Monday, 26 March 2012

Clonard Monastery Completes £3m Restoration

Clonard Monastery has just completed a £3m restoration project that began with a fundraising campaign in 2008. This blog post provides some history to the current building...

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The contract to build Clonard Monastery was signed on 5 August 1907. The McNaughton Brothers of Randalstown constructed the church to a design by J.J. McDonnell at a cost of £20,600. The first sod of the new church was turned by the Clonard rector, Fr O'Flynn, on 20 August 1907 but it was not until the following October in 1908 that the foundation stone was laid.

Clonard Monastery pictured during the early 20th Century.

During construction of the church problems with the quarry and issues with supplying the foundation blocks for the granite pillars in the nave caused considerable delay. After the foundation blocks were sourced it was then the granite pillars that caused issue. The Newry firm could not supply the pillars and they had to be obtained from Aberdeen. The completion of the new building was further delayed as both of the Naughton brothers passed away during construction. These series of problems in sourcing materials and unfortunate incidents pushed back the completion of the church but it in late 1911 the official opening took place. 

Pictured before restoration and refurbishment.
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The church is designed in early French Gothic and consists of nave and aisles with shallow transepts and semi-circular apse and side chapels. The nave is 151 feet long and 70 feet wide and the height from nave floor to the apex of the barrel-vault above is 60 feet. 

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A later addition (1960 - 61) to the church is the rich mosaic of Gabriel Loire of Chartres entitled, "The story of the Redemption in mosaics from the Old and New Testaments", which is along the central elevation of the nave.

One of the wall mosaics. Photo from

During the Troubles the Monastery's location straddling a peace line put the building at the centre of conflict. Following years of 'wear and tear' the church, in 2008, launched a campaign to raise £1m to repair the walls, roof and floors that housed many historic and important moments. During the 1941 Belfast Blitz women and children from both the Shankill and Falls roads sheltered in its crypt.

The impressive interior of Clonard Monastery.
Photo from

Now after four years and £3m the Monastery has been restored and refurbished inside and out. The centre aisle is perhaps one of the most striking results from the refurbishment as all 25,000 tiles have been cleaned after a sponsorship initiative in which people could sponsor a piece of the mosaic.

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