Context 163 - March 2020

24 C O N T E X T 1 6 3 : M A R C H 2 0 2 0 included the insertion of a hammer-beam roof over the nave, they should first be examined by Freeman and Parker. It seems likely that by the time Graves began work on the restoration of the Nuns’ Church in Clonmacnoise in 1865 he had received the advice of the same two Englishmen. Parker, who in 1856 had acquired The Gentleman’s Magazine , which he also edited, wrote a piece on Clonmacnoise in 1864, illustrating (with a copy of an old engraving) the church’s by then collapsed/dismantled 12th-century Romanesque chancel arch, which Graves was planning to rebuild along with its collapsed doorway. Graves, by his published accounts, arranged for an archaeological excavation to be carried out to recover the missing stones. Any stones capable of reuse were sorted and reassembled on the ground prior to the construction of wooden centring. These were placed symmetrically from the springing points; where stones were missing ‘plain new voussoirs’ were carved and set in place in the centres of the arches. In this way, in the process of restoration by anastylosis, the new stones were clearly differentiated from the original decorated stones. Finally, rubble masonry was placed above the arches to act as ballast, but was left with a rough outline rather than being reconstructed as a gable, the angle of the original gable not being known. A plaque was erected at the back of the doorway, which reads: ‘In May 1865 by the aid of subscription and under the Inspection of the Rev James Graves Hon Sec of the [KAS] the fallen choir arch and door of this church originally built AD 1167 were re-erected’. Similarly, when it came to repairing the cap of the round tower of Temple Finghin, which had been damaged by lightning, the new work was to be distinguished from the old: ‘it was arranged that any new stones necessary to be supplied should be of a different kind – the old were calcareous sandstone, the new were to be lime- stone’. The works to both were superintended by the artist and antiquary George V du Noyer, who, with Graves, sketched many of the details. Graves wrote up the projects at Clonmacnoise in both his own journal and in Parker’s Gentleman’s Magazine (June 1865). The chancel arch of the Nuns’ Church, Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly, as restored in 1865 by the KAS, with new uncarved voussoirs in the centre of the three lower rings, while simple rubble fills the gap in the upper, fourth, ring (Photo: Frederick O’Dwyer) The chancel arch of the Nuns’ Church, Clonmacnoise, drawn by Jonas Blaymire in 1738, in an engraving fromWalter Harris’s TheWhole works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland revised and improved , Volume 1 (Dublin, 1739) Frederick O’Dwyer is a Dublin-based architectural historian, conservation architect and town planner.

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