Heritage Council Funds Mayo Abbey LiDAR Survey

Mayo Parish Heritage Committee is delighted to announce that it has received support from the Heritage Council to carry out a LiDAR survey of the Early Christian Monastic site at Mayo Abbey and surrounding environs under the Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2023.

Mayo Abbey village today gives little indication of it’s proud heritage and it’s importance as a major centre in the Celtic-Anglo Saxon Christian world in the 7th and 8th century.  A monastery was founded in Maigh Eó (The Plain of the Yew Trees), c. 670AD for a group of Saxon monks by St. Colman, Bishop of Lindisfarne.  The monastery became known as ‘Mayo of the Saxons’. For more than a thousand years it remained the most important centre in the region becoming in turn a diocese, a Norman town and gave it’s name to County Mayo, the third largest county in Ireland.

Aerial photograph of Mayo Abbey village taken in 1994 by the late Gerry Bracken clearly showing the early Christian monastic enclosure and a Norman moated settlement.

Mayo Parish Heritage Committee was formed in 1993 with the aim of researching, preserving and promoting the historical and archaeological Heritage of Mayo Abbey.  It is a subcommittee of Mayo Abbey Parish Community Council.  Over the years the Committee have been responsible for many initiatives including sponsoring a five-year FÁS Community Response scheme, facilitated and supported three departments from NUIG to carry out MA research projects, worked with parish and Diocesan authorities to achieve the protection and preservation of the 1845 St. Colman’s Church (known locally as the Famine Church) and adjacent 19th century School House.  It also organised several conferences, put on an exhibition in the refurbished Famine Church for a number of summers and last year hosted an open weekend for the community and local national schools in the Famine Church as part of Mayo County Council’s Home to Mayo Month.

The Heritage Council has agreed to grant €7,000 to ‘An active local community who are well engaged in heritage to fund a LiDAR Survey and public outreach to inform future work and research.’  LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technique for creating a high resolution, high accuracy topographic model of a landscape.  It allows the identification and mapping of extant archaeological earthworks, even when slight or under tree-cover.  The 2023 Mayo Abbey LiDAR Survey will map the full extent of the Settlement that once existed in Mayo Abbey (reported to have been in excess of 3,500 people at its height), providing data to be made accessible to the public.  On a national level it will help people understand the scale of early medieval monastic towns, in particular those associated with St. Colman who is closely associated with the Columban Church and Colmcille, one of the patron saints of Ireland.

Results of the project will inform the development of a community-driven heritage plan for the monastic site and its environs.  In addition Mayo Parish Heritage Committee will hold two information evenings in the village to enable the local community and general public gain knowledge of past and upcoming research and results and findings of the survey.  The first will be held towards the end of June and the second event will be held in the Famine Church during National Heritage Week 2023 (August 12th – 20th).  The theme for this year’s National Heritage Week is ‘Living Heritage’ and Mayo Parish Heritage Committee plan to present many aspects of Mayo Abbey’s heritage together with the results and findings of the 2023 LiDAR survey.  The survey and the two information evenings will be filmed and published online together with a final report of the survey.  Further information from heritage@mayoabbey.ie

Mayo Parish Heritage Committee gratefully acknowledges the support of the Heritage Council under the Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2023.

Comments about this page

  • Congrats on your grant.
    You have an amazing community.
    Best wishes.
    Gerry Bracken’s image is wonderful.

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe. (12/06/2023)

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