A RARE link between North Cork and an order of 13th century Christian knights has been revealed following a Cork County Council archaeological survey of Mourneabbey near Mallow.
Excavations at the site of a 13th century church uncovered the remains of a headquarters or preceptory of the Knights Hospitaller, of whom little other evidence exists in Ireland today.
The findings of the survey mean that the site of the church remains at Mourneabbey is of great historical significance and it has already been included on the tourist route of the Avondhu Blackwater Group.
Cork County Council Archaeologist Cathryn Power and consultant archaeologist Eamonn Cotter revealed their findings to Mallow Field Club and Mourneabbey Community Council at a talk held at the site on Tuesday, June 21.
"This national monument is very important in a worldwide context; it is one of the few remaining Knights Hospitallers sites in Ireland," said Ms Power.
During excavation and restoration works, Mr Cotter found a decorated grave slab which has been identified as a Hospitaller tombstone dating to the early 16th century.
Mr Cotter also excavated fragments of medieval decorated floor tiles within the church.
Documentary sources indicate the preceptory at Mourneabbey was in existance by 1212.
Substantial remains of of the church survive, including the ruins of claustral buildings, all within portions of what was once an enclosing wall which had two towers.
The survey of the upstanding church was one of a number commissioned by Cork County Council's Historic Monuments Advisory Committee (HMAC) since 2000.
The aim of the surveys is to identify all historical graveyards in an effort to highlight areas of potential loss.
In order to prevent the degradation of features of historical, architectural, archaeological, artistic and cultural importance, the HMAC prioritised sites which were in need of remedial conservation works, which included the medieval site at Mourneabbey.
Other medieval structures previously identified in the area are now believed to be linked to the site and Ms Power and Mr Cotter have proposed to study these as a whole for the first time as a case study of a medieval urban settlement.
Approximately one kilometre away from the Mourneabbey church site there is the Castle Barret medieval ring work castle and hall.
At nearby Ballynamona there is the corporate borough of Mora also dated to the 13th century.
It is understood that the 18th century Church of Ireland in the area was built on the site of its medieval counterpart.
Along with these historical monuments, documentary sources state that Mora was granted a market in 1252, a murage grant in 1317 and later in 1324 there was a reference to burgesses.
In the 13th and 14th centuries Mora was the baronial centre of the Cogan lordship which was the most extensive lordship in the county.
This cluster of medieval remains at Mourneabbey and Ballynamona constitute the classic medieval urban settlement of castle, town, parish church and monastery.
It is likely therefore that these remains would be fruitful in a broad historical, landscape and archaeological study which would examine the relationship between castle, town and monastic site.