Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A little known Welsh Marian shrine

The Shrine of Our Lady of Penhrys is located in The Valleys, which, as the name suggests are a series of valley villages that begin just 20 minutes or so by road from the capital city of Wales, Cardiff. Each valley has its own character and ambience and the people are tough, resilient and used to life's hard knocks (there has not been much employment in the region since the coal industry went into decline).
The history of the Shrine is taken from the website but I cannot find the link. Sorry.

Statue of Our Lady of Penrhys in Cardiff's St David's Cathedral

The beginning of devotion to Mary at Penrhys is shrouded in legend but it is certain that from Medieval times there was a Shrine to Our Lady of Penrhys that flourished for many years.
In 1179 the Cistercian monks founded an Abbey at Llantarnam, and in 1205, Llantarnam Abbey and Margam Abbey agreed on a boundary between the two monasteries, which meant that Penrhys was within the boundary of Llantarnam, some 25 miles away.  The monks built a grange there, enabling them to care for their land and sheep in the outer regions of their property.  The original complex of buildings also included a hostelry maintained by the monks for the pilgrims, and possibly a grange farm house.
Tradition has it that an image of Mary was discovered in an oak tree and, as news spread, crowds of ordinary men and women flocked from far and wide.  The statue was thought to have been immovable from the oak tree until a Shrine chapel had been erected on top of Penrhys Mountain, just above the Holy Well.  Over the well stands a small stone hut-like structure.  ‘White wine runs in the rill,’ said one poet,‘ that can kill pain and fatigue.’
During the time of the Reformation in 1538, the shrine was destroyed and the image seized under cover of darkness.  Thomas Cromwell instructed his emissaries to act ‘with quietness and secret manner as might be’ but were confronted by an ‘audience’ who we can assume had to be overawed before the image could be taken away to Chelsea and burned in the same fire as the images of Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of Ipswich.  (and possibly, Our Lady of the Taper) ‘It will not be all day in burning,’ said Latimer in a letter to Cromwell.
Although the Shrine was destroyed, it is recorded by William Llewellyn, writing in 1862, that in the previous twenty years, there were accounts of people making pilgrimages to the top of Penrhys Mountain.  The Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael McGrath (1940-1961) furthered the modern popularity of the Shrine.  He was anxious to purchase the land on the top of Penrhys Mountain for the Roman Catholic Church in Wales. A statue of Our Lady of Penrhys was erected in 1953 which stands on the foundations of the former chapel. 

Prayer of Reparation to Our Lady of Penrhys

          O Most Holy Virgin and our Mother who appeared at Penrhys,
we listen with grief to the complaints of your Immaculate Heart
surrounded with a crown of thorns placed therein at every moment
by the blasphemies and ingratitude shown to you in the Middle Ages
and every year since.

We are moved to beseech you dear Queen of Penrhys because it is
our urgent desire to love you as our Mother and of promoting your devotion
restoring the special place you made here so many years ago.
We kneel to manifest the sorrow we feel for all the grievances that people
have caused you in the Middle Ages up to now.  We are willing
to atone now by our prayers and sacrifices for the offences with
which they return your love.  Obtain for them and for us the pardon
of so many sins.

Hasten the conversion of sinners that they may love Jesus and cease to
offend the Lord, already so much offended.  Turn your eyes of mercy
toward us, that we may love God with all our heart on earth
and enjoy Him forever in heaven.

Our Lady of Penrhys, Pray for us!
Our Lady of Reconciliation, Pray for us!

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