Le voyage de saint Brendan

  • Old French
  • verse
(fl. 12th century)
Anglo-Norman poet and author of a versified adaptation of the Navigatio sancti Brendani, which he dedicated to Aaliz, identifiable with Henry I’s second wife Adeliza of Louvain (or according to another MS, to Mahalt la reine, who is identifiable with Henry’s first wife, Edith Matilda).

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A =
London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian B x
ff. 1r–11r
1834 lines. Provenance: cathedral priory of Durham. Foll. by a opy of the Navigatio (ff. 11v-21).
B =
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. fr. 4503
ff. 19v–42r
169 lines are wanting, two added.
C =
Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson D 913
f. 85r
Fragment of a single folo: lines 1-310. This version is the only one to contain a dedication to D[ame] Mahalt la reine.
D =
York, Minster Library, MS XVI.K.12
ff. 23r–36r
12 lines missing, 9 new ones added.
E =
Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, MS 3516
ff. 96rc–100vd
Revised, modernised version of 1757 lines.
F =
Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, MS 17
Fragment: lines 792-889, 1165-1181 and 1184-1202. Not used by Waters.
  • Old French
Origin: ass. with Adeliza of LouvainAdeliza of Louvain
Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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In most MSS, including the earliest representatives, the text is dedicated to Aaliz, who is commonly identified with Queen Adeliza, whom Henry I married in 1121. On the assumption that the text was presented to her at the beginning of their marriage, as the prologue suggests, the text is generally in or shortly after 1121. MS C, a fragment, is the only one to contain a dedication to D. Mahalt la reine (Henry’s first wife, Queen Maud) instead.
verse (primary)
Textual relationships
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.

Navigatio sancti Brendani (Valle Crucis version)Navigatio sancti Brendani (Valle Crucis version)

A distinct version of the Navigatio sancti Brendani, preserved in a manuscript which belonged to the Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis (Denbighshire) and known since Plummer’s edition as Vita secunda sancti Brendani, although it is not a Vita. It is closely related to the Anglo-Norman poem Le voyage de saint Brendan by Benedeit and was probably a translation from Old French, whether based on Benedeit’s poem or perhaps an earlier Old French text.

Vita metrica sancti BrendaniVita metrica sancti Brendani

A Latin poem (312 stanzas) on the voyage of St Brendan of Clonfert, translated or adapted from Benedeit's Old French poem on the subject. It is dedicated to Pope Alexander III and on stylistic grounds, its authorship is attributed to Walter of Châtillon. BHL 1445.



Brénainn of Clonfert
Brénainn of Clonfert
(d. 577)
Brénainn (Brenden; Brendan) mac Findloga, early Connacht saint, patron of Clonfert, and legendary voyager

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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.] [tr.] Short, Ian, and Brian Merrilees, Le voyage de Saint Brendan: édition bilingue, Champion classiques, Moyen âge, 19, Paris: H. Champion, 2006.
[ed.] Short, Ian, and Brian Merrilees, Benedeit, The Anglo-Norman Voyage of St Brendan, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1979.
[ed.] Waters, E. G. R., The Anglo-Norman voyage of St Brendan by Benedeit: a poem of the early twelfth century, Oxford, 1928.
Gallica – Reprint: <link> Gallica: View in Mirador
[dipl. ed.] Suchier, Hermann, “Brandans Seefahrt: Anglonormannischer Text der Handschrift Cotton Vesp. B X”, Romanische Studien 1 (1875): 553–588.
[tr.] Mackley, J. S., The legend of St Brendan: a comparative study of the Latin and Anglo-Norman versions, The Northern World, 39, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2008.
[tr.] Burgess, Glyn S., “The Anglo-Norman version”, in: W. R. J. Barron, and Glyn S. Burgess (eds), The voyage of Saint Brendan: representative versions of the legend in English translation, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2002. 65–102; 345–347 (notes).

Secondary sources (select)

An extensive and detailed bibliography is out of scope.
Brun, Laurent, ARLIMA: archives de littérature du moyen age, 2005–present. URL: <https://www.arlima.net/index.html>.
Wollin, Carsten, “The Navigatio sancti Brendani and two of its twelfth-century palimpsests: The Brendan poems by Benedeit and Walter of Châtillon”, in: Clara Strijbosch, and Glyn S. Burgess (eds), The Brendan legend. Texts and versions, 24, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006. 281–313.
Burgess, Glyn S., “The use of animals in Benedeit’s version of the Brendan legend”, in: Clara Strijbosch, and Glyn S. Burgess (eds), The Brendan legend. Texts and versions, 24, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006. 11–34.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter V: The monastic churches: II. The churches of the sixth to ninth centuries; general treatises”, 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. 372–485.
415–416 [id. 203. ‘NB2’]
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
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May 2020, last updated: June 2023