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Minister O'Donnell Views Conservation Works At Four Courts

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Minister Kieran O'Donnell has visited the Four Courts to view the ongoing conservation works up close.

Led by an OPW team (Dublin Conservation & Capital Works), the stone capitals are being repaired or entirely replaced with new hand carved capitals. One of the landmarks of the city, the Four Courts was constructed between 1776 and 1796 to designs by Thomas Cooley and eminent architect, James Gandon.

The ongoing conservation works is primarily focusing on the Portland Stone capitals that ring the drum of the Four Courts and support the dome above. The stone capitals are currently in a state of disrepair due to previous incidents, notably a significant fire at the Four Courts during the civil war in 1922. Both the Outer Dome and Inner Dome, situated above the Rotunda, sustained substantial damage from the fire, resulting in the destruction of the original timber roof and much of the interior and exterior.

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A thorough restoration initiative, overseen by T.J. Byrne, Principal Architect at the Office of Public Works, was successfully executed and completed in 1932. Nearly a century later, each capital must undergo careful removal from its position beneath the dome to undergo a detailed structural examination.

Replacement capitals are currently being carved at the workshop of Irish Natural Stone Ltd. in Co. Clare. Each intricate capital is hand-carved by a team of skilled stonemasons, necessitating over 1000 hours of work per capital.

The masons use the same traditional techniques as in James Gandon's day to create moulds and templates of the capitals. The capitals are then carved and finished by hand from blocks of Portland Stone in accordance with best conservation principles. On completion, the capitals will be transported to the Four Courts for installation.

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