Journalists, local and national, were given a rare opportunity to view the interior of St. Mel’s Cathedral on Sunday to observe the progress that has been made to date, and while the activity has appeared quiet on the outside, workers have been busy preparing the inside for its eventual rebuild.
What’s immediately evident is how bare, and pared back it looks. While time has been spent putting together the design team, work in recent months on the inside has been about securing the structure and clearing out the debris and rubble in order to give constructors a base to start from.
The sanctuary, installed in the 1970s, is now bare apart from a few stark reminders of its former glory. The pulpit is the only structure that largely remains in tact, while the altar itself, the bishop’s chair are in ruin.
Just two of the five statues that stood behind the altar in the apse remain – the Blessed Mary and, perhaps fittingly, St. Mel.
The only part of the nave (central section) that remains is the aisle, which is supported by steel girders, stone-built columns and scaffolding.
The columns, one of the dominant features of the cathedral, are all encased in safety netting to stop falling stone, while the less stronger ones are harnessed by steel girdle.
Scaffolding also surrounds the columns as it was felt necessary to take away all of the force from the roof structure off the columns.
“Where you see the steel structure, that column is not doing any work at all. The steel is taking all of the weight.
“You could actually take out those columns to repair them without any impact on the structure above,” said Niall Meagher, Interactive Project Managers, who are overseeing the work.
“We have left the scaffolding in place following the enabling works and that’s to allow access and will allow us to now start the investigation as to how best to repair the cathedral, and in particular the structural columns.”
A temporary roof was installed last summer, which firstly allowed the interior to be protected from the elements, but also to install a new roof when the time comes.
“The temporary roof has been erected at a level that we can actually put the original roof back in place whilst leaving that roof in position. It’s like a protection for the workforce so we can put the new roof on under that temporary roof,” Mr Meagher added.