Searchers recover 200 artefacts from St Mel's Cathedral after fire

 

MORE THAN 200 objects have been recovered from the ruins ofSt Mel’s Cathedral in Longford which was almost entirely destroyed in a fire on Christmas morning.

The two finest examples of stained glass windows by Harry Clark Studios can be repaired and the windows in the cathedral can be copied, the bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Dr Colm O’Reilly told a meeting at the weekend of the Longford Association in London.

Among the artefacts that were feared lost in the fire but are recoverable include the Shrine of St Caillinn of Fenagh, a 16th century ornamental book, and part of the 9th century crozier of St Mel’s, the most valuable relic which had been housed in the diocesan museum at the back of the cathedral.

The objects that have been recovered have been sent for restoration to the National Museum.

In a speech to mark St Mel’s Day, which is February 7th, Dr O’Reilly said he was pleased to be able to say that many artefacts had been saved from the fire.

Among the other objects which have been recovered are an early iron hand-bell from Wheery, Co Offaly, and a 13th-century crozier made at Limoges in France.

The bishop thanked the director of the National Museum, Dr Pat Wallace, for his support in helping to recover the artefacts from the fire. The National Museum is developing a conservation strategy for the objects recovered.

“All have suffered fire damage and it is not yet clear how they will appear after conservation,” he said.

However, the diocesan museum’s collection of vestments, penal crosses, altar vessels of pewter and silver and paper works were all lost in the fire.

He told members of the Longford Association that the distinctive portico and campanile of the Cathedral were still extant and the mains walls remain sound. A temporary roof will be constructed to save the building from further rain damage.

Dr O’Reilly said the diocese had not undertaken a fundraising campaign because it hoped to be able to make an insurance claim, but all voluntary donations were being put in a reserve fund which will be used for the enhancement work in the cathedral.

No final estimate for the damage has been completed, but the bishop admitted that an initial estimate of €2 million was a “gross underestimation”.