Priceless shrine is stolen from rural church
A priceless 12th-century religious artefact was stolen from a rural church yesterday in broad daylight.
The richly ornate St Manchan's Shrine, containing the bones of St Manchan, was snatched from Boher Church, near Lemanaghan in Co Offaly at about 1.30pm yesterday.
Its whereabouts remain unknown.
Two men were being questioned by detectives in connection with the theft last night after being arrested on the M5.
Gardai described the artefact as being of priceless historical value. It is 2.5ft in length by 2ft in height and made of yew wood and gilt bronze.
Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O'Reilly is said to be disgusted by the theft.
He described the shrine as a priceless masterpiece of Irish Christian art.
Constructed in Clonmacnoise in the 12th Century, St Manchan's Shrine was built to house the bones of St Manchan, a 7th Century saint who founded a monastery in Lemanaghan.
Local parish priest Fr Aidan Ryan said the local community was devastated by the theft.
"As an example of early Christian art it is up there with the Ardagh Chalice," he said.
The community celebrate St Manchan's feast day on January 24 and as the artefact contains some of the bones of St Manchan, it is of huge importance to the parish, he added.
Boher church had been open and there were children preparing for their first holy communion prior to the theft. St Manchan's Shrine was stored in view of CCTV, said Fr Ryan.
"It was very well secured. It was in a closed glass container where it could be seen but not touched," he explained.
Gardai are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity in the vicinity of the church, or who has seen anything unusual on the road between Boher and Shannonbridge.