Monday 23 October 2017

Historic cross comes in from the cold

Claire O'Brien

ONE hundred years after the last service in a rural church, a community yesterday filled the pews once again to hear how their famous high cross had come in from the cold.

Now, thanks to the Office of Public Works (OPW), Durrow's High Cross -- carved over 1,100 years ago from a single piece of stone -- is inside, instead of outside, St Columba's church at Durrow Abbey in Offaly.

Only four crumbling walls remained of the 200-year-old church when the OPW launched its conservation plan in 2005. The roof had fallen in and the unique box-pews and altar were rotting.

Ana Dolan, the OPW's senior conservation architect, said the floor and foundations were first restored, then the stunning cross was transported in by crane and covered for safety while the walls and roof were restored.

With under-floor heating and a new window in the roof, the cross is protected and shown to advantage in natural light, where Ms Dolan said she expected it to survive for another 1,000 years.

"These crosses are Ireland's major contribution to art," she said, pointing out how the colour of the cross has lightened now that it's dry.

Josephine Costello (79), who was born and bred in Durrow, is thrilled that she can visit it again.

"In the latter end, we couldn't go near it because it was too dangerous," said the pensioner, who decades ago with her friends would "span the cross" with their arms to see who would be married next.

She is already looking forward to June 9, when St Columcille's feast day can now be celebrated in style.

Irish Independent

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