1990:066 - ST BRENDAN'S CATHEDRAL, Ardfert, Kerry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kerry Site name: ST BRENDAN'S CATHEDRAL, Ardfert

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 20:46 Licence number:

Author: Fionnbarr Moore, Office of Public Works

Site type: Cathedral

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 478576m, N 621451m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.331231, -9.781581

Excavation in advance of conservation continued for 15 weeks between 9 July and 20 October.

Work this year was concentrated in the area of the south transept. The cutting made last year by the north wall of the cathedral was widened by 2m and the excavation of areas opened up in 1989 at the west and elsewhere was completed. No hard evidence for the north wall of the 12th-century cathedral was found but a narrow stone spread on natural boulder clay could be the remnants of such a wall. The pattern of burial as suggested by last year's excavation proved to be consistent throughout the site. A dense concentration of early to late medieval burials in well-defined layers was found in the extended cutting by the north wall and both inside and outside the west doorway. The burial types represented ranged from cist graves to simple inhumations, with a sizeable number having protection for the skull only. The earliest burials were simple inhumations with one example occurring under the paved floor of a cist.

A 3m-wide trench was opened to the east and west of the south transept. Early–late medieval burials were found and there was good overlap of skeletons extending outwards from under the transept walls. The interior of the south transept was fully excavated and the burial record here showed that the south transept was extended into a preexisting cemetery in the 17th century. Both within and on either side of the south transept the burial record also suggested a sequence from early to late medieval, with a wide range of burial types represented. In all, over 800 individual burials have been recorded so far from this excavation.

Within the south transept the lower courses of a wall were exposed which may be the south wall of the 15th-century phase of the building.

The east side chapel of the south transept was found to contain a deep hearth-like pit with a stone filled pit to the south of it, at the level of medieval burial. The hearth-pit was 2m long, 0.37 m deep and 0.85m wide, was rounded at both ends and contained large lumps of charcoal, fragments of iron and cremated bone. A subcircular arrangement of burials of medieval date was also found within this side chapel.

A short section of the 13th-century south aisle wall was uncovered extending westwards from the south transept.

Numerous carved architectural fragments and other pieces of stonework were found dating from the 12th century and from later phases of the buildings within the cathedral complex. Amongst these was a fine sandstone piscina, a decorated baptismal font, two Early Christian cross-slabs, a tall medieval grave slab and three post-medieval statues, all from disturbed or secondary contexts. Roof slates and post-medieval ridge tile fragments were also collected. Among the small finds were a medieval arrowhead, a range of coins from the 11th–19th centuries, including a silver penny of Sitric III of Dublin, from an early burial level and French and English medieval pottery at various medieval levels of burial. A bronze buckle and French token of 15th-century date were found in association with a burial inside the west end of the cathedral.