A formidable feature in St Columba’s church, the newly restored and conserved Durrow High Cross is finally open to the public after many years of been hidden away on the monastic site.
Limited public access to the site is now available to Durrow Abbey and the Cross for the coming three months after the Office of Public Works [OPW] carried out the significant restoration and conservation works, in keeping with the Durrow Abbey Conservation Plan, launched in 2005.
With €500,000 spent to date on the project, it is now expected that these works as well as expansion of facilities at the Durrow abbey site will continue.
As part of the current project, the conservation of St Columba’s church was completed and the High Cross was moved inside from its former position in the graveyard to ensure its preservation and presentation for future generations.
The interior of the church and its box pews were expertly restored by OPW National Monuments. Repairs were also carried out in the graveyard and the restoration of the gate lodge as a visitor centre has also commenced.
There is some challenges facing the project including access to the Abbey and road alignment in the area but it is hoped that the OPW will work with the local authority and the National Roads Authority [NRA] to ensure the project is completed.
MC for yesterday’s (Monday, April 30) official re-opening ceremony, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD welcomed everyone and was delighted to introduce Helen Bracken, Chairperson of the Durrow High Cross Committee.
Ms Bracken enthused that “much has been done and there is much more to achieve.”
Noting the huge history attached to the Durrow complex and its potential as a tourist and heritage attraction, the Chairperson pointed out the need to put in place plans for the future of the complex. “We will be looking to make use of the full potential of the site.”
According to Ms Bracken, the group were looking forward to similar openings at the early Christian monastic site. “There is a wonderful future for Durrow and we now need to bring as many people as possible here.”
Cllr Danny Owens, Chairperson of Offaly County Council, was delighted to see the opening of the High Cross to the public and congratulated the vision of the OPW in purchasing the site in the 2000s while complimenting both Deputy Corcoran Kennedy and Minister Brian Hayes for their contributions to the conservation project.
“This is a great day. The big thing now is to get all the agencies mentioned to engage and to find solutions to any issues that may crop up.”
Minister Brian Hayes, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the OPW was on hand to officially reopen the newly restored project.
“It is only when you come in, do you appreciate the magnificence of the cross,” he enthused as he went on to note the tourist potential of the monastic site.
Minister Hayes explained that what the OPW hoped to do into the future was to help local community groups to realise the potential of “fantastic heritage” sites like the Durrow High Cross.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved here and will now work with the local community,” the Minister said.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy acknowledged the work carried out by the OPW on the site and also noted the huge interest that the local community had in preserving sites like this.
“This is a very important first step,” the Fine Gael TD added.