Q: Is there a Shrine to Our Lady of Penrhys in Wales?

A: The Legend of Penrhys, is lost in obscurity and mystery, but there definitely was great devotion to Our Blessed Lady here, and a nearby spring or well had come to be known as miraculous.

At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, Latimer wrote to Cromwell suggesting the destruction of five of the most renowned Shrines of Our Lady, including Penrhys. The image was sent to Cromwell's own house in Chelsea on the September 14, 1538. There it was burned publicly together with the statues of Walsingham, Ipswich and other images on September 26, 1538.

In spite of everything, the faithful continued to visit Penrhys and pray to Our Lady for four-hundred years. There is record of such devotion up until 1842, although barely a trace of the original shrine or buildings remained. But, in the early years of this century, little groups of pilgrims again wound their way up the mountainside to the well. In 1912, excavations were carried out which unearthed fragments of glass and tiles; and in the farm house, original timbers were found. A church was built at Ferndale two miles away from the shrine. It was built as a memorial church largely through the generosity and efforts of a Miss M. M. Davies of Llantrisant, a convert. The same devoted lady also procured for this church a beautiful oak replica of the ancient statue of Penrhys, standing in a richly carved tree trunk. This beautiful work of art can still be seen in Ferndale Church.

It was not until 1936 that the pilgrimages were revived, and it was about this time, in 1939, that the Rhondda Borough Council, took it upon themselves to preserve the historical well, and put railings around it for the first time. Two years later, the ground where the statue is situated, was given to Archbishop Mostyn for the Archdiocese of Cardiff, by Miss M. M. Davies. The pilgrimages had continued to come, even though there was no statue. The present statue was officially erected and blessed on the site itself, by Archbishop McGrath on July 2, 1953. It had been designed to resemble as near as possible the description of the original statue, found in Medieval Welsh poetry, and carved of Portland Stone.

Viv Condon informs us that, at present,  there is a church in Ferndale, S. Wales dedicated to the Shrine of Our Lady of Penrhys which has "a steady stream of visitors during the summer months and the church plays host and provides refreshments."  She claims that the shrine dates back to the twelfth century and was very popular in its day.  She adds that the church has "a beautiful oak statue, a replica of the statue burned, given by a convert who also paid for the building of the church in 1912." The Deanery has proposed closing the church; and the parishioners would appreciate your prayers for the Church of the Shrine.


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