Lady's Island Church restored to former glory

By David tucker

€40,000 facelift: Our Lady's Island church.
€40,000 facelift: Our Lady's Island church.

THE architectural gem which is Our Lady's Island Church has been restored to its former glory following a €40,000-plus renovation.

Pews and religious paintings were removed from the Gothic revival church to allow for weeks of painstaking work which will help it further develop as a place of pilgrimage and excellence.

Once described by the historian E Hore in 1875 as an architectural and ecclesiastical gem unsurpassed by any other in the Kingdom', recently-appointed parish priest Fr Jim Cogley said the Church had been badly in need of redecoration for some years, but because of a parish debt of €250,000 the work had to be delayed.

Fr Cogley said that when the Stations of the Cross were removed it became apparent just how dirty the walls had become and badly needed painting.

Some of the artefacts at the church are of priceless historic value, including a silver crucifix from the original Church of St Ivor's in Broadway that was found in the mud of the Lake after 200 years.

When Cromwellian soldiers were on a rampage and ransacking churches they were headed for St Ivor's Church when locals rallied to save the artefacts. One of these was the much-venerated church cross, which was being carried across the lake by a young man who was shot dead by the soldiers. He was literally a local martyr whose heroic deed is remembered, but not his name.

Two hundred years later a boy called Cogley found the cross buried in the mud while fishing for eels. An arm was missing and he was advised by the local priest who knew the story to return to the spot and search again because of its historical significance.

Miraculously, against all the odds, he found the missing piece and the restored silver crucifix will once again be on display in a new reliquary once the church is reopened.

Fr Cogley, the well-known author of the Wood You Believe Series and as an artist with wood, comes with considerable experience in design work having instigated the Garden of Remembrance in Kilmore Quay, Raphael's Healing Garden and the Tree of Life gardens in Oylegate.

He sees huge potential in Lady's Island and believes that the restoration of the Church will be a catalyst for other major improvements in a pilgrimage area that stretches back as far as the 6th Century.

The Church of the Assumption at Our Lady's Island Church was designed and built by E.W. Pugin and George Ashlin the son and son in law of W.A. Pugin. While much of the basic architecture is similar to those designed by Pugin senior, they can be distinguished by the curved lines in the arched ceiling.

The foundation stone for the present Church was laid on May 11, 1863 and opened on August 15, 1864. It was solemnly dedicated on 10th August 1881.

The external masonry is rock-faced with local Carne granite. The dressings on doors and windows are in Whitehaven red sandstone and bands of the same material are continued at intervals around the walls. The tower and spire with its cross are 112 feet from the ground.

Wexford People

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