Buckfast Abbey marked the centenary since its restored medieval artefact, the statue of Our Lady of Buckfast, was placed by the monks in the new Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church.
The historic statue, part of which dates back to the 14th century, is treasured by the Abbey as it is the only artefact of significant size to survive the destruction of Buckfast Abbey during the Reformation period in the 16th century.
Many iconographic statues, mosaics and frescoes of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ child appeared across Europe in medieval times, with a fresco in the Rome catacombs dating back as far as the second century. The history of the Our Lady of Buckfast’s statue is a remarkable tale of discovery, restoration and finally installation in the Abbey Church at Buckfast.
Buckfast Abbey is the only English Benedictine monastery to be re-founded upon its original pre-reformation site.
Having fallen into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII in 1538, the Abbey Church was rebuilt stone by stone upon its medieval foundations by a team of returning French Benedictine monks in 1882.
It was during this process that a considerable fragment of the original statue of Our Lady was discovered in a nearby wall.
With its colouring and gilding intact, it’s a marvel that specialists were able to recreate the 14th century statue incorporating the original fragment, using evidence from the image on the seal of the medieval Buckfast Abbey held in the British Museum.
Following its restoration in the late 1880s, the statue was housed in the Chapter House’s temporary church before being moved to the Abbey Church in August 1922 to mark the official inauguration of the building.