Initially, it was thought that the clean-up and repair work at St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, would take just a few days, but the building will be closed until April 8, the church authorities confirmed yesterday.
A lit candle is believed to have been the cause of the fire which destroyed an old chalk altar dating back to the dedication of the cathedral in 1855.
Since the fire was discovered last Monday, specialists in stone restoration and conservation and in stained glass have examined the damage and the clean-up is taking place on their advice.
Fr Kevin McNamara, in Killarney, said it was necessary to complete the work as soon as possible.
“We have to get the smell of smoke out of the building. There’s also a lot of dust around, on walls, floors, seats and up as far as the ceiling. Scaffolding is being erected and it will be a slow, painstaking job,” he said.
“While the delay might be disappointing, everyone is relieved that the building is intact and that it’s not a shell we’re dealing with.
“The work will be done with sensitivity to a building that’s held in deep respect. We want to ensure it’s restored to a proper state. We don’t want to cut corners.”
Fr McNamara said the cost of the damage had not yet been estimated.
Weekend masses normally celebrated in the cathedral are being transferred to St Mary’s Parish Hall. Weekday masses will be in the Presentation Convent and evening masses in St Brendan’s College chapel.
Funerals and baptisms will be in the Church of the Resurrection or Muckross Church.
Meanwhile, the question of using lighted candles in the cathedral may have to be reviewed and this may depend on advice from insurance companies and other experts.
A €1 million refurbishment is currently being completed at the cathedral, which last year was the scene of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of its dedication.