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St Manchan's shrine will return to Boher Church

Story by Tom Kelly

Tuesday, 5th June, 2012 5:30pm

St Manchan's shrine will return to Boher Church

St Manchan's shrine will be returned to St Manchan's Church in Boher according to a local priest.

The priceless 12th century St Manchan's shrine will be stored again in Boher Church in West Offaly, the local priest has insisted.

The shrine was stolen on Friday last and recovered by Tullamore Gardai on Saturday evening last.

Fr James McKiernan also told the Offaly Independent this week that security measures thwarted when the "Precious Shrine of St Manchan" was stolen were agreed with input from the National Museum.

According to McKiernan of St Manchan's Church in Boher the shrine was presented to the church in the 1980s and was kept unsecured in the church sanctuary until the National Museum suggested security measures should be put in place to protect the national treasure.

Measures including an alarmed bullet-proof glass case and CCTV were put in place in 1999 and have remained in place ever since according to the local priest.

The shrine, which measures approximately two feet by 2.5 feet, was stolen from St Manchan's Church in Boher in the Westmeath/Offaly border parish of Leamonaghan shortly after 1.30pm last Friday, June 1.

Originally constructed to house the bones of local saint St Manchan, the shrine itself is made of yew wood and gilt bronze. A car was later stopped by Gardaí on the N5 and two male occupants in their 30s arrested on suspicion of theft. Both men were released from Tullamore Garda Station on the afternoon of Saturday, June 2 and a file is to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The shrine itself was recovered near Doon by Tullamore Gardaí on the evening of June 2, and was secured in Tullamore Garda Station pending forensic analysis.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent this week Fr McKiernan said the local community was devastated on hearing news of the robbery last Friday and greatly relieved on hearing of its recovery.

"People couldn't believe it," he said about the robbery of the artifact that has been in the locality since its construction in the early twelfth century. News of the shrine's recovery and that the bones housed inside were undamaged was greeted with great relief, he added. According to Fr McKiernan the precious items were housed in private homes in the locality since the original church that housed them burned down in 1860. St Manchan's Church has housed the items for over 20 years he said. "There was immense joy when it was found intact," he said this week, adding that members of An Garda Siochana did "tremendous work".

Fr McKiernan added that the shrine, which currently remains at Tullamore Garda Station, will be returned to St Manchan's "in the very near future". "It's visited quite a bit on a regular basis," he said. "Every day of the week there are people here. It's very precious and we intend to hold on to it here in Boher church."

It's thought security surrounding the shrine will be upgraded in light of the recent robbery.

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