Lady’s Well continues to draw pilgrims ­Tommie Quinn 2012

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New Dawn Magazine, Archdioces of Tuam

Like they have done for more than 700 years, the people of Athenry and beyond came together on 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption, for the celebration of Lady’s Well in Athenry.

Tradition tells the story that a Marian apparition took place at the Lady’s Well, on 15th August 1249 after the Battle of Athenry.

An account in the Annals of lar Connacht record that a battle took place. The Normans within the town requested the Irish not to attack and to honour the feast-day. However, the Irish made an attack and they were defeated.

In the vicinity of Lady’s Well tradition presents for us the legend that Our Lady appeared to a wounded soldier as he was being carried away from the battle-field. It is also very likely that the new Priory built in Athenry by the Dominicans in 1241 promoted the Marian devotion.

Lady’s Well is a very popular place of pilgrimage throughout the year. The main pilgrimage takes place on the Feast of the Assumption and this year local Parish Priest Fr Tony King celebrated the Mass on the day. Many return home on holidays to meet at the well, to be with their families and to keep contact with old friends.

The waters of the well remind us that our pilgrim journey begins at baptism. The tree that shadows the setting is a symbol of the Christian call to grow in holiness by raising our hearts to God and reaching out our hands to care for people.

Also in the area, the Celtic Pieta dates from the 14th century and is set in the outer wall of the Well. The Mother holds the body of the dead Christ — not cradled in her arms as in the continental style — but in an almost upright position against her body. Signs of considerable damage are due to erosion and the tradition that it was defaced by Cromwellian soldiers.

Another interesting feature at the Lady’s Well is the headache stone, a large rectangular stone with the cavity in the centre, which was a socket for a medieval cross. There is a strong tradition of personal healing associated with this stone.

Dominating the site is the Calvary, which was erected in 1932, the year of the Eucharistic Congress, while the Grotto was put in place in 1954 to mark the Marian Year.

To mark Jubilee 2000, the Millennium Park was developed. This imaginative design is in the form of a Celtic Cross. The tradition of the Celtic Cross — the Cross placed against the sun — is a unique symbol of the harmonious transition from pagan worship to Christianity in Ireland.

This park leading into Lady’s Well is a place of reflection and peace. As we begin a new century, a time of change and transition, people will find in this beautiful setting a place of rest and harmony to reflect on our Christian heritage and find the energy to face the future with confidence.

This 81-inch-high sculpture in Kilkenny limestone is the centre-piece of the Millennium Park. It embraces a broad symbolism — the tradition of Our Lady and the soldier after the Battle of Athenry.

Here too, we find the image of return and atonement. The home-coming of someone estranged from family and community to give expression to the desire for forgiveness, confirmation and unity.

Conversely, the sculpture might also be seen as a departure, a commission to go forth and evangelise in the great Irish tradition of mission. A reminder of the people, priests and religious who left the parish down the centuries bringing with them their culture and faith. A missionary image and a tribute to the Irish diaspora; or simply to suggest the beginning of a journey, appropriate at the start of the new millennium. A call to make a fresh beginning, full of hope.

At another level, the sculpture can be viewed simply as an image of human (romantic) love and through this a reference to St Paul’s mystical marriage of Christ and his bride, the Church.

The Lady’s Well Millennium Park and Sculpture were officially opened by Tommy Quinn, Chairman, and blessed on August 15th 1999 by Fr Tony King PP.

 Lady‘s Well Committee and helpers are a voluntary group of parishioners who take care of this special place. Tommy Quinn is Chairman of the Lady’s Well Committee

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About this record

Written by Tommy Quinn

Published here 12 Mar 2024 and originally published 2012

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