WORK on a roof to protect some of Clare’s oldest architectural treasures at the 13th century Ennis Friary is due to be completed by the end of April, according to the Ofﬁce of Public Works (OPW).
The purpose of this € 100,000 project is to provide protection for the collection of carved features which survive at Ennis Friary. The OPW also aims to improve visitor access at the site.
Authorities on medieval sculptures have highlighted the importance of this unique collection, which contain a complete set of panels representing the 12 apostles and stages of the passion of Christ. Also featured is the Ecce Homo, Madonna and Child, John the Baptist, St Francis and assorted carved fragments.
Since care of the Friary was vested in the Board of Works in the late 19th Century, concern has been expressed about the vulnerability of the collection and numerous interventions were undertaken.
In a statement, the OPW explained that a preliminary conservation report carried out in the 1980s conﬁrmed that signiﬁcant stone deterioration was taking place due primarily to weathering but also from the negative impact of the early repairs and vandalism.
An OPW spokesperson explained, “The damaged and decayed stonework was analysed by a stone conservation specialist and subsequently removed to a workshop for consolidation and repair. On completion of this work, the collection will be displayed in an appropriate manner on the site. It must be noted that the original setting of the panel ﬁgures and other features is uncertain.
She added, “The site of the 18th Century church, which was built within the walls of the medieval nave, was considered to be an appropriate location to provide a sheltered environment for the exhibition of these objects. The design of the modern roof reﬂects the original proﬁle of the church and the consultant engineer conﬁrms that its lightweight structure will have a minimal impact on the original walls.
Original features, such as windows will not be restored, while a wire mesh will be installed to provide se- curity for the display area and deter birds and wildlife.
Canon Bob Hanna, Rector of St Columba’s Church in Ennis, has welcomed the Friary project, saying he hopes the building can become the “centre of a new tourism hub for the town”.
Canon Hanna is part of a local group seeking to better promote the ecclesiastical treasures of Clare.
He explained, “What myself and a few others are doing is hoping to build on the excellent work done on the Clare Way and Burren Way. We think there is real potential there to make the landscape speak more powerfully than what it’s being allowed to do at the moment.”