Our Lady of Graces is a three-inch ivory plaque that depicts the seated Madonna and Christ child dating from the 14th century.
The Statue was brought from Europe to Ireland in 1304 by the Archbishop of Cashel, Maurice O’Carroll. When he died in 1316, the image, for which he had a special veneration, was buried with him in the Dominican Church in Youghal, Co. Cork. The Dominicans first came to Youghal in 1268 and dedicated their church and priory to Our Lady. For over one hundred years the statue lay buried and forgotten. Then, at a time when religion had fallen to a very low level, Our Lady herself intervened. She appeared in a dream to one of the Dominican friars of Youghal and asked that the statue be removed from the tomb. The little statue was miraculously unearthed. Our Lady of Graces obviously did not want to stay buried. It was a miracle! The revival of fervour and the growth of devotion which followed the recovery is indicated by the changing of the title of the Dominican Church in Youghal to that of “Our Lady of Graces”. The statue became a focus a fervour, a centre of pilgrimage, an occasion of many graces. According to tradition a blind man recovered his sight, and all those who came to the shrine and venerated the statue found their prayers being answered. Youghal became a place of pilgrimage as people flocked in their hundreds to see the miraculous statue. Youghal was also close to the Shrine of St. Declan of Ardmore and so pilgrims would first visit the saint’s relics and then continue their journey to Youghal. Also from the town of Youghal, pilgrims would leave for Santiago and Rome.
With the persecution of the faith under Henry VIII in the 1500s, Sir Walter Raleigh ordered that the Abbey of Our Lady of Graces and the shrine be demolished. The demolition was dogged with bad luck where one workman fell off the roof, while another died mysteriously just after the work started.
One of the Fitzgerald family, Honoria Fitzgerald, took the statue to safety before the church was demolished. She kept it for many years and even had a special silver case made for it in 1617. In time the statue was handed over to the Dominicans in Cork, where in 1895 Our Lady of Graces found a permanent home in St Mary’s Church, Popes Quay and was placed appropriately on the Rosary altar beside the sanctuary of the church.
Today Our Lady of Graces is loved by the people of Cork and Mass is said in honour of Our Lady of Graces each Saturday in the Dominican Church which houses the shrine.
Prayer to Our Lady of Graces.
O Mary of Graces and mother of Christ, O may you direct me and guide me a right. O may you protect me from Satan’s control, and may you protect me in body and soul. O may you protect me by land and by sea, and may you protect me from sorrows to be; A strong guard of angels above me provide; May God be before me and God at my side. Three Hail Mary’s and the Memorare.