Ballinspittle, Co Cork: the Marian Grotto became a world news sensation
1954 was a great year for the construction of outdoor shrines and grottoes in Ireland. Pope Pius XII had designated it a special Marian Year to mark the centenary of the ‘dogma of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption’. The Marian Year was an international event, but apparently no other country embraced the idea with greater fervour than Ireland. The notion seemed to capture the imagination of a young republic suffering from serious recession, high unemployment and loss of population through emigration. Hundreds of projects were put in hand and today, on almost every road in the country – and in every community – you will see statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, usually in well tended settings. They add to the colour and character of this green land: like the ancient holy wells, they are venerated and not forgotten.
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