Discoveries at a Templar abbey in Ireland

Ireland, Mourne Abbey
Mourne Abbey in County Cork, Ireland, has been the focus of an archaeological excavation to discover more about the history of this medieval religious center.

The abbey was built around 1199 by the Knights Templar. After the rulers of Europe turned on the Templars and destroyed the order in 1307, resulting in 700 years of conspiracy theories, the abbey was handed over to the Knights Hospitaller. This knightly order got its name because its original purpose was to care for sick pilgrims in Jerusalem after the First Crusade, but soon they acquired more land and more power to become one of the leading forces in the Holy Land and Europe. They owned some of the toughest castles in the world.

Their power waned after the Muslims reconquered the Holy Land but the order still exists today. The abbey was abandoned when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries as part of his break from Rome in 1541. It has since fallen into picturesque ruin.

Now a team of archaeologists has excavated the site and discovered remains from the Hospitaller’s stay in the abbey. The team uncovered the foundations of a 13th century preceptory, the local headquarters for the knights. Very few remains of the Knights Hospitaller have ever been found in Ireland. The archaeologists discovered decorated floor tiles, the tomb of a 16th century knight, and several artifacts.

The abbey is open to the public and there’s a medieval castle and town an easy walk away. For more images of this historic abbey, click here.

[Photo courtesy John Armagh]

More flight cancellations in Ireland and Scotland

Those hoping that yesterday’s closure of airports in Ireland and parts of Scotland would only be a one-day affair were disappointed when the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull came back with renewed strength.

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, and numerous smaller airports have closed, and the Civil Aviation Authority says northern England may also be affected. Officials added that airports further south, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, will probably escape for now.

Airplanes are not only forbidden to fly through thick concentrations of volcanic ash, but must also stay more than 60 nautical miles (69 terrestrial miles) away from them.

Officials say the ash will be thickest over Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and western Scotland all of today.

The last time Eyjafjallajökull erupted was 1821, when it ejected clouds of ash on and off for more than a year.