Medieval Artifacts Reveal Rushen Abbey's Royal and Religious Significance

A decade-long excavation at Rushen Abbey on the Isle of Man uncovered 120,000 medieval artifacts, shedding light on the abbey's significance as a royal mausoleum and wealthy Cistercian monastery. The finds include a lead cross, continental ceramics, and rare medieval glass vessels, dating back to the 5th century or earlier.

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Medieval Artifacts Reveal Rushen Abbey's Royal and Religious Significance

Medieval Artifacts Reveal Rushen Abbey's Royal and Religious Significance

A remarkable decade-long excavation at Rushen Abbey on the Isle of Man has uncovered an astonishing trove of 120,000 medieval artifacts, shedding new light on the abbey's significance as a royal mausoleum and one of the wealthier Cistercian monasteries of its time. The dig, led by archaeologist Peter Davey between 1998 and 2008, has yielded a fascinating array of finds spanning the high medieval period, early medieval era, and post-dissolution years.

Why this matters: The discovery of these medieval artifacts provides a unique window into the cultural, religious, and royal landscape of medieval times, offering insights into the lives of people and the significance of Rushen Abbey beyond its local context. This excavation's findings have the potential to reshape our understanding ofmedieval history and its ongoing impact on modern society.

Among the most notable discoveries is a lead cross found in a context predating the earliest early medieval burial, suggesting it could be one of the oldest artifacts of Christianity in the region, possibly dating back to the 5th century or earlier. The excavation also uncovered a fine range of continental ceramic imports, including high-quality jugs, plates, and altar vessels, as well as unusual and rare medieval glass vessels, one of which was used for urology.

The sheer quantity and quality of the medieval finds reveal that although Rushen Abbey had the smallest precinct known in the Cistercian world, it was one of the richer examples. As archaeologist Peter Davey explains, "It acted as a royal mausoleum in the manner of Westminster Abbey in England." This underscores the abbey's importance not just as a religious center but also as a place of royal significance.

Founded in 1134 as a Cistercian monastery, Rushen Abbey was once the most important religious institution on the Isle of Man, a self-governing island situated between Great Britain and Ireland. The abbey was dissolved in 1540 during the reign of Henry VIII. Scientific dating techniques have shown that the site has been a place of Christian burials for a thousand years, from 400 to 1400 AD.

The excavation also yielded two Portuguese ceramic drinking cups, which have only been found at one other location in the British Isles, further highlighting the abbey's far-reaching connections and influence. The wealth of artifacts discovered at Rushen Abbey provides invaluable insights into the religious, cultural, and royal landscape of medieval times, cementing the abbey's place as a site of immense historical significance.

Key Takeaways

  • 120,000 medieval artifacts uncovered at Rushen Abbey on the Isle of Man.
  • Finds date back to 5th century, shedding light on medieval history and royal significance.
  • Rushen Abbey was a royal mausoleum and one of the wealthier Cistercian monasteries.
  • Artifacts include lead cross, continental ceramics, rare medieval glass vessels, and Portuguese cups.
  • Excavation provides unique insights into medieval culture, religion, and royal landscape.