How Monks, Bees, Kells & Farming Saved Europe

Such a fascinating story.

Supporting monks for example on the Kells Monastic Site –  and other monasteries in Ireland – starting from the 6th century required a lot of farming.

The monks were skilled farmers.

To support for example 100 monks on a site like this – would have required 150 acres for the bread allowance – a pound a day.

The other allowance – a gallon of beer a day for the monks – would have required 350 – 450 acres to support that.

We believe the monks only were allowed to eat at 3 p.m. with this allowance.

This is not even allowing for visitors to the site – Kells was a great centre for the debate of rhetoric and featured several host houses.

Now before getting excited about the beer – this beer was only brewed for 3 days and was the consistancy of soup.

Farming therefore was a huge support system to a monastic site like Kells and would have swamped the outskirts of the town.

Bee keeping was a huge feature – we all know of medieval mead and the legend of how the bees came to Ireland – but honey was an important feature in the medieval story.

We know that there would always be a place called “the Grange” on the outskirts of a monastery which would be the centre of the farm site.

Driving out of Kells – you can see what this possible area was.

Kells also supported an infirmary – at least one or two  –  so the growing of herbs was possibly within the monastery for healing methods.

Most monasteries had fish ponds – but in Kells the monastery was close to the Blackwater River – tributory to the Boyne River – centre of the Boyne Valley Region – more possible that they used a weir system there.

The legend of the Salmon of Knowledge orginated in these parts.

All this medieval technology was exported to Europe in the 6th century during a time period described as the “Dark Ages” – as Rome pulled out.

Monks like Colmcille who created a monastery in Kells around 533 AD – took skills into Europe  – such as the creation of mills to grind flour – the bible – how to make paper – how to farm – systems of governance etc.

For this reason – the Kells Monastic site – along with other monasteries – are on the Tentative List with UNESCO to become world heritage sites – for their early Christian importance on a European wide scale during the Dark Ages.

Lands of Saints and Scholars – the term resonates with Kells and other 6th century monastic sites.



One thought on “How Monks, Bees, Kells & Farming Saved Europe

  1. I really must come and visit the monastic site at Kells… in all this time, I have never yet been! What days are you there, I should really like to meet you too! And arrange my Teltown tour!

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