May 16, 2013

Happy St. Brendan's Day!

The church at Clonfert, St. Brendan's image.
Photo copyright,  Cindy Thomson, 2013
When we were in Ireland last month my husband and I made a trip to Clonfert, the site where St. Brendan set up his monastery. It's not so easy to get to, but I'm so glad we figured it out. This site turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The church, the Cathedral of Clonfert, is part of the Church of Ireland. The cathedral was not open when were there, but truly the doorway is the most magnificent draw. From Wikipedia: The earliest part of the church dates back to around 1180. Its doorway is the crowning achievement of Hiberno-Romanesque style. It is in six orders, and has an amazing variety of motifs, animal heads, foliage, human heads etc. Above the doorway is a pointed hood enclosing triangles alternating with bizarre human heads, and below this is an arcade enclosing more human heads.

Just amazing. What do you think?

Clonfert Cathedral, Photo copyright, Cindy Thomson, 2013

Closeup of Confert Cathedral doorway, photo copyright, Cindy Thomson, 2013
 Even though we couldn't go inside, I saw this stained glass window through another window, and the sun was brilliantly backlighting it. The trees behind me were reflected in the plain glass window, and gave this photograph an eerie appearance.

Stained glass of Clonfert Cathedral, photo copyright, Cindy Thomson, 2013

This, of course, was not St. Brendan's church, just the site where he established his in the 6th century. He is one of my favorite Irish saints because of his adventurous tale. If you're not familiar with it, there are several sites where you can read the original, like here.  I've blogged about his journey many times, here and here and here.

It was a little startling, however, to find St. Brendan's resting place looking so...modern day?
St. Brendan's gravesite, photo copyright Cindy Thomson, 2013

Just for grins, go to Google maps, satellite  and look up Clonfert Cathedral, County Galway. You'll see how remote it is, surrounded by bogland. So many of the holy sites are located on hilltops with impressive views, but this site is special as well. I could feel it. And don't miss the forested walk (along with St. Brendan's tree) right next door. Very special!

Photo copyright, Cindy Thomson, 2013

Photo copyright, Cindy Thomson, 2013


  1. Oh, this was one of my fave stops too. There was a funeral that day, and we had to linger before we could enter the church.

  2. The monastery must be breathtaking!!! I love Medieval architecture and Irish culture, so it is a perfect combo. I do not know much about St. Brendan though, who was he?

    1. Thanks for reading. Here's a post with more info on St. Brendan: