Hibernia: Irish Cathedral
on Conservation List

Clonfert Cathedral's unique doorway is to be restored.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2000

The World Monument Watch program, created by the World Monuments Fund serves to protect cultural landmarks all over the world that are in immediate danger due to neglect, suburban sprawl, flood, fire, earthquake, and sometimes war. Sites range from ancient rice terraces in the Philippines to an 18th-century palace in Ethiopia.

Thanks to the efforts of Saint Brendan the Navigator Restoration and Education Foundation, the first Irish site is now featured on this list. Saint Brendan’s Cathedral in Clonfert, County Galway, will receive $70,000 from American Express for the conservation of its unique stone doorway which dates back to the middle of the 12th century. The doorway’s elaborate design is threatened by erosion. This grant is part of American Express’s 10-year $10 million commitment to preserve the world’s endangered sites and prompted more giving from local and national governments, corporations, foundations as well as individuals.

Founded by Saint Brendan “The Navigator,” the monastery at Clonfert was an important seat during the Middle Ages and several monastic sites existed at the site since 557 A.D. The present cathedral built in the Hiberno-Romanesque style demonstrates the interest in multiple geometric and natural designs that was popular in the 12th century along with zoomorphic carvings. Added to these are the Celtic trademarks of continuous, swirling lines and a density of carving unique to Celtic art. The cathedral’s west portal epitomizes such workmanship. ♦

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