Holycross Abbey was established about 1811. It contains some 13th-century additions and was extensively re-modelled about the 15th century. The buildings provide some outstanding examples of the distinctively Irish style of Gothic. The more noteworthy features include the ornate Butler tomb and Sedilia, the cloister erected in the middle of the 15th century and a fresco in the north transept which depicts a hunting scene.
The Abbey was originally founded by the O'Briens, Kings of Thomond, for the Cistercians. It became a noted place of pilgrimage because a relic of the True Cross was enshrined there, from which the Abbey took its name.
It was suggested to the Government by His Grace the Archbishop of Cashel that the ruined 15th-century Church at the National Monument, Holycross Abbey, be restored for use for ecclesiastical purposes. This Bill contains the legal provisions required to enable this to be done.
The restoration of the Church for ecclesiastical purposes required legislation for the following reasons:
(1) The Commissioners of Public Works need power to restore the National Monument, as existing National Monuments legislation empowers them merely to preserve National Monuments.
(2) It is necessary to remove doubt as to the power of the Commissioners to require a lessee or licensee, to whom a lease or licence under Section 17 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1954 is given, to pay the cost of restoration.
(3) It is necessary to remove any prohibition against the use of the Church as a place of public worship which may arise from Section 25 (1) of the Irish Church Act, 1869, pursuant to which Holycross Abbey was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works.
The Church of Ireland Authorities have been consulted, and they have no objections to the proposal.
The work of restoration will be done under the supervision of the Commissioners of Public Works.
There can be no better way of preserving a National Monument such as Holycross Abbey than by restoring it to use. This will enhance its beauty and give it a new place in the daily lives of our people. I am confident therefore that the House will welcome this Bill.