Stolen reliquary recovered in Co OffalySunday, June 3rd, 2012
The 12th-century shrine containing the bones of St Manchán, which was stolen from Boher Church in Co Offaly on Friday, has been found.
Gardaí announced early on Saturday evening that the ancient reliquary had been recovered near Doon, Co Offaly. It is now undergoing a forensic examination at Tullamore Garda station.
The shrine's discovery followed the release without charge of two men in their 30s on Saturday afternoon. They were arrested on Friday in connection with the robbery.
The theft of the beautifully decorated reliquary is believed to have occurred at around lunchtime on Friday. Parish priest of St Manchán’s, Fr Aidan Ryan, told RTÉ News that Boher church, which is close to Lemanaghan in Co Offaly, had been open in order to facilitate children preparing for their first holy communion. He said St Manchán's Shrine was stored in view of CCTV.
“It was very well secured. It was in a closed glass container where it could be seen but not touched,” he explained to RTÉ.
Gardaí had appealed to anyone who had witnessed anything unusual or anyone acting strangely in the vicinity of the church on Friday or on the road between Boher and Shannonbridge to contact them. The recovery of the shrine was part of an intelligence-led search according to Gardaí.
The shrine, which was constructed in the shape of a gabled box measuring 0.7m in length and 0.61m in height, is made of yew and gilt bronze. It is the largest and most ornate ancient reliquary in Ireland. Bishop Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise described the relic as, “a priceless masterpiece of Irish Christian art,” when he was appealing for its return.
St Manchán's Shrine was built to house the bones of St Manchán, a 7th century saint who founded a monastery in Lemanaghan. Bishop O'Reilly said the shrine is one of the last surviving pieces from that era of history.
On Friday, two men were arrested on the M5 at Ronanstown, Co Dublin, and were brought to Tullamore Garda Station for questioning. A file is being prepared for the DPP.
St Manchán is said to have founded his monastery in around 645 AD after being provided with land by St Ciarán. The shrine was created in 1130 at Clonmacnoise. It is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque metalwork.
By Sarah Mac Donald