August 2018


The Calm Spirituality of Madhu
August 2018




The fa├žade of Our Lady of Madhu Church with blue and white flags soaring high in the breeze

Blue and white flags gently fluttered in the breeze while the cloud cover provided a reprieve from the mid-day sun as we arrived at the entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu. Travelling through the Madhu Sanctuary, we were enveloped in the gentle embrace of nature.


Words: Gayathri Kothalawala
Photography: Menaka Aravinda and Vishwathan Tharmakulasingham


The stillness of the final stretch of road that leads upto the Madhu Church seems to foretell the peace and serenity that we would find within the Church premises. Painted in soothing blues and whites, the church has withstood the passage of time and is a welcome haven for every visitor, regardless of their religion, caste or creed.


As we entered the Church, a blanket of tranquility spread over us. The soft prayers escaping from the lips of the parishioners, silent enough to be unintelligible further added to the weighty atmosphere. A deeply spiritual location, the Church encourages the visitor to transcend beyond their worldly concerns.


The benevolent Mother Mary carrying Baby Jesus casts her tender gaze upon the devotees from her place beyond the altar. The statue is placed within an elaborate wooden structure carved to resemble a church. A round stained glass window above the statue once again depicts the duo.


Christianity arrived in Sri Lanka during the Portuguese era. Despite uncertainties as to its exact age, the statue has an intriguing history. During the Portuguese epoch, its abode was in the coastal town of Manthai in the Mannar District. Afterwards, Catholics fleeing from Dutch persecution smuggled the sacred statue and travelled through the Wanni region, seeking refuge in Kandy. Deep in the forests of Mannar, these travellers eventually discovered a safe location named as ‘Murathamadhu' (known as Madhu today). They built a humble place of reverence for the Blessed Mother. However, the first church dedicated to Mother Mary in Madhu was built by the daughter of a Portuguese sea captain named Helena. Through the centuries, devotees have lovingly protected the sacred figure, and expanded the church premises.

Painted in soothing blues and whites, the church has withstood the passage of time and is a welcome haven for every visitor, regardless of their religion, caste or creed.


Within the church, devotees stand, sit or kneel in front of the altar, confiding their hopes, fears and dreams to Mother Mary. Advancing through the isle on their knees, worshippers seek the Blessed Mother's intervention. Believers collect Madhu-Man or sacred soil into bags from an allocated area inside the Church to take home. The Madhu-Man is said to have healing properties, reputed to cure illness when mixed with water and consumed or applied directly on wounds.


Madhu Church is famous for its miracles. Despite the wilderness surrounding the church, wild animals would not harm pilgrims. Similarly, tales of the afflicted being cured after praying to the Sacred Mother for salvation are often told amongst devotees.


After the intentions, worshippers would light candles for Lady Madhu in a separate area protected from the elements. A beautiful mural depicting Virgin Mary and baby Jesus overlooks the candles lit by devotees. Once devotees have paid homage to Mother Mary, those who seek blessings from a Reverend Father can do so under a sheltered corridor within sight of the bell tower.


The Blessed Sacrament Chapel opened by the Pope Francis in 2015 during His Holiness' historic visit to Sri Lanka is located next to the church. Its ornately decorated door holds a sanctum where peace and serenity reigns.


The Church grounds are separated into several sites. The Way of the Cross depicts Jesus' life through golden statues placed in the extensive grounds. Nearby trees provide shade to the visitors as they spend time observing the intricately detailed Way of the Cross. Standing a short walk away from the Way of the Cross, the Rosary Village depicts the four mysteries of the Rosary: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous. The statues are sheltered in individual cream-coloured houses.


At the Rosary Stall, devotees can purchase medals and mementos as well as candles of prayer to light for Mother Mary. Along the corridor of the church there are counters to purchase candles, and tokens as well. A row of stalls located near the church grounds display religious souvenirs that visitors can take home.


In August, the Church hosts the Feast of Our Lady of Madhu. Camping within the church grounds in time to attend the feast is an honoured tradition in Sri Lanka. Days before the Feast is scheduled to begin, worshippers would raise simple huts or tents and a community built on harmony would emerge overnight.


The Feast of Our Lady of Madhu will take place from
August 6 - 15, 2018.
The Hoisting of the Flag: August 6, 2018.
Assumption of Mother Mary: August 15, 2018.
Daily Masses are held in
Tamil (6am) and Sinhala (6.45am) on weekdays.
During the weekends
Mass will be held at 11.15am in both Tamil and Sinhala.

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    The entrance of the road that runs through the Madhu Sanctuary leads to the Madhu Church, Mannar

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    The miraculous statue of Mother Mary carrying Baby Jesus found within an elaborate wooden structure

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    The holy statue of Our Lady of Madhu

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    Worshippers light a candle in faith of Mother Mary

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    Devotees collecting sacred soil to take home

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    The Rosary Village depicting the mysteries of the Rosary

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    The Rosary stall with many mementos, photos and religious souvenirs

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