Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu Church
The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu is a Roman Catholic Marian shrine in Mannar district of Sri Lanka. With a history of over 400 years, this shrine acts as a center for pilgrimage and worship for Sri Lankan Catholics. The site is considered as the holiest Catholic shrine in the island and is a well known place of devotion for both Tamil and Sinhalese Catholics.
Invasion of the Dutch in 1670 led 20 Catholic families to fleeing from Mantai, along with the statue of Mary in that church to a safer locale in Madhu. During that time around 700 Catholics from Jaffna peninsula migrated to Wanni forests. These two communities met in Madhu, and built a new Shrine to install the statue. This is how the Madhu shrine came into existence.
Revival of Catholic faith by missionaries such as Blessed Joseph Vaz, Oratorian priests expanded the small shrine in the late 17th Century. The number of Catholics in 1796 remained small. With such a small community the Shrine at Madhu started to attract pilgrims from all over the country. In 1834 the building of the new church was initiated by Bishop C. Bonjean and his successors built a facade, the spacious presbytery, restful chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Feasts at Madhu Church
The new Bishop in the year 1870 arranged an annual feast to be celebrated on the 2nd of July, but in recent years the August 15th feast draws the biggest crowd as its one of the most hallowed days for Catholics celebrating the day of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
Bishop Brault who had a very special devotion in 1920, requested the Pope’s sanction for the historic solemn coronation of the Statue of Our Lady of Madhu. The Holy Father in his audience of April 7 1921 granted this favor of coronation of Our Lady. In 1924 it was officially crowned by the Papal Legate, who came in the name of Pope Pius XI.
Consecration of the Church
In preparation for the consecration ceremony by Biship J. A. Guyomar, the old wooden structure and the whole sanctuary was replaced with Blue and White Marble. In spite of travel restrictions and difficulties finding conveyance during World War II, more than 30,000 people came to the jungle shrine of Our Lady of Madhu for the Consecration in 1944.