Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Treasures saved from cathedral fire

The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Dr Colm O'Reilly told Massgoers many historical items had been recovered from cathedral fire

More than 200 historic items have been recovered from a cathedral destroyed in a Christmas Day fire.

St Mel's Cathedral in Longford was completely gutted after a blaze tore through the building just a few hours after Midnight Mass had been celebrated.

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Colm O'Reilly said the items saved from the ruins - many the contents of the Diocesan Museum - are being restored by the National Museum of Ireland.

"It seemed at first that the entire contents of the museum had perished in the fire," he told Massgoers. "Thanks to the efforts of a team from the National Museum of Ireland who have been working at the site for the last few weeks a significant number of objects have survived and have been recovered. All have suffered fire damage and it is not yet clear how they will appear after conservation."

The collection was assembled in the 1930s and 1940s by the late Fr Michael Kearney, President of St Mel's College, and moved to the cathedral in 1974.

It included almost 500 items and ranked among the finest ecclesiastical museums in the country.

Among the objects of national importance was the ninth-century Crozier of St Mel, patron of the diocese, which was found at Ardagh, Co Longford, in the nineteenth century.

Also housed there was the Shrine of St Caillinn of Fenagh, Co Leitrim - a book shrine dated to 1536 and associated with Brian O'Rourke, Lord of Breifne.

"Around 200 historic objects have been recovered and these have now been removed to a stable environment at the National Museum of Ireland for safekeeping while their condition is currently being assessed," added Bishop O'Reilly.

"The National Museum is working closely with the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois to develop a conservation strategy for the objects recovered."

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