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Statue coming to town

PUBLISHED: 21:00 21 August 2002 | UPDATED: 12:30 03 March 2010

ONE of Ipswich's most famous religious sites is to be remembered with a new permanent home.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, a modern successor to the medieval shrine that attracted kings and queens to Ipswich, will be dedicated in a special ceremony at St Mary at the Elms later this month.

By James Fraser

IPSWICH'S most famous religious shrines is to be remembered with a new permanent home.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, a modern successor to the medieval statue that attracted kings and queens to Ipswich, will be dedicated in a special ceremony at St Mary at the Elms later this month.

The shrine to Mary – an important figure of Catholic worship – drew thousands of pilgrims, including kings Edward I, Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.

However the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was reported to be destroyed when England became a Protestant country – and symbols of its Catholic past were frowned upon.

Legend states that a band of Italian sailors saved the oak carving from the flames and taken it back to the fishing village of Nettuno, near Rome, where it stands today.

All-faith organisation Merymemana chose St Mary at the Elms as it is the parish church for Lady Lane, the former site of the shrine that gave the thoroughfare near the Town Hall its name.

A modern carving, created by Robert Mellamphy, will take pride of place in the shrine.

Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Richard Lewis will lead the service to which the leaders of all the main churches in town and Ipswich mosque have been invited.

Nick Clarke, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, said: "It's wonderful that such an important piece of history is returning to Suffolk in the form of this new statue.

"For Anglo-Catholics it's very important that they have something that marks this period of history when many people came on pilgramage to Ipswich."

Fast facts

The earliest record of a royal visiting the shrine was on January 8, 1297, when Edward I attended his daughter Princess Elizabeth's wedding in Ipswich

Local lad Cardinal Wolsey also made the pilgrimage back home to pay his respects in the 16th century

Some reports suggest that the carving was sold to the village of Nettuno – its design shows it to be clearly English in origin

The statue was seriously damaged during the Second World War. Nettuno lies near Anzio which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

Source: www.suffolkchurches.co.uk

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