St Mary’s Cathedral is preparing to open anew the rediscovered treasures of its restored chapter house, as the second phase of renovation and construction work gets under way at the 19th-century building.
The Cathedral Oversight Committee is to meet later this week to review and tour the restored areas, before the building is formally opened to the public. The areas to be opened included the long-awaited coffee shop and kitchen area, as well as the bookstore/library and full toilet facilities in the building’s basement.
It also includes the beautifully restored chapter room, which is to become a space for diocesan meetings. Even the corridors are to be used to display artefacts and items from the church’s history, while the building will now be fully accessible by ramps and lifts.
Monsignor Kennedy has said that it was a good opportunity to show the committee and wider parish and example of what could be achieved.
Up until this week, Vincent O’Brien of O’Brien Brothers remained busy in the chapter room, putting the finishing touches on what has been several months’ hard work. The team has been re-gilding paintings, restoring furniture to original pitch pine, and repainting an old statue of Our Lady – last painted prior to the Eucharistic Congress of 1932.
Meanwhile, Phase 2 of the project, which involves extensive renovations within the cathedral building itself, received the go-ahead from Kilkenny Borough Council last month. Enda Morrissey of Dunreidy Engineering and his team are already at work in the cathedral’s basement interior, where a new blessed sacrament chapel is being constructed.
The disused boiler room, located directly beneath the cathedral’s sanctuary and altar, will house a sacistry. The chapel will be linked to the chapter house, and will be accessible to all by a new lift in the link corridor, servicing all three floors.
Stone mason John Allen has been working on a new archway into the building. Formerly of timber, the stone is more in keeping with the building’s character.
It is also envisaged that the cathedral’s main altar will be moved forward to its original location, in the centre of the sanctuary.
The exterior of the cathedral is also to undergo substantial works. A new wheelchair ramp will provide access to the front entrance from James’s Street, breaking through that boundary wall, while a new pedestrian entrance on the Black Mill Street side is planned as well.
However, the cathedral is no longer to get the new 41-space parking area originally sought. The planning authority voiced a number of objections over the carpark’s visual impact on the character and setting of the protected structure, as well as the physical impact of the excavation on the root protection area of three lime trees on the site.
In response, St Mary’s Cathedral said they would not proceeding with the introduction of parking on the grounds at this time. The proposed paving at the front of the Cathedral is also no longer going ahead.