Oratio sancti Brendani‘The prayer of St Brendan’

  • Latin
  • prose
  • extent: more or less complete

Medieval Latin litany or lorica, with a preface which attributes its composition to Brendan, abbot of Clonfert. It is preserved in manuscripts from the 11th century onward. Its date of composition is unknown.

Ascribed to: Brénainn of ClonfertBrénainn of Clonfert
(d. 577)
Brénainn mac Findloga
Brénainn (Brenden; Brendan) mac Findloga, early Connacht saint, patron of Clonfert, and legendary voyager
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14th century
  • Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Conv. soppr. I.2.37
    ff. 72r–92vheading: ‘Incipit oratio sancti Brandani’beginning: ‘Sanctus Brandanus fecit istam orationem de uerbo domini per Michaelem angelum quando transfretauit vii maria’
    Preface and prayer, which here precede the Navigatio. First part of the 14th cent.
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 2483 E
    ff. 54r–63r
  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 1802
    ff. 13r–16r
  • Pavia, Biblioteca Universitaria, MS Aldini 378
    ff. 102r–116r
  • London, British Library, MS Harley 1260
    ff. 214r–229r
  • Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Ross. 32
    ff. 1v–21v
  • Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Sessoriano 127
    ff. 81v–112r
  • St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 321
    ff. 101r–104r
14th/15th cent.
  • Urbana, University of Illinois, MS 66
  • Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, MS C.l.m.ae 192
    f. 86r
    Fragment. 14th/15th cent.
  • London, British Library, MS Royal 7 D xxvi
    ff. 6r–16r
    Abridged recension. 14th or 14th/15th cent.
  • Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Arch. Cap. S. Pietro E.14
    ff. 169r–170r
    Preface and prayer, in two abridged recensions. Preceded by prayers to Mary John and others. 14th/15th cent.
15th cent. (and up)
  • Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 275
    ff. 59r–68vbeginning: ‘Sanctus Brandanus Dei servus fecit istam orationem de verbo Dei per Michaelem archangelum in medio maris’
    Preface and prayer, which here follow the Navigatio. 15th cent.
  • Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS II.II.125
    ff. 37v–49r
    olim Magl. Cl. XXIII num. 23.
  • Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS D 158 inf
    ff. 37v–38r
    Fragment. 15th cent.
  • Prague, Národní knihovna České republiky, MS XII.D.10
    f. 119v
  • Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS 2217 ff. 102-115
    ff. 107v–115r
    The Navigatio is found in a 14th-century section, on ff. 84v-101r.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS 9
    ff. 103r–122r
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C 699
    ff. 162v–179v
    15th cent.
  • London, British Library, MS Additional 37787
    ff. 165r–169r
    Abridged. Early 15th cent.?
  • Latin
The text is no later than the 11th or 12th century, the date of the earliest manuscript. Peter Salmon suggests that the prayer is related to the main section of the Book of Cerne (Cambridge, University Library, MS Ll. 1. 10), which is usually dated to the 9th century and contains prayers and hymns of earlier date and of English as well as Irish origin. It is not known if the preface, which attributes the prayer to St Brendan and refers to a version of the Navigatio, was originally part of the composition, or indeed, whether or not the Oratio was composed first or inspired by a version of a text referring to Brendan’s voyages, such as the Navigatio.
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
The long list of invocations beginning Libera me, Domine (sicut...), with its many biblical examples of divine intervention, may go back to a version of the Commendatio animae, an early church prayer now known from its inclusion in the Roman Breviary. The popularity of the latter in Ireland is also evident from the hymn Sén Dé donfé for-donté and the epilogue of the Félire Óengusso. In light of the reference to the Navigatio sancti Brendani in the preface of the Oratio, it may be significant that this text contains an episode in which Brendan and his companions encounter a gigantic sea monster and invoke the Lord for protection, repeating Domine, libera nos/servos tuos... and citing the examples of David and Goliath, and Jonah and the whale.(1)n. 1 Some copies add Daniel and the lion.
(Possible) sources: Psalm 90Psalm 90View incoming dataCommendatio animaeCommendatio animaeView incoming data
Related: Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatisNavigatio sancti Brendani abbatis

Latin narrative text about St Brendan (Lat. Brendanus > O.Ir. Bréndan), abbot of Clonfert, and his marvellous voyages across the ocean in search of the Land of Promise. The text enjoyed immense popularity on the Continent, where it was frequently copied and inspired the creation of new texts. BHL 1436-1438.

Hymn of Colmán mac Uí CluasaigHymn of Colmán mac Uí Cluasaig

Early Irish verse hymn ascribed to one Colmán mac Uí Cluasaig, lector in Cork. The first divison (ll. 1-38) is regarded as the original poem, which appears to be an adaptation of a Latin prayer. The next divison (ll. 39-47), itself perhaps of mixed origin, serves as an appendix. The final one, almost certainly a later addition, invokes the chief patron saints of Ireland (Brigit, Patrick and Columba).

Félire ÓengussoFélire Óengusso




Some copies add Daniel and the lion.

Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Salmon, Peter, “Brendanus. Oratio sancti Brandani”, in: Peter Salmon, C. Coebergh, and P. de Puniet (eds), Testimonia orationis Christianae antiquioris, 47, Turnhout: Brepols, 1977. vii–xxxvii, 1–31, 194–196.
1–21 (critical edition), 22–27 (recensio brevis C), 28–31 (recensio brevis D), vii–xxxvii (introduction), 194–196 (index locutionum) Based on the Munich MS (Waulsort Psalter), with variants. Short recensions from Vatican, Chig. C VI 173 are printed separately.
[ed.] Hamman, Adalbert-Gautier (ed.), Patrologia cursus completae, serlies latina [Patrologiae latinae], supplementum, 5 vols, vol. 4, Paris: Garnier, 1967–1971.
cols 2053–2066
[ed.] Lechner, Anton, Mittelalterliche Kirchenfeste und Kalendarien in Bayern, Fribourg: Herdersche Verlagshandlung, 1891.
 : <link>
207–208 Preface and part of the prayer from Munich MS Clm 13067.
[ed.] Moran, Patrick F., Acta sancti Brendani: original Latin documents connected with the life of Saint Brendan, Dublin: William Bernard Kelly, 1872.
Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link>
27–44 Published from the St Gall and Bibliotheca Sessoriana MSS.
[ed.] Nicolson, William, The Irish historical library: pointing at most of the authors and records in print or manuscript, 1st ed., Dublin: Aaron Rhames, 1724.
Internet Archive: <link>, <link>
88–89 Gives the preface from an unspecified copy in the Bodleian.

Secondary sources (select)

Iannello, Fausto, “Tradizioni e funzioni protettivo-apotropaiche di san Brendano di Clonfert in ambito litanico ed eucologico”, Revue des Sciences Religieuses 92:2 (2018).
 : <link>
Borsje, Jacqueline, “Druids, deer and ‘words of power’: coming to terms with evil in Medieval Ireland”, in: Katja Ritari, and Alexandra Bergholm (eds), Approaches to religion and mythology in Celtic studies, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. 122–149.
UvA Digital Academic Repository: <link>
133–134 note 47
Salmon, Peter, C. Coebergh, and P. de Puniet (eds), Testimonia orationis Christianae antiquioris, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, 47, Turnhout: Brepols, 1977.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter VII: Religious literature and ecclesiastical culture”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 622–744.
729 [id. 588.]
Gougaud, Louis, “Études sur les Loricae celtiques et sur les prières qui s’en rapprochent [pt 2]”, Bulletin d’ancienne littérature et d’archéologie chrétienne 2 (1912): 33–41, 101–127.
Gougaud, Louis, “Études sur les Loricae celtiques et sur les prières qui s’en rapprochent [pt 1]”, Bulletin d’ancienne littérature et d’archéologie chrétienne 1 (1911): 265–281.
Wahlund, Carl, Die altfranzösische Prosaübersetzung von Brendans Meerfahrt nach der Pariser Handschrift Nat. Bibl. fr. 1553, Skrifter utgifna af K. Humanistiska Vetenskaps - Samfundet i Upsala, 4.3, Uppsala: Almquist & Wiskells, 1900.
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2020, last updated: November 2022