St Brendan ‘the Navigator’ was born at Tralee Co Kerry and baptised at nearby Tubrid near Ardfert by St Erc. He was educated by St Ita and St Erc ordained him priest in 512. After his ordination he started monasteries at Ardfert and at Shanakeel at the foot of Mount Brandon. The places he visited up the Western islands of Ireland,in Scotland and Brittany are simply too many to number. Surely he must count as on of the most amazing persons in the early history of Ireland.
When once on the top of Mount Brandon he was filled with the urge to set sail to find Paradise/ the land of promise in the Western ocean. Sixty monks went with him, traditionally leaving from Brandon Creek. In what purports to be an account of his adventures the Voyage of St Brendan became the bestseller of the Middle Ages.
Ardfert became home of a great cathedral; monasteries grew at Gallerus, Kilmalchedor, and Brandon Hill on the Dingle peninsula and also on the Blasket Islands. Another major foundation was that of Clonfert in Co Galway.
St Brendan also founded a monastery at Annaghdown Co Galway and a convent for his sister Briga and another monastery on Coney Island. He travelled to Wales and Scotland. He planted a church on the island of Inishglora Co Mayo. He was buried at another foundation, that of Clonfert Co Galway.
Clonfert became one of the great schools of learning in Ireland. At one time it was said to have 3000 pupils. It survived till the 16 century. The front of the Cathedral is a masterpiece of Romanesque carving.