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Archaeologists search for ancient lost monastery built by Irish monk on Holy Island

The church on Holy Island. (Picture: WikiCommons)
The church on Holy Island. (Picture: WikiCommons)

A TEAM of archaeologists are seeking help from the public for a historic dig this year to find the ruins of a 7th century English monastery established by an Irish monk.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland near the Scottish border, is the site of the Irish monk Saint Aidan’s monastery, which he established in the year 635AD.

But despite several attempts to locate the ruins over the centuries, they have never been found.

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And the archaeology team are welcoming members of the public to help out with the dig.

The monastery ruins are believed to be hidden under the current ancient village – and the team of archaeologists hope to find it when the dig commences in June.

“Despite all the documentary evidence we have for the Angle-Saxon monastery, we actually know very little about what it looked like or even its precise boundaries,” Durham University lecturer and project leader Professor David Petts told The Irish Post.

The crowdfunded project, a joint initiative between Professor Petts’ team and Dig Venture, an organisation that champions sustainable archaeology, offers members of the public a chance to be involved in the dig.

“Those who donate to the project will be able to actually come and dig alongside us using all the latest digital recording approaches,” he said.

This summer’s archaeological dig will not be the first on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – but the team are hopeful that this year’s will be the most comprehensive yet and shine light on the elusive monastery ruins.

The monastery, set up by Saint Aidan and King Oswald of Northumbria, is largely credited with reintroducing Christianity to the Northern English region.

But the monastery, which was raided by Vikings more than a century after it was founded, has yet to be found.

“Some of the early Victorian work was pretty crude and largely unpublished. Other work in the 1990s was good but did not focus on the probable site of the monastery,” Professor Pett added.

“We are the first major project to explore the island for a generation.”

The team will arrive on the island in mid-June and spend two weeks searching for Saint Aidan’s monastery.

To donate to the crowdfunding effort, click here.


James Mulhall

James Mulhall is a reporter with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @JamzMulhall

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