Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Ireland
Acrylics on a stretched canvas, 20″ by 30″
Varnished and unframed

This iconic building was accidentally burnt down in 2009 only to be completely rebuilt and reopened just FIVE years later. A feelgood story that is a testimony to the resilience of the people of Longford.

Just after 5 am on 25 December 2009 a fire began at the back of the building.[5][6] Freezing weather disrupted attempts by firefighters to put out the blaze as their pipes were frozen solid,[1] causing the fire to go on for several hours. At one point flames were reported jumping 18 m into the air.[3] According to Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O’Reilly, who had celebrated Midnight Mass in the building hours before the fire began, St Mel’s Cathedral was completely destroyed by the fire,[7] describing the cathedral as “just a shell” and “burned out from end to end”.[7] However, there were rescue efforts underway to try to save the steeple before it too was destroyed.[5] As a result of the fire, Longford parishioners held their Christmas Day masses in the local Temperance Hall.[5]

Initial investigations into the cause of the blaze were hampered by the precarious state of the building; the Gardaí conducted house-to-house inquiries in what a spokesman described as a “routine inquiry”.[7][8]

The estimated cost of the damage to the cathedral was €10 million. Bishop O’Reilly committed to rebuilding it.[9] St Mel’s Crosier, a relic dating from over a thousand years ago, was destroyed in the fire.[10]

Gardaí began investigating the cathedral on 6 January 2010.[10] They determined two days later that it had not been arson.[11] Mass moved from the Temperance Hall to the sports hall and chapel of St Mel’s College while the cathedral was being restored.[12]

Bishop O’Reilly issued a letter to his 41 parishes: “I am now writing the kind of letter that I never dreamt I would need to write. I must do so, since I wear a ring that Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich placed on my finger as a reminder that for my time as Bishop I am bound to the Diocesan family in a bond that, like marriage, is for good times and bad. I write this letter to acknowledge that we must stay together in this time of sorrow and bewilderment. I also write to bring some solace to the many who are quite truly heart-broken.”[13]

Restoration[edit]
On 18 September 2011 the cathedral ruins were opened to the public for the first time since the devastating Christmas Day fire, with thousands of people showing up to view the cathedral.[14][15] The cause of the inferno was accidental.[16]

In 2012 Fine Gael TD James Bannon asked Bishop Colm O’Reilly to reconsider selecting an Italian organ maker to rebuild the organ in the Cathedral.[17]

A new altar was consecrated in March 2014, the cathedral re-opened on Christmas Eve 2014.[18] The restoration project cost €30 million.[19] Among the features of the restored cathedral are a Carrara marble altar sculpted by Tom Glendon, a silver tabernacle created by Imogen Stuart and Vicki Donovan, a pipe organ, consisting of 2,307 pipes, built by Fratelli Ruffatti, and stained glass windows designed Kim en Joong, a Dominican priest.[19]

 

Price: 150.00