Our Lady of Graces is a small ivory plaque that depicts the Madonna and Christ child of 14th century date. Standing at a mere 3 inches/ 7.5 cm in height it is hard to imagine that during the late medieval period it was the focus of a very popular pilgrimage.
The image originally belonged to the Dominican priory of Youghal Co Cork. The priory of Youghal, was founded in the 13th century and was rededicated to ‘Our Lady of Graces’ in the late 15th century, reflecting the fact the image was the focus of very popular Marian cult and pilgrimage.
There are a number of legends and folk traditions pertaining to the origin of Our Lady of Graces and its arrival in Youghal all of which are detailed in the book Wells, Graves, and Statues: Exploring the heritage and culture of pilgrimage in medieval and modern Cork city.
This small plaque was said to have performed many miracles, attracting a constant stream of pilgrims. Following the reformation the priory of Youghal was destroyed by Walter Raleigh in 1578. The plaque of Our Lady of Graces managed to survive perhaps due to its diminutive size which made it easy to conceal.
There are sporadic references to the image in the historical sources suggesting it continued in the possession of the Dominicans, and was still venerated and received offerings from pilgrims in the ensuing years. In the seventeenth century the image along with a chalice from the Youghal priory was brought to the nearest Dominican priory, in Cork city.
Although Our Lady of Graces has been gone from Youghal for over 400 years, the image continues to have a connection with the town of Youghal and several modern artworks commemorate this link. The most impressive is a large stone statue depicting the image by famous Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy (1907-1975). This modern statue was erected in 1953 as part of a grotto of Our Lady of Graces, at South Abbey Street. It is carved from Portland stone and stands at over 1.5m in height dwarfing the minute original.
Today the plaque of Our Lady of Graces can be viewed at St Mary’s church at the Dominican priory at Popes Quay in Cork City.
To find out more about the history and miracles of the Plaque of Our Lady of Graces see
Wells, Graves, and Statues: Exploring the heritage and culture of pilgrimage in medieval and modern Cork city
available in a number of places around Cork City & County:
Sunday’s Well Post Office
Beneditus Bookshop North Main Street
For those of you outside of Ireland our book can be purchased through amazon