The St Mel’s Cathedral Project committee is hoping for work to begin on the structural aspects of the Cathedral restoration by the end of August, as plans for the new interior were lodged this week.
A structural contractor is expected to be appointed this week, with work to begin as soon as An Bord Pleanála rule on an appeal lodged against the granting of permission for works relating to the new roof and sub-floor.
As it stands, work has not been delayed on-site by the appeal lodged last April but Chairman of the St Mel’s Cathedral Project Committee Seamus Butler has said that if the decision from An Bord Pleanála is pushed out until late in the year, the project will ultimately be delayed.
This week, in a major step, St Mel’s Diocesan Trust applied to Longford Town Council for planning permission to redevelop the interior of the Cathedral, including a major redesign of the sanctuary area, as well as for the fitting of windows and the cleaning of external stonework.
The most striking aspect of this application includes plans for the redesign of the altar area, including relocating the tabernacle (where the Eucharist is held) to behind the altar. The baptismal font will now be relocated to the central aisle.
“The idea is that as people enter the Cathedral, the baptismal font will welcome them and lead them in the direction of the altar,” Mr Butler told the Leader.
Mr Butler said the re-arranged altar was in keeping with changes in the Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council. “The re-ordering of the whole altar area is something that was always likely to happen, even if the fire hadn’t occurred. The altar will now extend into the nave, bringing the laity closer.”
The new organ, which is currently under construction in Italy, will also be located in the east transept and will be suspended between arches, if permission is granted. In another change from the previous layout, the choir are set to be located on a tiered choir stall located in the east aisle, near the altar.
Seating numbers will also be slightly reduced due to the changes. Prior to the Christmas Day fire in 2009, the Cathedral sat 1,100, with this number set to fall to just over 900.
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