Meath monastery discovery is ‘significant’ find

Meath monastery discovery is ‘significant’ find John McCullen at the excavations of a 13th-century monastic site on his farm at Beamore, Co Meath. The excavations are being funded by FBD. Photograph: Alan Betson

The discovery of an ancient monastic site just outside Drogheda is “significant” as it offers an insight into how religious lived at the time.

Dom Richard Purcell, abbot of Mount Melleray Abbey, told this newspaper that the 13th–Century Cistercian settlement which is currently under excavation in Meath’s Beamore “tells us more about the life of the monks back four, or five or six hundred years ago”.

With the discovery of French pottery and architecture, it is understood that those who founded the monastery kept strong links with their mother house in France.

“It would appear they were sending back produce to France from Ireland, so exporting stuff that distance either through England or around the UK was a lot of work. It’s interesting,” Fr Purcell said, adding that historians don’t know “an awful” lot about how the monks ran the monastery.

“The interesting thing about it is the connections with France, so relatively late in Ireland for the Church. The original French connections were all in the first half of the 12th Century…now you’re looking at something 200 years later where monks are coming from France again to Ireland, and we don’t know why.”

It has been reported that archaeologists Matthew and Geraldine Stout, who are leading the excavations, said what has been discovered at the site is “quite exceptional and very possibly unique to Ireland”.