Hotel Brandan in Tórshavn is named after Saint Brendan (484 - 577), who was an Irish monk and the first named person to reach the Faroe Islands. St. Brendan, known as St. Brendan the Navigator, was an adventurer and he braved the high seas to explore islands and mainlands. In his logs St. Brendan recorded his journey to the Faroe Islands describing how he sailed from island to island and walked in the mountains. His descriptions of the beautiful landscape are captivating. Like St. Brendan most of Hotel Brandan’s guests are adventurers who have left the beaten track to explore the unique and fascinating Faroe Islands.
Saint Brendan lived during the glorious period of Ireland’s history when the country was christened and more than any other nation took up the mantle of sending priests to both far-flung archipelagos and the mainland to christen the locals.
Saint Brendan, Latinised as Brendanus, was born in the year 484 and passed away in 577. He studied all the learned disciplines of the day: mathematics, astronomy and navigation. He is best known for his voyages from 545 onwards, when he along with fellow monks set out in skin boats to find the ‘Promised Land of the Saints’ to the West, who St. Brendan had been told about by a fellow monk named Barinthus.
The chronicle of his voyages was first preserved orally, but later written down as a travelogue. The oldest known account is the Latin epic Navigatio Sancti Brendani (“Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot”). Though, over time, successive monks have added their own touches to his life story, there is no doubt among historians that the core of the account is true and that St. Brendan did make two journeys across the Atlantic.
On one of his crossings the southerly winds led St. Brendan to the Faroe Islands. The name Brandansvík, Bay of Brendan, may be an indication that he made landfall in Kirkjubøur. Several Faroese villages named their churches after him and there is a very old tradition of celebrating his feast day, May 16.
St. Brendan and his followers met Christian hermits in the Faroe Islands and enjoyed their hospitality on ‘Sheep Island’ and in ‘Bird Paradise’. In 1976 Irish historian Tim Severin wanted to prove that St. Brendan as early as the 6th century had crossed the Atlantic in an open skin boat and reached America in the year 450, before Leif Eriksson the Lucky and 1000 years earlier than Christopher Columbus.
Faroese visual artist Tróndur Patursson joined him on the crossing. The two were both convinced that St. Brendan stopped in the Faroe Islands on his way. And after braving the Atlantic for 50 days and 3,500 nautical miles, they made landfall in Newfoundland.
Several branches of science have confirmed the ties connecting Ireland and the Faroe Islands. Historical sources tell us of Irish recluse monks settling in the Faroe Islands, their reliability is supported by Irish place names in difficult steep terrains in the Faroe Islands. Moreover, gene studies have demonstrated that around half of the Faroese population is of Irish or British origin.