Archaeology Project

Discovering Saint Aidan’s Monastery - Ferns

In June 2021 the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) will launch a major next archaeological excavation at the site of St Aidan’s Monastery, Ferns, Co. Wexford. The project, established as a partnership between the IAFS, Wexford County Council and the local community, aims to assess one of the most historically significant, but hitherto relatively unassessed, Early Medieval sites in southeast Ireland. The St Aidan’s Monastery project is centred on a major research excavation of both the 7th century monastery and a latter 12th century Augustinian Abbey, which hopes to draw the site into the town of Ferns as a ‘key heritage attraction’, in the process providing added economic and amenity value to the local community.

A Historically Important Site

The site is a multi-period complex, originally founded by St Aidan at the turn of the 7th century, which also contains Early Medieval crosses and cross slabs, a twelfth century Augustinian Abbey (founded by the King of Leinster, Diarmuid McMurrough), and thirteenth century medieval cathedral (Edan’s Cathedral) within its wider confines. However, despite the historical importance of the site, or the occurrence of limited archaeological work there in the recent past, the site does not feature heavily as a heritage attraction; our work is an important step in establishing the monasteries rightful importance to the medieval histories of Co. Wexford in both the Early Medieval and High Medieval periods.

The official launch of the excavation element is in summer 2021. However, considerable progress has been made in 2019 in terms of non-invasive surveys (3D Lidar scanning at the site and Ferns Castle), geophysical assessments (at the possible site of Clone Church) and a community excavation in December 2019 (the latter of which is now being finalised into a publication). Phase 1 of the project was anticipated to run for three excavation seasons, from 2020-2022, but has since been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The first project phase is partly funded by the Ancient Connection initiative, a new cross-border arts and heritage project linking North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford; it is hoped the project will run for many years thereafter.

Date: 2021 – 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections, Wexford County Council and the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS)

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In Partnership with: Ancient Connections, Wexford County Council and the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS)

Project Outputs: Vlog, Blog, Mini-Documentary Videos, Reports, Social Media Outreach, Community Events, Publications, Public Lectures etc.