On Tuesday September 14th. 1999, Saint Brendan's Cathedral in Clonfert, Co. Galway was officially listed on the World Monuments Watch as one of the top one hundred of the World's Most Endangered Monuments.
The pages on Clonfert have been divided into four sections as there is so much information. This is the fourth page and it looks at that memorable day at the cathedral when we celebrated Clonfert's historic inclusion in the World Monuments Watch 2000 listings. You can learn more about Clonfert in the other three pages - linked below.
This page tells of this momentous listing, its significance to Ireland and what it will mean to the Clonfert people and to the small Church of Ireland community who keep this tiny historic building a living house of worship. I hope you enjoy and experience the feeling of historical continuity our ancient monuments seem to stir.
The Ceremonies of the Day
I'd like to share with you the ceremony in this most beautiful of little Cathedrals to mark its historic listing, the first time an Irish monument has ever been accepted in the World Monuments Watch listings. Present were both diocesan bishops - the Church of Ireland Bishop of Killaloe and Limerick, Dr. Edward Darling, and Bishop Kirby, Catholic Bishop of Clonfert. With them were churchmen and women of both denominations, all of whom led us in prayer.
Guest speaker was Dr. Hugh Crean, Chairman of the Restoration Department of F.I.T (S.U.N.Y) New York, and Lecturer at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art - an Irishman living and working in N.Y. His address to the congregation can be found HERE.
The prayer service within the cathedral was beautiful and incorporated male 'sean nos' singing from the Brendan O'Riada Choir. There was also a poetry reading by Moya Cannon from Donegal in honour of the ancient spirits who walked this place over a thousand years ago. It was one of her own poems and called "To Colm Returning."
Musician and music writer, Brent Michael Davids, played a most evocative and haunting piece of music on the flute. Brent, or Blue Butterfly his tribal name, is of the Mohican Nation in Massachusetts. He brought along a birch canoe as a symbolic return of the boat in honour of St. Brendan. The boat was presented to the Rev. Wayne Carney, Rector of St. Brendan's Cathedral and placed at the foot of the altar.
After the prayer service, during which we heard some beautiful hymns sung in the Irish language, we were addressed by those involved in the fundraising efforts. Mr. Christy Cunniffe is a local man and Chairman of the Clonfert Development Group. Over the years he has gathered a wealth of information about the history of Clonfert. In 1993 he recognised the need to set in motion some sort of a refurbishment scheme for the doorway of the cathedral.
Out of this grew the local support group whose members help Rev. Carney and his tiny congregation to co-ordinate the various events surrounding the fundraising needs of the cathedral. One of these was the visit of our President, Mary McAleese on the eve of Saint Brendan's Feast day in May. Her visit brought the doorway to the attention of us all here in the west and it was this article about her visit which was to catch my attention.
Christy stressed the need to keep in mind that this lovely place is a house of living worship as well as a monument and that at times it can be difficult to balance respect for the building as a place of worship and its draw as a tourist attraction. He feels it particularly when there are days like this ceremony and the graveyard is full of people.
Within these graves are the recent, the past and the far distant past deceased of this village and it is important to retain respect for their resting-place. He spoke of the enormous challenge to the tiny Church of Ireland congregation, the community and the development group in maintaining that healthy balance of the need to highlight this project yet at the same time hold the cathedral in respectful honour as a living house of prayer.
Final guest speaker was Ms. Brenda Silke, native of Clonfert, now living and working in New York. Brenda spoke of her childhood memories sitting on these ancient gravestones with other local village children and only dreaming of America so far away. Her love of this place and regular visits home gave her the impetus to initiate the 'Brendan The Navigator Restoration and Education Foundation', launched in April 1999.
She praised the support of NY based architect Brian Connolly from Barna who wrote the submission to the World Monuments Watch, and also Dudley Stewart of the Stewart Foundation who sponsored the project for the nomination.
Special mention was given to Dr. Jim Higgins, overall project manager and to John Kelly who co-ordinated the survey of the stonework and whose report helped sway decisions for the nomination. These, among many others, have brought this building in the west of Ireland to the world's attention and their efforts one and all will surely help them in their fundraise.
so St. Brendan's Cathedral in the tiny village of Clonfert joins a Temple
in Bali, The Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, a 1000-year-old Tibetan
Royal Tomb in China - among the other 99 endangered world monuments listed
for the years 2000 and 2001.
Meanwhile the New York group with the Clonfert Group continue their work now to raise the required $1 million to preserve this living piece of our ancient past.
Pass this page along to friends and family... who knows, there might be some philanthropist out there who could see his or her way to slipping a few dollars towards this very worthy project.
Our other pages about Clonfert look at the lovely little cathedral of Saint Brendan and also at the Bishop's Palace and the Yew Walk. Another page gives a brief history of Saint Brendan, please join us on the full journey to Clonfert, this tiny village in South County Galway which holds a jewel of architectural and early Christian ecclesiastical heritage in its midst.
If anybody reading these pages ever gets the chance to come here and visit this most beautiful of ancient Irish churches with its doorway from over 8 centuries ago yet opening into the new millennium, please leave a donation towards the restoration work. Or if anyone is interested in donating towards the Foundation please contact Reverend Wayne Carney by email.
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For those who have just joined me on this page why not go to the beginning of our travels and see some of the places in The Start of Our Journey through the West of Ireland.
My Place Amongst the Stones gives the history of my company name, Moytura - a celtic heritage going back thousands of years.
We journey to my own parish of Lackagh - a small village just 12 miles from Galway with a mighty big history. Learn all about the Battle of Knockdoe - one of Irelan'd bloodiest of conflicts in the 16th century.
We then move on to take a quick jaunt around Galway City; and to the heart of Connemara - with its wild and wonderful beauty.
From there we journey south into County Clare and see The Burren - a place that has lain undisturbed since the Ice-age and of immense botanical, ecological and archaeological importance.
Come with me on my 'Famine Journey' which starts in Westport, and moves to Sligo, my Dad's County and the departure port for many of the 'Coffin Ships'. This part of my journey ends in Grosse-Île on a tiny island east of Quebec City.
On this page you will learn some of the history of our Famine Refugees and find the final resting place of over 6,000 of my country folk who died within sight of their first freedom in over 300 years. This is where many of the Irish roots in North America started.
Our Journey moves on to other places on that visit to Canada where we see Quebec City and some of Ontario's lovely places and then to two of Canada's famous Catholic Shrines - Saint Anne de Beaupré and to Cap-de-la-Madeleine.
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The telecommunications industry goes from strength to strength world wide, especially with de-regulation opening up most countries to healthy and cost-cutting competition. The company, for which we are Independent Consultants, has been so successful since its European start-up in 1998 that it has now expanded from the UK to Ireland Belgium, and the Netherlands, with the USA opening in Feb 2002. It plans to expand even further in the very near future - to:
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