Important artefacts salvaged from burnt out cathedral
The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise told a meeting of the Longford Association in London at the weekend that more than 200 precious objects have been recovered from the burnt out ruins of St Mel’s Cathedral which was destroyed by a fire on Christmas Day.
In his address marking St Mel’s Day on Sunday, Dr Colm O’Reilly said these salvaged objects had been sent to the National Museum of Ireland for restoration.
Some of the ancient artefacts recovered from the ashes of Longford’s cathedral include part of the 9th century crozier of St Mel, the Shrine of St Caillinn of Fenagh, a 13th century crozier from Limoges in France and an ancient hand-bell.
Describing the catastrophic fire as “forever a dark chapter” in the “wonderful history” of St Mel’s, the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, added, “But St Mel’s will be back”.
It is estimated that restoration of the 19th century cathedral will cost up to €8 (£7) million.
Bishop O’Reilly explained to the assembled guests at the annual Longford Association dinner that the cathedral’s portico and campanile were still in tact and the main walls remained sound. A temporary roof is to be put in place to prevent further rain damage.
He also said, “The two finest stained glass windows by the Harry Clark Studios can be repaired and the windows have been so well copied they can be replaced exactly as they were.”
However, the cathedral museum with holdings of penal crosses, altar vessels, vestments and paper archives were all lost in the fire.
While Bishop O’Reilly said the church had not promoted a fundraising campaign, it had been receiving voluntary donations.
“Many people are not asking will we have enough money to restore the cathedral. I have no doubt that we will eventually,” he said.