From 2009-2012 the IAFS provided both students and logistical support to excavations at the site of Bective Abbey, the oldest Cistercian foundation in Co. Meath and the second oldest Cistercian foundation in Ireland. Located in the townland of Bective, c. 6k from Trim, the excavations of Bective Abbey were directed by Geraldine Stout and Dr. Matthew Stout (Dublin City University).
Bective Abbey or ‘Beatitude Dei’, meaning the ‘blessedness of God’ was founded in 1147, as a daughter house to Mellifont Abbey, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The abbey was dissolved in 1536 during the suppression of the monasteries; at the time of the dissolution the estate contained c.1,580 acres. The Abbey ruins were vested to the Board of Public Works in 1894.
Excavations at the site revealed farming methods practiced by this monastic order, who are long credited for significant agricultural innovation in Ireland. Evidence for a medieval barn proved that the abbey acted as the agricultural centre for the surrounding (1,800 ha) farm. The excavations were published in book form in 2016, which includes accounts of: the Abbey’s history and architecture; detailed plans and original reconstructions; and 13 specialists reports, including on a large monastic faunal assemblage that provides fascinating insights on Cistercian diet.
The IAFS’ role on the project was to provide all logistical support including accommodation, welfare facilities, equipment, transport, Irish staffing etc. for each field season. The IAFS also provided the excavation with international students, who undertook the digging.
Geraldine Stout, G and Stout, M. The Bective Abbey Project: Archaeological Excavation 2009-2012. Wordwell Press. Dublin