Historic organ damaged in raid on cathedral


A BREAK-IN at the historic Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford city caused more than €200,000 worth of damage.

Although a small sum of money was taken during the raid, significant damage was caused to the ceiling of the building over the historic Thomas Elliott Organ, according to Garda Sgt Gavin Hegarty of Waterford Garda station.

The burglars broke a pane of glass near the side entrance of the Church of Ireland cathedral. It is unclear if they gained access to the main body of the building through a door from the adjoining ground floor office or through the roof and ultimately, the ceiling itself.

Numerous holes, visible to the eye, were poked or kicked through the ceiling, which is plastered with horsehair and stucco and was designed by 18th-century architect John Roberts. The ceiling below a picturesque loft was attacked.

The organ, due to be used this weekend as an accompaniment to a showing of classic silent movie Phantom of the Opera, was damaged. However, the dean of the cathedral Trevor Lester yesterday said the sold-out screenings would go ahead on Friday and Saturday nights, with Dr Eric Sweeney probably playing on an electronic instrument.

Several of the organ’s pipes were clogged with rubble. It has 25,000 pipes, all of which would need to be removed and cleaned out, said Dean Lester.

“It cost us half-a-million [euros] to build that organ up to what it is,” he added, “and it’s going to cost us half that again to repair all the damage that these mindless thugs have done. It’s horrific; the damage that’s been done.”

He said the ceiling dated back to 1779, “so you don’t put a slab of plaster up and repair it . . . it is specialised work and it’s going to be very, very expensive”.

Christ Church Cathedral, one of the best known and historic buildings in the city, was the location of the marriage between Aoife and Strongbow in 1170. It is considered to be of enormous architectural significance, in addition to its importance to the Church of Ireland.

“This is the first time this has happened in my time,” Dean Lester said. “We never keep money in the building anyway. The maximum sum of money in the cathedral is always about €200. Everything else is taken away.”