joined me on this page why not go to the beginning of our travels and see some of the places in The Start of Our Journey through the West of Ireland.

My Place Amongst the Stones gives the history of my company name, Moytura - a celtic heritage going back thousands of years.

We journey to my own parish of Lackagh - a small village just 12 miles from Galway with a mighty big history. Learn all about the Battle of Knockdoe - one of Ireland's bloodiest of conflicts in the 16th century.

We then move on to take a quick jaunt around Galway City;  and to the heart of Connemara - with its wild and wonderful beauty.

Visit Ireland's finest early monastic heritage centre in Clonmacnoise, County Offaly.

From there we journey south into County Clare and see The Burren - a place that has lain undisturbed since the Ice-age and of immense botanical, ecological and archaeological importance.

Come with me on my 'Famine Journey' which starts in Westport, and moves to Sligo, my Dad's County and the departure port for many of the 'Coffin Ships'. This part of my journey ends in Grosse-Île on a tiny island east of Quebec City.

On this page you will learn some of the history of our Famine Refugees and find the final resting place of over 6,000 of my country folk who died within sight of their first freedom in over 300 years. This is where many of the Irish roots in North America started.

Our Journey moves on to other places on that visit to Canada where we see Quebec City and some of Ontario's lovely places and then to two of Canada's famous Catholic Shrines - Saint Anne de Beaupré and to Cap-de-la-Madeleine.

Finally, join me on my pilgrimage to a peaceful haven in a war-torn country in Medugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovinia. The other areas of my Web site can be found in the drop-down box below.

If you are interested in Irish history or anything to do with Ireland why not visit our new additions where you will find a large selection of genuine Irish goods as well as Irish reading, music & viewing material!:

Moytura's Irish StoreMoytura's Irish BookshopMoytura's Irish Music Store, and Moytura's Irish Video Store

I have added links pages of other places related to the places we visit, links to leisure activities in Ireland i.e. golf, fishing, horse riding, sailing in Ireland, festivals, entertainment etc. and some of my friends' home pages.

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For those of you who are interested in tracing you family ancestry these pages might help, just hit the banners to go directly to each site or check out our Trace Your Ancestry pages first where you can  see some of the vast numbers of data base lists and try out an on-line search for yourself.

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Celtic Women International is a young and vibrant organisation founded by Jean Bills, a woman with Irish roots living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is now in growth phase and expanding membership throughout the whole world for ANYONE (yes, even the guys!) with Celtic roots. It's purpose is to honour, celebrate and promote our Celtic Heritage. In the near future we hope to be a resource for all things Celtic with databases of other Celtic Organisations, Support Bodies, Music & the Arts etc. Membership, for only $25!!, incorporates a quarterly newsletter with the finest of articles related all things Celtic.

Our annual conference brings together some of the best advocates of Celtic Traditions as well as musicians and artists representing the recognised Celtic Nations of Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man, Brittany and Galicia and Asturia in Spain. 2002 sees the conference on the move and will be held in New Orleans, 2003 in Toronto, 2004 in Pheonix and 2005 in GALWAY, IRELAND! Please help us to grow this wonderful organisation by joining us as a member. All are very welcome and your presence can only enrich us. Learn all about us at:

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Moytura Graphic Design has expanded enormously since it's humble beginnings just a few years ago and has taken a new business venture which can be operated from home on a full or part-time basis. You can learn about this work-from-home opportunity here.


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Contact Mary Mullins, Moytura Graphic Design, Cregmore, Claregalway, Co. Galway, Ireland. Ph: +353 91 798407
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