Archaeology  Research York

Early Christian Irish Monasteries
Survey Project

Project Member(s):

  • Harold Mytum
  • Project Dates: 1997 - ongoing
  • Funding Bodies: University of York


Most research on Early Christian monasteries in Ireland has concentrated on the upstanding stone architecture and sculpture. This focus on the ritual core of the monastery has tended to limit the ranmge of evidence available for assessing the wider cultural and economic role of monasteries in society. The purpose of this long-term project is to examine the topograhic setting of monasteries, and also consider their layout inclkuding the size and nature of the outer enclosures frequently associated with the ritual core. Monasteries of various sizes and degrees of importance have been selected, and surface and geophysical survey has been carried out.

  • What physical components make up an Early Christian monastery in Ireland?
  • What functions did monasteries serve?
  • Can the largest monasteries be termed urban?

Large scale survey has taken place over a number of years and completed at Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly, Monasterboice, Co. Louth, and Devenish, Co. Fermanagh. Current survey is continuing work in the Lough Erne basin in Co. Fermanagh, where there is a high concentration of monastic sites.

The results from Clonmacnoise have been published in H Mytum 2003 'Surface and geophysical survey at Clonmacnoise: defining the extent of intensive monastic settlement'. In H. King (ed.) Clonmacnoise Studies 2, 35-58. Dublin, Duchás.

In Summer 2005 further geophysical and topographic survey wil be undertaken to complete fieldwork at Aghalurcher and commence extensive survey at Galloon, both in Co. Fermanagh.

Resistivity survey at Devenish