Developments in Modern Times, Mayo Abbey in Co. Mayo

In 1991, during a nation wide survey of National monuments conducted by the Office of Public Works (S.M.R. Survey), the monastic site at Mayo Abbey came to public attention.

Director of the SMR. for County Mayo, archaeologist Michael Gibbons, surveyed the site and adjoining earthworks.

Traces of two Norman farm stead settlements were discovered beside the monastery cashel wall. Subsequently, an area of 11.44 hectares was put under the protection of the Office of Public Works.

Because of it's size, state of preservation and it's place in the evolution of the early Christian Church in the British Isles, the area around Mayo Abbey village is considered by many experts to be one of the most important unexplored archaeological sites in Ireland being similar in size and importance to Armagh, Clonmacnoise and Glendalough.

In the late 1980's the people of Mayo Abbey came together and formed Mayo Abbey Community Council. Initially work to enhance the area was undertaken using FAS community employment schemes and voluntary input from local people. The Community Council also started to research the history of the parish.

In 1994, some members of the Council participated in a Community Development course organised by South Mayo LEADER Company. As part of this course, a group of people travelled to Lindisfarne and Whitby, and a second group travelled to Iona.

As a result of contacts made, a very successful International Seminar, The "Mayo of the Saxons" International Workshop, was held in February 1995, with speakers present from Northumberland and Iona, as well as from Ireland.

Following the workshop interchange has continued between Mayo Abbey, Iona and North Eastern England. A second conference, Mayo of the Saxons '96 is now planned for April 10th and 11th. 1996.

The Community Council has formed a development company, Mayo Abbey Parish Community Development Co Ltd, to further develop the resources present in the area.

The company has successfully applied for a Community response FAS scheme which commenced work in May 1995.

This scheme, under the title of the Mayo Abbey Heritage Project, is presently carrying out an archaeological survey of the monastic site and all monuments within the area which are related to it. The scheme is also researching the history and folklore of the area.

A multi purpose resource centre was opened in 2000 with facilities including offices, function room with bar, heritage room and childcare services named after Bishop Patrick O'Healy of Mayo who was the first Irish bishop to die for the faith. He was executed in 1579.

A new parochial house was built in 2001: the old Famine Church was re-roofed in 2001: and ongoing local improvements are being carried out through a Community Employment Scheme. A heritage exhibition will open in the Bishop Patrick O'Healy centre in the summer 2003.

St. Colman's church is one of the few remaining pre-famine church buildings in County Mayo, and as such is of good architectural value particularly as 1995 commemorated the 150th anniversary of the famine.

The church is at present being renovated as and when funds allow, up to now new stained glass windows have been added and the building has also been re roofed.

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