National Shrine of Our Lady of Madu Church


This Church has a story of more than 400 years and is one of the country's most beloved and most encouraging churches. In 1924, Pope Pius XI granted a canonical investiture to the Church. Before the civil war divided out in the country, there were times that close to a million people would gather to this Church during the August festival of the Church, making it the most visited feast in the country. However, the Church is in the middle of a thick forest where locals couldn't see this place during the civil war.

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History of The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu

The roots of Christianity in Sri Lanka can be traced back to the 16th century when Portuguese missionaries, led by figures such as Saint Francis Xavier, brought Roman Catholicism to the Kingdom of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. However, it was during a time of persecution and hardship for the newly converted Christians, both under the Jaffna king and the Dutch rulers. In response to this persecution, the Catholic community regrouped and established a shrine in Manthai, installing a statue of Our Lady of Good Health.

Subsequently, the Dutch invasion in 1670 and the ensuing persecution of the Catholic Church forced several Catholic families to flee from Manthai to the safer area of Madhu. Around the same time, 700 Catholics migrated from the Jaffna peninsula into the Wanni forests. When these two communities converged in Madhu, they decided to build a new shrine, housing the revered statue of Our Lady.

Pontifical Coronation of the Image

Recognizing the importance and reverence bestowed upon the image, Pope Benedict XV granted it a pontifical decree of coronation on 7th April 1921. This honour was conveyed through Cardinal Willem Marinus van Rossum, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The coronation rite was solemnly executed on 2nd July 1924, solidifying the stature of the shrine and its significance within the Catholic community.

Consecration of the Church

The consecration of the church took place in 1944 amidst the backdrop of World War II. In preparation for the ceremony, significant improvements were made to the shrine. A majestic marble altar replaced the old wooden structure, while the entire sanctuary was adorned with white and blue marble, adding a touch of grandeur to the place of worship. Despite the travel restrictions and transportation challenges faced during the war, over 30,000 people flocked to the jungle shrine, demonstrating their unwavering devotion.

The Penitential Tour

The revered statue of Our Lady of Madhu has been taken on procession three times to various parishes in Sri Lanka. The first tour occurred in 1948, followed by subsequent terms in 1974 and 2001. These penitential tours served as spiritual endeavours, encouraging Catholics across Sri Lanka to pray for peace and end the civil war that plagued the nation.

Feast Day at Madhu

While an annual festival has been celebrated at the shrine on 2nd July since 1870, the 15th August festival has recently gained significant popularity. This festival coincides with the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven and aligns with school holidays, allowing entire families to undertake the pilgrimage. Before the Sri Lankan Civil War outbreak, attendance at the August festival reached almost one million people, underscoring the deep devotion and significance of this holy site.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu stands as a testament to the enduring faith of Sri Lankan Catholics and the unity it fosters among diverse religious communities. With a history spanning centuries, this sacred site attracts pilgrims from all corners of the country, seeking solace, guidance, and blessings. Despite the challenges faced during the civil war, the shrine remains a beacon of hope and a symbol of harmony in a multi-religious society.


  1. Is The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu open to people of all religions?
    • Yes, the shrine welcomes people of all religions who seek solace and wish to pay their respects.
  2. How can one reach The Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu?
    • The shrine is located in the Mannar district of Sri Lanka and can be reached by road or public transportation.
  3. Is photography allowed inside the shrine?
    • Yes, photography is allowed, but respecting the sacred surroundings and worshipers is advisable.
  4. Are there any accommodations available near the shrine?
    • Yes, a few guesthouses and hotels in the vicinity cater to the needs of pilgrims.
  5. Can I make offerings at the shrine?
    • Yes, visitors are encouraged to make offerings as a sign of devotion and gratitude.



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