Glass Houses and Stones

The glass house of Boyle Abbey - © Bernd Biege 2014
The glass house of Boyle Abbey - © Bernd Biege 2014

Those who sit in glass houses are generally advised not to throw any hard items, especially stones, around … because, you know, the risk of breakage is high. But here we have a good example of a glass house protecting stones and, all in all, adding to the appeal of the site. By allowing the site to be open again without being actually open. By doing away with patchwork and intrusive buttresses:

The glass house of Boyle Abbey - © Bernd Biege 2014
The glass house of Boyle Abbey – © Bernd Biege 2014

It is Boyle Abbey, one of the few attractions County Roscommon has to offer, and a pit stop on many a tour (the Trafalgar bus arrived just in time, we noticed, hurriedly leaving the up-to-then quite tranquil place). Recently tarted up to the tune of two million Euro or so. And left with a “lean-to”, as Minister of State Brian Hayes so expertly described the glass corridor that now spans one side. With local councillors agreeing “that opinions in Boyle were mixed on the restoration” (both quotes taken from the sadly hibernating website Clerical Whispers).

Of course, any restoration will have its friends and foes. And even the most sensible work preventing the eventual destruction of a site will attract those that lament that everything was better in the old days. Closely followed by those on the lunatic fringe that, having seen it and thus crossed off another item on the bucket list, posit that the site should be allowed to decay. Because that is, somehow, the “soul of Ireland”. Après nous, le déluge.

Thankfully the website Visit Roscommon has not yet found the time to take new images and we can use the screenshot below to illustrate the former glory of the wall:

The good old days in Boyle - Screenshot from Visit Roscommon
The good old days in Boyle – Screenshot from Visit Roscommon

Basically … a very solid wall, destroyed beyond recognition by historical building work (Boyle Abbey was converted to a castle after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII), further impinged upon by well-meaning, but ultimately misguided work to make the site safe.

What was lost? The whole character of the building for starters. And then the clash between the Romanesque and Gothic styles on the opposing walls of the nave. But it was solid, so much is sure … and only modern engineering with an eye to actual preservation and presentation could bring a solution. Which, to cut a long story short, is the new glass house.

Of course, such a new development also brings the risk of people staring in and thinking “Been here, seen that … where’s the nearest Starbucks?” (There is none in Boyle, thanks for asking … but Auntie Bee’s at King House is quite good.) Like Johanna H. from Switzerland, who gave Boyle Abbey a vote of “Poor” and asked the question “3 Eur for what now?” on TripAdvisor:

It would have been a 3 Euro admission but we obted [sic] out since you can just walk around the abbey on the road.

Yes, Johanna, you penny-pinching traveller … you can indeed. And if you just walk around Boyle Abbey on the road, you’ll miss the glorious carvings and interesting details. Like the “green man” (I doubt that it is one, by the way), and the Sheela-na-Gig (jury still out on that one). Those were well worth the small admittance fee in my opinion.

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