The Saint Brendan Heritage Committee is a voluntary not-for-profit community group based in Fenit, County Kerry in Ireland. Our mission is to promote Saint Brendan the Navigator and his birthplace, Fenit, as well as other local places in North Kerry associated with Kerry’s seafaring patron saint.
Brendan’s travel adventures across the Atlantic were written down in monasteries across Europe, making him one of the best-known saints in the early Middle Ages. It is believed that Brendan reached America 500 years before the Vikings and 1000 years before Christopher Columbus.
Brendan was born in 484 AD, at a time when early Christianity and ancient Pagan beliefs existed side by side. He grew up in a seafaring community at the edge of the known world. Brendan is unique because many places associated with him exist to this day and can be visited and experienced.
In and around Tralee Bay we find Fenit Island, where Brendan was born, his place of fosterage in Listrim, his place of baptism at the ancient site of Tobar na Molt, his place of ordination by Bishop Erc in Lerrig, and Ardfert Cathedral, one of his major monastic foundations. Along with the Heritage Park in Fenit, these places form the Slí Bhreanainn (the Brendan Way), researched and established by Brendan’s greatest champion, the late Father Gearóid Ó Donnchadha.
Under his direction, our heritage group was founded in the year 2000 and together, we embarkedon a journey to honour St Brendan and keep his spirit alive in the local community. Our greatest achievement to date is the erection of a magnificent 12 foot Bronze statue on the summit of Samphire Island at the entrance of Fenit harbour. The statue is by renowned sculptor Tighe Ó Donoghue/Ross of Glenflesk, while the boat shaped plinth was constructed by local stonemasons Tom and Eugene Farrelly. In 2004, the statue was unveiled and soon thereafter a Heritage Park and the Brendan Way Heritage Trail opened for the enjoyment of local people and visitors alike. In recent years, two wonderful stained glass windows depicting St Brendan were crafted by Tighe Ó Donoghue/Ross and can be seen when visiting Fenit church.
As a heritage group, we want to spread knowledge about St Brendan through this website, publications and events. Fr. Gearóid wrote St Brendan of Kerry, the Navigator. His Life and Voyage, a keystone publication and our heritage group has produced several information leaflets and maps. In spring 2023, we unveiled a new bi-lingual information panel at the terminus of the new Tralee to Fenit Greenway. We are proud to have received a community grant from the Heritage Council of Ireland in April 2023, which will allow us to develop a free digital heritage trail and story map in conjunction with heritage education provider Abarta Heritage. We hope to launch the new heritage trail in August 2023 as part of National Heritage Week.
We have been participating in National Heritage Week for more than ten years and have organised a wide range of family and special interest events, from guided walks and talks, storytelling and arts and crafts events for children to archaeology and history lectures. An annual webinar on Brendan is delivered to primary schools in collaboration with the Education Support Centre Tralee and Kerry County Museum. As a heritage group we have initiated and participated in project with local schools, festivals and events, such as the St Brendan International Conference in 2013.
Saint Brendan’s feast day is on the 16 May and we commemorate this day with special events such as Mass on Oileán tSeannaigh, a nearby island containing an early medieval monastery founded by Brendan’s contemporary St Sennan, as well as a blessing of the statue and all seafarers.
We are always looking for new members and partners, wherever you are in the world. If you would like to become involved please message us on our Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – all are welcome!