Museum plan for Cathedral crypt

With St Mel's Cathedral on course to meet its scheduled re-opening date, the diocese has plans to convert the crypt into a museum space. Photo: Tiernan Dolan
Plans have been unveiled for a new diocesan museum at St Mel’s Cathedral, which will be developed after restoration work on the building is completed later this year.

Plans have been unveiled for a new diocesan museum at St Mel’s Cathedral, which will be developed after restoration work on the building is completed later this year.

St Mel’s Diocesan Trust has issued notice that it intends to apply for planning permission - the fifth application to be submitted in connection with the rebuild - relating to the change of use of the Cathedral’s crypt from a storage space to a museum.

“A museum will be a good use of the space,” Fr Tom Healy told the Longford Leader.

“The crypt is very atmospheric, with interesting chambers and arched ceilings. The Cathedral’s original altar table is down there, and two bishops and six priests are buried there. In the past, there was only one way in and out so it wasn’t very accessible, but this will be improved.”

Referring to the old museum which was located to the rear of the main Cathedral structure, Fr Healy said, “we did lose a lot of artefacts in the fire but we managed to save around a quarter of them.

We lost items such as St Mel’s Crozier, vestments, and books, but there are still old chalices and crosses, and a book shrine from the old abbey in Fenagh.

A lot of these were damaged but have been professionally cleaned by the National Museum. There’s still a lot of heritage there, and perhaps other parishes or members of the public would have items they would like to contribute. We’re also planning a multimedia exhibit to document the fire and the Cathedral’s restoration.”

Among the proposed work in the planning application are alterations to the existing ventilation system, removal of existing doors to facilitate head height, re-positioning of the original altar, and installation of museum displays and multimedia stations.

Fr Healy pointed out that development of the space is still some way off and won’t be completed as part of the main restoration work.

“This is a long-term plan, and won’t be completed by December. We’re estimating it will happen in two-to-three years.”