Cathedral rebuild creates 100 jobs
IT stands stripped of the sculptures and decorative metalwork that once adorned its interior and steel scaffolding supports its imposing limestone pillars.
But a 19th Century cathedral is now set to rise again from the ashes of a devastating fire that almost destroyed the iconic building nearly three years ago.
St Mel's Cathedral in Longford -- opened in 1856 -- was gutted by a fire in the early hours of Christmas Day in 2009. A €30m project will restore the iconic building to its former glory and prepare it for its first Mass on Christmas Eve 2014.
The restoration will see the creation of over 100 jobs.
Still a shell-like structure, plans for its rebuilding were unveiled yesterday in what was described as the most significant cathedral restoration project in western Europe.
As contract documents were signed with an Irish consortium, Bishop Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise said it was a "huge milestone on the journey back to restoration".
Bishop O'Reilly said that the history of the great building had seen moments of night and dawn, and that the contract signing was "definitely a moment of dawn".
A consortium of firms from Galway and Longford, GemPurcell, has been awarded the contract for the restoration.
It will undergo extensive repairs including the replacement of 26 limestone columns and pilasters, repairing external stonework around windows and replacing internal plaster up to ceiling level.
The project will also include a new training project for trainee stonemasons in lime plastering, ecclesiastical decoration, stone fixing, brass and metalwork.
Chairman of the restoration committee Seamus Butler said the renovation work presented a great opportunity for the development of a training facility in the county.