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Gateway to Ireland's Medieval Past

Visitors travelling through the Irish landscape often come upon the country’s uniquely rich medieval monastic remains. This is part of a shared European history as these houses were founded by international orders – Augustinians, Benedictines, Carmelites, Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans and other orders. Monasteries and friaries are in many Irish towns often standing on the site of a medieval gateway or close to a river, medieval route way or castle. Magnificent buildings dominate rural landscapes, some deliberately located in isolated places, others marking the location of medieval settlements that did not flourish. The artistic and architectural skills of master craftsmen and masons can be seen in fine stonework, in exceptional carvings and in the remnants of wall paintings. Tombs depicting a panoply of medieval saints – Catherine with her wheel, Peter with his keys, Patrick the bishop and Dominic the preacher – remind us of the patrons who endowed these houses, the great Irish and Anglo-Norman families (Barrys, Fitzgeralds, O’Donnells, O’Conors and many more). But these houses were not primarily the meeting places of lords and craftsmen. They housed communities of friars and monks who prayed at the same time as they played a part in the economic, political and social life of their environs. Their stories and those of their foundations are a gateway to the medieval history of Ireland.

muiredach cross

The aim of the Monastic Ireland project is to assemble accurate and comprehensive information relating to the history, landscape and material culture of Irish monastic houses c. 1100–1700, presented online through
The Monastic Ireland project offers a gateway to:
THE VISITOR is led through a summary of a site’s history and given a guided tour centred on an interactive plan of the foundation. The tour provides a gallery of images and explanatory texts on the site’s architectural remains of the foundation.
THE RESEARCHER will be provided with a comprehensive listing of sources and, where available, links to information from medieval and early modern sources, a database of images, and where applicable information on previous archaeological work at specific sites.
THE STUDENT and their teachers will be offered resources that can be used by primary and secondary schools, undergraduates and local history communities. This will provide an important outreach aspect to the Monastic Ireland project.
Visit to learn more about Ireland's fascinating medieval monastic past!

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Monastic Ireland Publications

The Kings of Dublin and Leinster before and after the Battle of Clontarf
Dr Edel Bhreathnach
Medieval Dublin XVI, Proceedings of Clontarf 1014–2014: national conference marking the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf (Seán Duffy, editor)
Four Courts Press
 Dr Keith SmithThe Inventory of the Franciscan Friary of Kinalehan (1698)
 Dr Annejulie LafayeLe Franciscans en Irlande: Architecure et Espaces Internes

About Monastic Ireland

Originally commenced as a collaborative research project between the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute for the Study of Irish History and Civilisation, University College Dublin, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and the Discovery Programme, Monastic Ireland received funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Fáilte Ireland and a Seed Funding grant from UCD. Then in 2013, the project was awarded a major research grant under the Irish Research Council’s Advanced Research Project Grant Initiative, which came to completion in August 2016. Since then, the project has focused on the development of the project website, publications and continued research with Dr Edel Bhreathnach leading the team of Drs Keith Smith and Annejulie Lafaye, while continuing the collaboration with Dr Malgorzata D’Aughton of UCC.

The primary focus from March 2014 to August 2016 had been on Monastic Ireland: Landscape and Settlement, the Irish Research Council funded phase of the project. This multidisciplinary project was an examination of the impact of rural and urban monastic settlement in Ireland between 1000-1700, through a combination of traditional historical and archaeological research and analysis with cutting edge geophysical surveying.

Company Reg. No.: 243328 (Dublin, Ireland) A Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Office 6 Mount Street Lower, Dublin, D02 T670 Ireland. Reg. Charity No.: CHY 12549.