Sunday, January 10, 2010

Via Niamh Whitfield:

Sad news from Ireland.

In the small hours of Christmas Day morning St Mel's Cathedral, Longford (one of the first Catholic cathedrals to be built in Ireland after Catholic Emancipation), was engulfed by a terrible fire, which destroyed not only the neo-classical cathedral itself, but also the Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Diocesan Museum at the back of the cathedral.

The museum housed the 10th-century St Mel's Crozier; the 16th-century book-shrine of St Caillin; the Bell of Fenagh (perhaps originally a chalice/cup dating to the 12th century); an iron bell from Wheery, Co Offaly; an Irish Romanesque crucifix figure from Longford; and a Limoges crozier head (one of only two such finds from Ireland). It also housed a host of other things, including papel bullae, 'penal' crosses, and some good prehistoric bronzes and lithics. There is very little hope of any of these objects surviving intact. Also lost are the Harry Clarke windows within the cathedral.

In a recent email to colleagues, Cormac Bourke commented that this was the closest thing in Ireland to a cathedral treasury on Continental lines and its loss is second only to that of the Dublin Public Records Office in 1922. It is a catastrophe.

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