Light shines on St. Mel's Cathedral windows

Almost one year on from the day they were removed from Longford, two Harry Clarke Studio windows are set to make their way back home.

Almost one year on from the day they were removed from Longford, two Harry Clarke Studio windows are set to make their way back home.

Skilled craftsmen at Abbey Stained Glass Studios in Dublin, have been working throughout the past 12 months on restoring the windows to their former glory.

"They were very badly damaged and buckled after the fire," Ken Ryan, of Abbey Stained Glass Studios told the Leader. "Our craftsmen had to go down and take them down very gingerly and get them back to Dublin in similar weather to what we're having at the moment," he added, speaking during the recent arctic conditions.

"They have been painstakingly taken apart and we have, as you know from before, all the rubbings and tracings. We put them together and carried out all the repairs - they're very intricate as you can see from the photos.

"It has taken us a year and the Harry Clarke Studio windows are now complete. We're still working on other windows in the cathedral, but they were the most urgent ones to be dealt with," he added.

Working with not only the tracings, but also very detailed photographs taken in 1997, they were able to recreate the windows exactly as they were.

"A lot of those coloured antique glasses have to be fired in the kiln up to four times. Then there's acid etching involved in some of the glasses. The technical, artistic work is just quite incredible with them. "They are the best stained glass windows in Longford, and most probably in the diocese," said Ken.

The windows were restored under the direction of the studio's directors, Gareth O'Grady and Willie Malone, the artist Brendan Mullins, as well as craftsmen and lead glaziers.

"The Christ and Majesty window - the one that's on Dublin side transept - that had suffered a fair amount of damage and our artist, Brendan Mullins, with the help of the rubbings and photographs, was able to recreate the missing pieces," he said.

The windows are divided up in to seven sections or panels, which allows them to be moved to together and when installed the artwork should flow naturally.

Each of the windows fit into two crates will be held in storage by the diocese until they're ready to be re-fitted by the craftsmen at Abbey Stained Glass Studios.

"We take great pride in the work and we're delighted to have been entrusted with this prestigious contract by Bishop Colm O'Reilly. We have been carrying out for the past 25-30 years most of the restoration work for most of the Harry Clarke stained glass windows throughout Ireland.

"If they didn't get us in at the time, and had boarded up the windows, any minor vibration would have been enough to bring the windows crashing down in the condition that they were in at the time.

"We would take pride in the fact that we were in a position to restore them," Ken added.

Other windows that were completely destroyed in the fire can also be restored by the studio as they have the tracings/rubbings and photos for those as well.

The Blessed Virgins and Child Jesus window ... The Harry Clarke Studios stained glass first made in 1932, was restored and repaired at Abbey Stained Glass Studios, Dublin after the Christmas Day fire last year.

Przemyslaw Nawrotkiewicz and John Power, Stained Glass craftsmen; Father Tom Healy Adm; Ken Ryan, Abbey Stained Glass Studios. Photo: Joe McDonagh.

The Christ in Majesty window ... The Harry Clarke Studios stained glass first made in 1932, was restored and repaired at Abbey Stained Glass Studios, Dublin after the Christmas Day fire last year.