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Shrines of Our Lady and the Saints in Great Britain and Ireland

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Sanctuaries of Our Lady


(1) AbingdonSt. Edward the Martyr and St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, both encouraged pilgrimages to Our Lady of Abingdon, causing it to be resorted to by crowds of pious persons.

(2) Canterbury — At the east end of St. Augustine's monastery was an oratory of Our Lady built by King Ethelbert in which reposed the bodies of many saints. The old Chronicler informs us that "in it the Queen of heaven did often appear; in it was the brightness of miracles made manifest; in it the voices of angels, and the melodious strains of holy virgins were frequently heard".

(3) Caversham, Berks — A chapel of Our Lady in the church of the Austin Canons was a centre of great devotion, where rich offerings were made by Countess Isabel of Warwick, Elizabeth of York, queen-consort of Henry VII, and by Henry VIII in his youthful days. The entire image was plated with silver.

(4) Coventry — A celebrated image of Our Lady was here greatly venerated. With it are associated the glorious names of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife, the Countess Godgifu (Godiva). The splendid abbey church founded by them in 1043 surpassed all others in the land in princely, even royal magnificence. It was spoken of as the glory of England and contained dazzling treasures. On her death Godgifu sent a rich chaplet of precious gems to be hung round Our Lady's neck; no description of this image has reached us. The church was entirely demolished by Henry VIII.

(5) Ely — In the abbey church was venerated a magnificent image of Our Lady seated on a throne with her Divine Child in her arms, the whole marvellously wrought in silver and gold. Hither came King Canute on the feast of Our Lady's Purification (1020?).

(6) Evesham — The name of this renowned sanctuary perpetuates the vision of Our Lady to a poor herdsman named Eoves. An abbey church was here built by Earl Leofric and the Countess Godgifu and enriched with a splendid image of Our Lady and Child, beautifully wrought of gold and silver. At once it became an object of popular devotion and attracted numerous pilgrims.

(7) Glastonbury was the most ancient and venerable sanctuary of Our Lady in England (see Glastonbury Abbey). In 530 St. David of Menevia, accompanied by seven of his suffragan bishops, came to Glastonbury, invited thither by the sanctity of the place, and consecrated a Chapel of Our Lady on the east side of the church. As a mark of his devotion to the Queen of Heaven, he adorned the golden superaltar with a sapphire of inestimable value, known as the Great Sapphire of Glastonbury. The Silver Chapel of Our Lady was stored with costly gifts, the value of which, at our present standard, mounted to a prodigious sum. Among the Saxon kings who came hither on pilgrimage may be mentioned Athelstan and Edgar the Peaceable, the latter laying his sceptre on the Blessed Virgin's altar and solemnly placing his kingdom under her patronage.

(8) Ipswich — There were four churches of Our Lady in Ipswich, but the greatly renowned miraculous image was in St. Mary's chapel, known as Our Lady of Grace. The numerous miracles wrought there were proved genuine by Blessed Thomas More in one of his works. Cardinal Wolsey ordered a yearly pilgrimage to be made to Our Lady's sanctuary by the students of the college he had founded at Ipswich. In the thirtieth year of Henry VIII this image was conveyed to London and burnt at Chelsea, the rich offerings and jewels going to the king's treasury.

(9) Tewkesbury — The church, founded in 715 by two Mercian dukes, Oddo and Doddo, enshrined within its walls a statue of Our Lady that was held in the greatest veneration. Isabella Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, gave a chalice and other valuable presents to this sanctuary in 1439. The statue had the good fortune to escape destruction at the time of the Reformation, probably owing to the reluctance of the magistrates to arouse the indignation of the populace, who regarded it with extraordinary veneration. In the reign of James I a Puritan inhabitant of the town got possession of this relic of the old religion, and to mark his contempt for it caused it to be hollowed out and used as a trough for swine. Terrible punishments overtook him and all the members of his family.

(10) Walsingham was the most celebrated of all the English sanctuaries of Our Lady. So great was the veneration in which it was held that it was called the "Holy Land of Walsingham". About 1061 a little chapel, similar to that of the Holy House of Nazareth (not yet translated to Loreto) and dedicated to the Annunciation, was built here by Rychold (Recholdis) de Faverches, a rich widow, in consequence, it is said, of an injunction received from Our Lady. Within the chapel was a wooden image of the Blessed Virgin and Child. Pilgrims flocked from all parts of England and from the Continent to this sanctuary, and its priory became one of the richest in the world. Among the royal and noble pilgrims were: Henry III, who came in 1248; Edward I in 1272 (?) and 1296; Edward II in 1315; his consort, Isabella of France, in 1332; Edward III in 1361; Edward IV and his queen in 1469; Henry VII in 1487; Henry VIII in 1511, walking barefoot from Barsham Hall, on which occasion he presented Our Lady with a necklace of great value; and finally Queen Catherine of Aragon in 1514. About 1538 the venerated image was brought to London with that of Our Lady of Ipswich, and both were publicly burnt at Chelsea in presence of Cromwell. Fifteen of the canons of Walsingham were condemned for high treason; five were executed. All the jewels and treasures left by the piety of the faithful found their way into Henry VIII's coffers.

(11) Worcester — St. Mary's Minster at Worcester is of ancient date, and pre-eminent amongst its benefactors were Leofric and Godgifu, Earl and Countess of Mercia. The celebrated image of Our Lady and the Holy Child was carved of wood and of large size; it stood over the high altar and could be seen from all parts of the church. The apostate Bishop Latimer, writing to Cromwell, refers to this statue in coarse terms, and expresses a hope that with its sisters of Walsingham and Ipswich it my be burnt in Smithfield.

(12) Lincoln — Our Lady of Lincoln is frequently mentioned among the sanctuaries which were regarded by the English with special veneration. In the inventory of the treasures of the cathedral appropriated by Henry VIII, there is mention of the image of Our Lady, sitting in a chair, silver and gilt, having a crown on her head, silver and gilt, set with stones and pearls, and her Child sitting on her knee with one crown upon His head, with a diadem set with pearls and stones, having a ball with a cross, silver and gilt, in His left hand". Of St. Hugh of Lincoln it is said that "for the glory of the ever Virgin Mother of the True Light, he crowned the lights which usually burned in her church with a host of others". Besides the above, there were many other remarkable sanctuaries of Our Lady in England, to which Catholic pilgrims resorted before the unhappy days of the Reformation.


(1) Aberdeen — Our Lady at the Bridge of Dee, described as Our Lady at the Brig, is mentioned in 1459. Near to the chapel was a well dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, where miraculous favours were obtained. In the cathedral were four altars of Our Lady, each with her image, one being of silver.

(2) Edinburgh: Our Lady of Holyrood — In the Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart, Lauriston Street there is an image of Our Lady and Child, carved in wood, which formerly was in Holyrood. For many years it was in the possession of the earls of Aberdeen and subsequently was purchased by Mr. Edmund Waterton, who presented it to the above church.

(3) Haddington — After defeating the Scots at Halidon Hill in 1333 Edward III ravaged the Lowlands, and part of his navy (says the chronicler of 1355) "spoiled the Kirk of Our Lady of Haddington, and returned with the spoil thereof to their ships". But the sacrilege did not go unpunished, for a violent north wind rose and hurled the ships upon the sands and rocks.

(4) Musselburgh — The church, dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto, was most famous and resorted to by numerous pilgrims, whose piety was rewarded with miraculous favours. The fury of the Calvinist reformers destroyed the sanctuary, and in 1590 the materials were used in building the Tolbooth.


(1) Dublin — A statue of the Virgin Mother was greatly venerated in St. Mary's Abbey and mention is made of it by Simmel in 1487. In 541 the abbey was destroyed, its property sequestrated, and the image partly burnt. Part of it, however, was saved and is now venerated in the Carmelite church.

(2) Muckross, formerly Irrelagh — The image of Our Lady was here greatly venerated. When the English were devastating the abbey and had torn down and trampled on the crucifix, some of the friars carried off the image of Our Lady and hid it at the foot of a dead tree. Soon the dead tree revived and leaves sprouted in abundance, forming a shelter to the concealed statue.

(3) Navan — In the abbey church was an image of the Blessed Virgin held in great repute, to which people from all parts of Ireland, princes and peasants, rich and poor, came on pilgrimage, and to which was attributed miraculous power.

(4) Trim, the most celebrated sanctuary of Our Lady in Ireland, stood in the abbey of the canons regular of St. Augustine. Pilgrims flocked to it from all parts of the country and enriched it with their offerings. Many and great miracles are said to have been wrought here. The image of Our Lady of Trim shared the fate of Our Lady of Walsingham, being publicly burnt in 1539.

Shrines of the saints

(1) St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. His sacred body, at first buried in the lower part of the church, was shortly after taken up and laid in a sumptuous shrine in the east end. Innumerable miracles were wrought at his tomb and pilgrims from all parts of England and the continent flocked thither to implore his aid. So great were the offerings made by them that the church abounded with more than princely riches. The shrine was covered with plates of gold and enriched with jewels, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and great oriental pearls (Morris, "Life of St. Thomas", 391). It was an object of the unceasing veneration of all Christendom until the well-known sacrilegious profanation under Henry VIII.

(2) St. Edward the Confessor, d. 5 Jan., 1066. William the Conqueror, who ascended the throne in October of the same year, caused the saint's coffin to be inclosed in a rich case of gold and silver. In 1102 the body was found to be incorrupt, the limbs flexible, and the cloths fresh and clean; several remarkable miracles took place at the tomb. Two years after canonization (1161) the saint's body, still incorrupt, was solemnly translated to a shrine of surpassing magnificence, which was despoiled in the reign of Henry VIII.

(3) St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, d. 493 at Down in Ulster, where his body was found in a church of his name in 1185. It was then reverently translated to a shrine prepared in another part of the same church. On St. Patrick's Purgatory, see PILGRIMAGES.

(4) St. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, and one of the last of the Anglo-Saxon bishops, d. in 1095, and was canonized in 1203. His venerable remains, clothed in pontifical vestments, were exposed in the church for three days to satisfy the devotion of the people, after which his friend, Robert, Bishop of Hereford, to whom he had appeared in a vision, came to celebrate his obsequies. His tomb in Worcester Cathedral was for centuries a centre of attraction to numerous pilgrims, whose piety was rewarded with many miraculous favours. It was rifled of its treasures and despoiled by Henry VIII about the year 1539.

(5) St. Gilbert of Sempringham — At the time of his death (4 Feb., 1189) many persons testified that they saw marvellous lights flashing from the sky, indicating that a great servant of God was quitting this world. He was buried at Sempringham and many miracles were reported to have occurred at his tomb.

(6) St. Kentigern of Scotland (d. 600) spent the closing years of his life in Glasgow, where he was visited by St. Columba of Iona. His tomb in the crypt of his titular church in Glasgow was long famous for miracles, but is now despoiled of ornament and left without honour, except by the few Catholics who chance to visit the cathedral.

(7) St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (See ST. CUTHBERT).

(8) St. Alban, protomartyr of England, d. 304. In the time of Constantine the Great a magnificent church was erected on the place of his martyrdom, where his tomb became illustrious for miracles. The pagan Saxons having destroyed this edifice, Offa, King of the Mercians, erected another in 793 with a great abbey, which became the head of the Benedictine communities in England.

(9) St. Swithin (See ST. SWITHIN).

(10) St. Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, d. 1099. In 1457 his remains were translated from Old Sarum to the new cathedral in modern Salisbury, and there deposited in the chapel of Our Lady.

(11) St. Oswald, King of Northumbria, was slain by the King of Mercia in 642. His mutilated body found a resting place in Bardney Abbey, Lincolnshire, whence, during the Danish invasion, it was removed to Gloucester Cathedral. See Oswald, Saint.

(12) St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, d. 651 within a tent set up for him by the wall of the church of the king's villa at Bamborough. It is related that St. Cuthbert, then a shepherd boy in the mountains, saw in vision his blessed spirit carried by angels into heaven. He was first buried in the cemetery in Lindisfarne, but when the new Church of St. Peter was built there, his body was translated to it and deposited on the right hand of the altar. A portion of his relics was afterwards taken to Iona.

(13) St. Ninian, Bishop of Galloway — His tomb, where miracles were wrought, was venerated at Whithorn till the change of religion.

(14) St. Thomas, Bishop of Hereford. — The narrative of numerous miracles obtained at his tomb in the cathedral church at Hereford filled whole volumes. A large relic is preserved at Stonyhurst College.

(15) St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York, d. 709 at Oundle in Northamptonshire. His sacred relics were carried to Ripon and deposited in the Church of St. Peter, built by him. In the time of the Danish wars they were translated by St. Odo to Canterbury.

(16) St. Winefride, virgin and martyr, d. 600. Her holy death took place at Gwytherin in Wales, hence her body was translated to Shrewsbury in 1138, and there deposited in the church of the Benedictine Abbey. At the dissolution of the monasteries her shrine was plundered. Her miraculous well at Holywell is the only place of pilgrimage in Great Britain that has survived the shock of the Reformation.

(17) St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, d. 1200, in London. His funeral was attended by John of England, William of Scotland, who had dearly loved the saint, three archbishops, fourteen bishops, above a hundred abbots, and a great number of earls and barons of the realm. Many and great miracles took place at his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Eighty years after his deposition the venerable body, found to be incorrupt, was translated to a richer shrine, which was plundered by Henry VIII some centuries later.

(18) St. Edmund — This holy king was martyred by the Danes in 870. The saint's head, which had been struck off, was carried by the infidels into a wood and thrown into a brake of bushes, but miraculously found by a pillar of light and deposited with the body at Haxon. The sacred treasure was conveyed to St. Edmundsbury, where the church of timber erected over it was replaced in 1020 by a stately edifice of stone. In 920, for fear of the Danes, the body was conveyed to London, but subsequently translated again to St. Edmundsbury. The abbey church that enshrined his remains was one of the richest and stateliest in England.


Gumppenberg, Atlas Marianus (Munich, 1672); Waterton, Pietas Mariana Britannica (London, 1879); Northcote, Celebrated sanctuaries of the Madonna (London, 1868).

Acta SS.; Butler, Lives of the Saints; Stanton, Menology of England and Wales (London. 1888).

About this page

APA citation. Chandlery, P. (1912). Shrines of Our Lady and the Saints in Great Britain and Ireland. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Chandlery, Peter. "Shrines of Our Lady and the Saints in Great Britain and Ireland." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Nicolette Ormsbee.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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