Ambitious plans to restore one of the oldest churches in Ireland, St. Bigseach’s in Kilbixy, were unveiled at a public launch held in Kilbixy.
The beautiful church, which dates back to the 5th century, is partly in ruins but if plans are approved, a magnificent new place of worship will rise from the ashes. A detailed history of Kilbixy and its place of importance in Irish folklore, was outlined to the attendance which included members of the congregation, along with local politicians, Deputies Willie Penrose and Mary O’Rourke and Councillors Johnny Penrose and Ruth Illingworth.
Speaking at the launch, Rev. Alistair Graham of the Mullingar Union of Parishes, said the plans to rebuild Kilbixy are worthy of everyone’s support. “Kilbixy is an architectural gem and it’s charm is never lost on me. It is a sacred place tucked away here in Westmeath”, he continued.
“It would be a great shame if we do not take on this project”, he stated
Outlining its history, local historian, Watson Mills recalled that Kilbixy was originally founded in the 5th Century by St. Bigseach. He said little was known of the Saint, other than she was reputed to have been a handmaid of St. Brigid, with her feast day falling on June 29.
In the 12th Century, a leper hospital was was built in the grounds of Kilbixy, which at one time was the capital town of Meath. Its standing was underlined by its right to return two members of Parliament at election time.
Over the years, Kilbixy was targeted by Irish chieftains with Eoghan O’Neill burning all around Kilbixy in one siege while in 1450, the McGeoghegan clan attacked it once more and inflicted such damage that put paid to Kilbixy as a town, Mr. Mills revealed
Mr Mills said the current Church was commissioned in 1798 by Lord Sutherland while its real history was uncovered in 1980 during a clean-up of the graveyard, a 7th Century stone - currently on display in the body of the Church - was uncovered.
Deputies Penrose - who could resist reminding his Dail colleague of Kilbixy’s former standing in the political hierarchy - and O’Rourke both pledged their fullest support for the restoration programme,
Another local historian, Jennifer Moore detailed the life of James Wyatt who designed the existing St. Bigseach Church, noting that among his portfolio was the design of the Pantheon in London. During his lifetime he carried out work on Slane Castle but Kilbixy was the only Church in Ireland he worked on.
Killed in a tragic coach accident 1813, Kilbixy which, according to Ms. Moore, represented one of James Wyatt’s finest works, is one of only Churches he designed which is still standing.
Prior to the conclusion of the launch, Mr. Robert Kenny who has produced a most impressive design for the proposed building, outlined the detail of the plans, which if approved will require an investment of at least €250,000.