Monasterboice high crosses may be moved to visitor centre

 

THE internationally-famous high crosses at Monasterboice, Co Louth, may be moved indoors to protect them from erosion by weather and pollution.

Some erosion is already visible, including a crack in one of the most important crosses.

A conservation study on the monastic site, just outside Drogheda, says there are between 70,000 and 100,000 visitors to it each year and the tour guides work on a voluntary basis.

Monasterboice is best known for its round tower and high crosses. The crosses contain figure sculptures and particularly significant is Muiredach’s Cross, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest monuments of its kind in the Republic. However, it has a crack at least one foot long which cuts through one of the panels depicting the Apostles.

Locals who have kept the site open to the public for many years are now being asked for their opinions on a conservation study which was carried out by archaeological company Margaret Gowen Ltd and commissioned by the Office of Public Works, the Department of the Environment and Louth County Council.

The council says the study claims “the crosses are being eroded by the weather and atmospheric pollution, as well as being at risk from vandalism, and that this exposure will cause severe damage to a globally-important monument if allowed to continue”.

One of the suggestions for the preservation of the crosses includes building a visitor centre “to house the crosses in a safe, controlled environment and to replace them on site with exact replicas”, the council says.

The council confirmed while the site is visited by “70,000 visitors a year,there is no official visitor service or centre”.

The site was founded by Saint Buite in about AD500. Also on the site is a round tower, damaged by a fire in 1098, and two ruined churches. It is also on Ireland’s tentative list of proposed World Heritage Sites. Geophysical studies in 2007 showed the full extent of the site of the ancient monastic settlement is much greater than the small graveyard enclosure that stands there today.

Comments on the conservation study can be made up until April 30th to the monuments service at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.