Saint Brendan's green voyage: sustainable insights from a medieval Irish legend.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


The Celtic Otherworld overlay clearly influenced the Navigatio, or Voyage of Saint Brendan, with a spiritual terrain superimposed on the physical. This is most apparent when certain islands sync to the liturgical calendar. Some of the Navigatio's locations have clear links to real world places, others are entirely imaginary, and others combine aspects of multiple places. Nevertheless, the Navigatio's powerful geographical verisimilitude indicates a strong fascination with the natural world. Several episodes promote restraint toward drinkable water. A positive attitude toward nature accompanies this ethic of restraint, as other episodes depict animals participating in the worship of God. This picture is complicated, though, by monsters that attack Brendan's boat. Other creatures protect the monks, but the attacks reveal the violent and hostile side of nature. Nevertheless, the Navigatio ultimately affirms the goodness of creation.