Media viewing and press conference at the restored Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford  

16 Dec 2014

You or a representative, are invited to a viewing and a press conference ahead of the reopening of the restored Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.  Details:

Date:                           Friday 19 December 2014

Time:                          11.00am

Venue:                        Media are invited to assemble in the Civic Room of Saint Joseph’s Temperance Hall, which is located  across the road from Saint Mel’s.  Thereafter a viewing of the restored Cathedral will be followed by a press conference in the new Octagonal Room.

In attendance:            Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois; Bishop Emeritus Colm O’Reilly; Father Tom Healy, administrator; Mr Seamus Butler, MCC (chair of the Cathedral Project Committee); Mr Niall Meagher (Project Manager and architect); Colm Redmond – Lead Architect, Fitzgerald, Kavanagh and Partners.

Notes to Editors

On the morning of Christmas Day 2009, a fire at Saint Mel’s Cathedral destroyed the interior of the building, most of its furnishings and fittings, and the roof.  While the fire was burning Bishop Colm O’Reilly, who was bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise at the time, immediately announced plans to restore the Cathedral.  In the days following the fire, people locally, nationally, and from abroad, offered support including the then President of Ireland Mary McAleese, and her husband Martin, who gave a personal gift of a stained glass image of Saint Patrick ordaining Saint Mel so that it could be placed in the newly restored Cathedral.  Among the material damaged by the fire were the contents of the Diocesan Museum, located at the rear of the Cathedral.  Assembled in the 1930s and ’40s by the late Father Michael Kearney, President of Saint Mel’s College, the collection was moved to the Cathedral in 1974.  The collection included almost 500 items and ranked among the finest ecclesiastical museums in the country, containing a varied collection of ecclesiastical material as well as objects of archaeological, historical and ethnographical interest.  It included a number of objects of national importance, including the ninth-century Crozier of Saint Mel, patron of the diocese, which was found at Ardagh, Co Longford in the nineteenth century.  Of equal importance was the Shrine of Saint Caillinn of Fenagh, Co Leitrim – a book shrine dated to 1536 and associated with Brian O’Rourke, Lord of Breifne – along with the twelfth-century Clog na Rígh – ‘bell of the kings’ – also associated with Saint Caillinn.  Of particular local interest were a number of ceremonial keys and trowels used in commemorating the foundations of the Cathedral and other parish churches in the diocese.  It seemed at first that the entire contents of the museum had perished in the fire.  Among the objects recovered were the Shrine of Saint Caillinn which is largely intact and a portion of the Crozier of Saint Mel the patron saint of the diocese.  Among the other objects found were an early iron hand-bell from Wheery, Co Offaly and a thirteenth-century crozier made at Limoges in France.  Regrettably, the collection of vestments, penal crosses, altar vessels of pewter and silver, and works in paper were lost.  In all over 200 objects were recovered and these have been removed to a stable environment at the National Museum of Ireland for safekeeping in order that their condition could be assessed.  The diocese is working closely with the National Museum to develop a conservation strategy for the objects recovered.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444