Heritage

Heritage Committee

Mayo Abbey Heritage Committee was formed in 1993 with the aim of researching, preserving and promoting the Historical and Archaeological Heritage of Mayo Abbey. The Committee is affiliated to Museums of Mayo and the Tochar Valley Network.

Over the years the Committee have been responsible for various initiatives including:

  • Securing a F.Á.S. Community Response scheme for 5 years, which researched the history of the area and helped them source funding. 
  • Reopened transnational links dating back to the seventh century with Iona (Scotland) and Northumbria (England).
  • Held two international conferences in 1995-96 which brought together archaeologists and historians from universities in Scotland, England and Ireland.
  • Worked with Kilmartin House Museum, Scotland in building a cowhide and hazel-framed Corricle which was sailed to Iona as part of the 1997 ceremonies to commemorate the 1400 Anniversary of the death of Colmcille.
  • The Heritage Committee members were closely involved in the building of Bishop O’ Healy Centre. The committee produced the storyboards, which provide an impressive introduction for visitors to the centre.
  • Worked with Fr. Austin Fergus to ensure the protection and preservation of St. Colmans Church (known as the Famine Church). The structure has been re-roofed, the stain glass windows repaired and restored, replacing of external doors and floodlighting is now in place.
  • Worked to restore the old School House This was made possible by grants from the National Millennium Committee, Mayo County Council and Social and Economical fund.
  • Research of the history of the Mayo Abbey area and the compilation of numerous booklets and flyers on the subject, as well as having produced a video on the history of Mayo Abbey. 
  • Transferring data from historical records onto more manageable and user friendly date storage forms whilst referencing same
  • Held an exhibition of their works and the history of the village.
  • Organizing various speakers and heritage events

Projects have been supported by South West Mayo Leader Co., FAS / DSPCE, County Enterprise Board, Mayo County Council, Dept. of the Environment, National Millennium Committee, Archdiocese of Tuam.

Heritage Committee Members


The present members are, Eddie Barrett, Mary Jo. Barrett, Fr. Austin Fergus. P.P. Jimmy Finn, Ger Maguire, Joseph Ruane, Paddy Gibbons , Martin Flatley, Shane Adams, T.J. Wilson, Martin Dunne.
Previous members included; Joe Brett, Michael Hambly, Christy Dunne, Geraldine Joyce, Isidoe Joyce and Kevin Barton

History of Mayo Abbey

Known throughout the Christian world as ‘Mayo of the Saxons’. Mayo Abbey was already 300 years old when Viking Dublin was founded. Founded by St. Colman of Lindesfarne in c670.

The written heritage of Mayo Abbey begins in 731 when it is mentioned in writing in the “Ecclesiastical History of the English people” by the Venerable Bede of Jarrow.

Alcuin, of York, chief advisor to the Roman Emperor Charlemagne wrote at least two letters of support and praise to Mayo of the Saxons (c780)

Annals of Ulster state that Bishop Aldwulf of Mayo was 6th in seniority at a church council in York in AD 786.
In AD. 1176, Donnell O’Conor, son of Turlough O’Conor, and brother of Rory O’Conor, last High king of Ireland was buried here.
Mayo of the Saxons continued to be in contact with Europe throughout the middle ages. During the 1430’s the bishopric of Mayo is again mentioned in papal records.

Mayo Abbey was under the direct control of the Papacy, not subject to the local secular political rulers.
In 1370 the abbey ‘St Michael, Mayo’ became an Augustinian Abbey. Confirmed by Pope John XXIII in 1411.
Seat of the Diocese of Mayo 1152 to 1631.

As far as we know there were 14 bishops of Mayo. Best known is Patrick O’Healy, first bishop to be executed for the faith in Ireland.

The Vatican archives describe Mayo diocese as ”’the bishopric of Mayo, where there was once a famous university which had seven colleges, two abbeys and other churches besides its cathedral”’.

In the 1578 the village gave its name to the county of Mayo.

As the name implies, St. Colman’s Church was built in the 1840’s and officially opened in 1845. It remained the parish church until 1978, when a new church was officially opened in the village.
The Famine Church is located in the centre of the village and stands on the ruins of a line of churches and monasteries stretching back to the 7th century.

Gallery – Traces of our Past Exhibition 2014

Gallery – Mass in the Old Church 2014

Gallery – Visit by Bishop Tom Williams 2013

Gallery