During the early hours of Christmas morning 2009, a devastating fire all but destroyed St Mel's Cathedral in the heart of Longford town. Five years later, on Dec 24th 2014, the Cathedral opens its doors again, just in time for a very special Christmas Eve
During the early hours of Christmas morning in 2009, a devastating fire all but destroyed St Mel's Cathedral at the heart of Longford town.
In a small rural town like Longford the Cathedral is a beacon of pride. The building is such an important part of life for all Longfordians - Catholic, religious or just casual observers.
Since the cathedral burned, the town has been celebrating weekly and daily masses in the nearby college. Just weeks after the disaster work began to plan it’s reconstruction. After a massive refurbishment project, St Mel's will open it's doors again in time for Christmas Eve 2014.
Within the old walls of the building lies a new experience for Catholics in the midlands town, a very new surrounding. "The Bells of St Mel's" follows the restoration project to completion as the church community adapts to an 1840's building with a 2014 interior.
As St. Mel’s Cathedral reopens for the first time in five years, Fran McNulty speaks to locals about their impressions of the new building.
We hear the first impression of the space from the town's oldest resident Larry Nolan, who visited the Cathedral in October with RTÉ. He stoked the fires of the old heating system, loaded the turf and coal and emptied the ashes down in the crypt of the building.
Larry was also the man to spot the fire and alert emergency services.
Tiernan Dolan, who took tens of thousands of photographs of the reconstruction, speaks about the beacon of pride that the Cathedral is for locals, he also speaks about growing up in the shadow of the building and his feelings on the morning of the fire.
Clergy, parishioners, construction worker and organist will all speak about their experience of the project.
The members of the choir of St, Mel’s choir are preparing to perform on the opening days during ceremonies that will be broadcast all over the world via RTÉ. For them the cathedral is a very special place and they have very much missed singing in the cathedral surroundings.
Some aspects of the building have been controversial - the windows are quite modern; the new stations of the cross have been carved by an artist; the choir is gallery gone; the organ moved and the altar is also moved.
But on Christmas Eve 2014 the Bells of St Mel's will ring again.
Produced by Fran McNulty. Production supervision by Nicoline Greer. Sound supervision by Mark McNulty.
First broadcast 24th December 2014, 10pm.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.