Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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An interesting take from the St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association.

The Cathedral itself is a Neo-Classical structure begun in 1840 by Bishop William O’Higgins. The inspiration for the design by Joseph B. Keane was said to be the Madeleine Church in Paris, the Pantheon and St. John Lateran – although he executed a similar design for St. Mary’s in Clonmel.

The cathedral is cruciform consisting of a nave, two transcripts, two aisles and a spacious sanctuary. The nave contains 24 large columns local limestone and windows by the noted Harry Clarke. The original high altar was of French marble. The erection of this building cost £60,000 which was a vast sum to collect during a time of evictions, persecutions and famine.

The completion of St. Mel’s was deferred for ten years due to the effects of the famine. The roof and tower were completed under Dr. Kilduff who succeeded Dr. O’Higgins in 1853. Bishop Kilduff blessed the Cathedral on 24th September, 1856.

Longford Cathedral ‘Before’

Under Bishop Woodlock, most noted for his contribution to the cause of the Catholic University, further additions were made and the Solemn Consecration took place on the 19th May, 1893, the fifth-third anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone. The belfrey was completed in 1860 after a design of John Bourke. The portico in 1893 to the design of the great George Ashlin.

Longford Cathedral ‘After’

An Taisce, the Irish Heritage Trust, described it thus: “……… St. Mel’s Cathedral, begun to the design of Joseph Keane in 1840. While the portico lacks the sophistication of Keane’s great Dominican Pope’s Quay Church in Cork, the interior, by contrast, is now regarded as noblest of all Irish Classical church interiors. It is designed in the style of an early Christian basilica, with noble Grecian Ionic columns and a curved apse. It also shares the remarkable distinction of being the only major Catholic Church in Ireland to have actually been improved by internal reordering, when the fussy later altar was removed and replaced by a simple modem table altar, which accords harmoniously with the early Christian style of the interior. The tower and portico give a striking approach to the town from Dublin.”

Longford Sanctuary ‘Before’

In the 1970s, the noted Cathedral wreckovator, Cathal Cardinal Daly, to whose credit Belfast and some of Armagh Cathedrals’ present state can also be put, was Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. The high altar and stalls were removed, leaving the Sanctuary without any clear focus, the present altar being too small to make any visual impact. The insertion of a tapestry to add impact to the ‘President’s Chair’ where the high altar and tabernacle once stood, is singularly ineffective.

Longford Sanctuary ‘After’

The words of Desmond, Cardinal Connell, who was Archbishop of Dublin at the time, during an interview with The Sunday Business Post, published on 4th March, 2001. Asked whether he had any plans to build a cathedral in Dublin. (At present, the Anglican Church of Ireland has two cathedrals in the capital – Christ Church, the diocesan cathedral, and St Patrick’s, the national cathedral. The Catholic Church has only a `pro-cathedral’) reresponded: ‘None whatsoever. If I had the wealth of Croesus itself, I would not build a cathedral because liturgy and architecture at the moment are in such confusion that anything that would be built at this stage would be rejected in a very short time.’

The restoration of St. Mel’s is greatly to be hoped for, both a physical and a moral restoration, an Irish Church rising from the ashes.

Bishop Colm O’Reilly, one of only a handful of Irish Bishops to have celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass publicly in recent years, has promised that St. Mel’s will be restored but Bishop O’Reilly is 75 on 11th January, 2010. By that time, there will be three vacant Sees in Ireland (six, depending on your point of view). The question is whether the restoration of Longford Cathedral will be in the hands of another ‘Godfather of Irish Sanctuaries’ or a Bishop after the Holy Father’s own heart. Only time will tell. Qualis Pastor, talis Parochia.

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