|Mermaid with comb and mirror, Clonfert Cathedral, Ireland|
At Clonfert Cathedral in County Galway, Ireland, you'll find a mermaid carved into the stone of the chancel arch. Dating from an addition made in the 15th century, she's holding a mirror and a comb in her hands.
|Chancel arch, Clonfert Cathedral, Ireland|
The cathedral dates from around 1180, but it's built on an older church from the 6th century, founded by St. Brendan the Navigator, an Irish monk who sailed with a crew of 14 monks in a currach. Brendan and his crew may have sailed to North Africa, and some think he may have even reached North America.
There are many fantastical accounts from Brendan's voyage, including this one detailing an encounter with a siren or mermaid:
"When all this was over at last, they resumed their journey and once more got into great difficulties, because they saw a beast coming towards them with a human body and face, but from the waist downwards it was fish. It is called a siren, a very lovely creature with a beautiful human shape; it sings so well and its voice is so sweet that whoever hears it cannot resist sleep and does not know what he is doing. When this sea monster approached them, the shipmen fell asleep and let the ship drift: the monks too forgot themselves completely because of its voice and did not know where they were," The Voyage of St Brendan.