Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu
The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu is considered the holiest Catholic shrine in Sri Lanka, possessing a history that goes back for more than 400 years. Situated in the Mannar district, this Roman Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary is a major centre of worship and pilgrimage for the country’s Tamil and Sinhalese Catholic population. The image of Our Lady of Madhu was granted a canonical coronation by Pope Pius XI in 1924.
Story Behind the Sacred Shrine
After the Dutch invasion of Sri Lanka, the persecution of the Catholic Church in 1670 forced a number of Catholic families to flee from their homes in the coastal town of Manthai; despite their haste to escape, they carried the statue of Mary from their local church with them. Meanwhile, around 700 Catholics migrated south from Jaffna into the Vanni forests. The two communities came across each other in Madhu, where they decided to build a new shrine using the statue of Mary that the Catholic families had rescued.
Once the persecution of the Catholics had ended, the small community at Madhu discovered that their shrine was attracting pilgrims from all around the island. The church that stands with the shrine today was built in 1872, to include a spacious presbytery, a chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.