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.
It was divided into the three distinct, but interrelated modules, with output from each including conference papers and publications:
‘The Twelfth Century Transformation’ module focused on the transformation of landscapes from the old to the new monasticism during the 12th century through an exploration of topographical and textual studies. Fieldwork was carried out in Ferns, Co. Wexford and Kilmacduagh, Co. Galway in 2015.
‘The Spread of the ‘new orders’ and their interface with local politics and social provision’ module examined the landscape context of mendicant foundations as well as the internal spaces and landscape of the liturgy connected with the mendicant orders between the 13th and 16th centuries. Fieldwork was carried out in Kilcrea, Co. Cork in 2015.
‘The Dissolution: Survival and destruction, the fate of monastic houses, 1540-1740’ phase of the project sought to assess the impact of the Acts of Suppression on the monastic foundations in Ireland and their lands, exploring the geographical disparity in survival and repurpose of the religious houses, while also analysing patronage, wealth and religious affiliation through in-depth examination of surviving inventories. Fieldwork was carried out in Moyne, Co. Mayo in 2015.
In addition to these three modules, research was carried out with a specific focus on Digital History, the placement of the Monastic Ireland project within the sphere of Digital Humanities, and potential opportunities and obstacles within the discipline.