An archaeology of female monasticism in medieval Ireland

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Collins, Tracy E.
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University College Cork
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This thesis considers the archaeological evidence for female monasticism in medieval Ireland, with a particular emphasis on the later medieval period. Female monasticism has been considered from an archaeological perspective in several countries, most notably Britain, but has yet to be considered in any detail in Ireland. The study aims to bring together all the currently available evidence on female monasticism and consider it through an engendered archaeological approach. The data gathering for this research has been deliberately wide, and where gaps have been identified in the Irish evidence, comparative material from elsewhere has been considered. Nunneries should not be expected to conform to what has become the male monastic template of a claustrally-planned monastery. The research conducted shows a distinct and varied archaeology and architecture for medieval nunneries in Ireland which suggests that a claustral plan was not considered an essential part of a nunnery scheme. Nunneries provided an enclosed environment where women, for a variety of motives could become brides of Christ. Through the performance and celebration of the daily Divine Office, the Mass and seasonal liturgy, spaces used by the nunnery community were negotiated and transformed into a sacred Paradise on earth. However, rather than being isolated in the landscape nunneries in later medieval Ireland were located either within or close to walled towns, larger unenclosed settlements and settlement clusters and would have been well known throughout their hinterlands. This research concludes that nunneries were an intrinsic part of the medieval monastic landscape in Ireland and an essential component of patrons’ portfolios of patronage, at a particularly local level, and where they interacted closely with their local community.
Archaeology , Female monasticism , Monasticism , Nunneries , Medieval , Early medieval , Later medieval , Nuns
Collins, T. E. 2016. An archaeology of female monasticism in medieval Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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