The statue of Our Lady of Limerick first came to that city in 1640 as a gift from Patrick Sarsfield and his wife Eleanor. Patrick had purchased the statue on the continent and gifted the statue in reparation for the martyrdom of Sir John Burke of Brittas, Captain of Clanwilliam. It was Patrick’s uncle, Judge Dominic Sarsfield, who had sentence Sir John to death. Sir John was a member of the Rosary Confraternity connected with the Dominicans of Limerick City. He loved the Order and promoted the Rosary in his family and locality. Each year he invited the Dominicans to celebrate Mass in his ancestral home, Brittas Castle and for having the Holy Mass celebrated in secret, he was condemned to death and his estate confiscated in the Act of Settlement in 1653.
Patrick Sarsfield donated the Statue and a silver chalice dated 1640 to the friars of Limerick and he inscribed it with his wife’s name and his own in reparation for the sin of his Uncle, Judge Dominic Sarsfield. They were presented to Fr. Terence Albert of Brian, O.P. who would later become Bishop of Emly and die for the faith in the city of Limerick on October 30th 1651.
During the siege of Limerick in 1651, the statue of the Virgin was removed and according to tradition was buried alongside the remains of the Martyred Bishop O’Brien.
In 1780 when the days of persecution had passed the Dominicans built a small chapel in Fish Lane to replace an earlier church destroyed by anti-Catholic forces. The statue was recovered from its earthly grave and given a place of honour alongside the main altar. When the Dominicans opened St Saviour’s Church in Perry Square in 1816 the statue was brought in procession and enthroned on its own altar surrounded by images of the Dominican saints. In 1954 the Virgin and Child were crowned with a tiara of gold, pearls and diamonds all donated by the women of Limerick, with the result that rich and poor alike had some share in the graces that flow from the treasury of Our Lady of Limerick. The statue of Our Lady of Limerick is almost life-size. On her arm rests the Infant Jesus; while a long silver rosary, with an ancient tubular cross, stretches from the right hand. Our Lady of the Rosary of Limerick, a gift in reparation for the sins of man, watches over her beloved city and its people to this very day. A Mother’s love never ends, and we pray her intercession over God’s children in this modern and changing world.
Prayer to Our Lady of Limerick.
Most loving lady of Limerick, my Mother and my Queen, I thank thee from my heart for the many blessings and consolations that hast bestowed upon me. I love thee with all the fervour of my soul and promise to serve thee always and to make thee loved by all. I place my entire life with its many cares and anxieties in the tender arms of thy maternal love, knowing that thou wilt always guide and protect me. Inflame my heart with true love of Jesus Christ so that I may every accomplish His holy will. I pray thee, thou Mother of Mercy, to safeguard, as thy special heritage, thy faithful people of Limerick. Thou wert given to us in our hour of suffering to inspire and encourage us; do not leave us until thou see us safe in Heaven, there to bless thee and sing thy mercies for all eternity. Amen