Some time ago the European Commission designated 2018 as European Year of Cultural Heritage. According to the commission’s website, ‘Heritage is our cultural identity, values and traditions that we have inherited from previous generations, live with today, and pass on to future generations. It includes buildings, monuments, historical and archaeological sites, museum objects, our customs, sports, language, music, dance, folklore, crafts and skills, and natural heritage, such as landscapes, wildlife habitats and biodiversity.’
In this country, the Heritage Council has been charged with coordinating and promoting the year’s programme. The council has chosen as a theme for Ireland ‘Make a Connection’ intended ‘to deepen the connection between people and heritage, and build a legacy of increased public engagement.’ Engagement is critical, particularly with regard to our historic buildings. Since 2016 the Heritage Council has run an ‘Adopt a Monument’ scheme but the take-up has been relatively small: just seven projects were added last year. All over Ireland there are many sites which have fallen into neglect and dereliction. Frequently they can be found in the centre of towns such as the two shown today, both of which are in County Galway and have featured here before. Above is St John’s, the former Church of Ireland church in Ballymoe: dating from 1832 it has been remorselessly vandalised. The same is true of the building below, St Brigid’s, the original Roman Catholic church in Portumna, built in 1825. When a new church was constructed in the 1950s, this property served for a time as a sports hall but has now been abandoned and suffered accordingly.
There are many buildings such as these standing empty and forlorn. If the European Year of Cultural Heritage is to have any long-term impact, a concerted effort must be made to engage local people’s interest in and concern for the architectural legacy of their own area. The coming twelve months offer an opportunity which may not occur again. Making a Connection can make a difference.
The Irish Aesthete wishes friends and followers a Happy New Year. Thank you all for your continued interest and support in 2017 and may you prosper in 2018.
Really ‘enjoy’ – is that the correct word (?) – your posts and look forward to more in 2018.
Keep up the good work of making us better informed about our architectural heritage.
Best wishes. David Parks
Thank you, lots more to come in 2018 so do keep reading please…
Probably the best blog on the net Robert, I’d say you are a bit of a national treasure yourself. Keep up the ‘trojan’ work and a very happy new year to you and yours.
Too kind, thank you sir (but I hope that I’m still not quite the age to be classified a national treasure…)
well then perhaps a modern classic would be better.
I suppose one should be relieved to find that vandalism has now become non-denominational in modern Ireland, but, looking at your images, it is hard to gain any pleasure from the realisation. We must all try harder in 2018!
In relation to Ecclesiastical buildings I feel ‘adoption’ is an incorrect course of action. Adaptation has also been largely unsuccessful, as demonstrated by the many conversions of Churches to residential use, with some of the most hideous additions and arrangements. A secular society is so often ignorant to these sacred sites which often have burial grounds attached, such places are wholly inappropriate for residential use.
There were numerous decommissioned Church of Ireland Churches converted into the ubiquitous ‘Heritage Centre’ during the 1980’s & 90’s, but many of these are now abandoned or only rarely opened and are showing signs of structural neglect.
We must ever be conscious of the primary reasons Church buildings were designed and constructed in the first place, namely the praise and worship of Almighty God. If they no longer perform that role, and if there is no desire in a particular community that they should continue to do so, they should not be maintained as museums.
There appears to be a tendency today to sentimentalize such structures and a burning desire to preserve and monumentalize the past. The Church of Ireland has pragmatically asserted that ‘it is in the business of saving souls – not buildings’, I firmly believe they have adopted the correct approach.
I saw this announced today and thought you might find it interesting. http://www.heritagecouncil.ie/news/news-features/historic-towns-grant-scheme-preliminary-notice
Thank you, yes I saw with some interest and will be following with more…
It is unfortunate no other religion appears interested in making use of these wonderful old churches.