An archaeological survey commissioned by Cork County Council’s Historic Monuments Advisory Committee (HMAC) and carried out by archaeologist Cathryn Power and consultant archaeologist Eamonn Cotter has revealed a stunning link to the Knights Hospitaller – A 13th century order of Christian Knights.
The Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Order of Hospitallers or simply Hospitallers, were attached to a hospital in Jerusalem that was founded by Blessed Gerard around 1023 out of which two major Orders of Chivalry evolved, the Order of the Knights of St. Lazarus and the Order of the Knights of St. John, later to be known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The Hospitallers arose around the work of an Amalfitan hospital located at the Muristan site in Jerusalem, founded around 1023 to provide care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land.
After the Western Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the organisation became a religious and military order under its own charter, and was charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land.
Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the Order operated from Rhodes, over which it was sovereign, and later from Malta where it administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily.
Excavations of Mourneabbey have uncovered the remains of what could be a preceptory of the order, buried beneath a 13th century church. Document sources have placed the site to have been active with the group from 1212.
“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.
The survey of the upstanding church was one of a number commissioned by Cork County Council’s Historic Monuments Advisory Committee (HMAC) since 2000.