BUCKFAST Abbey is celebrating 100 years since the installation of its treasured medieval artefact.

The restored statue of Our Lady of Buckfast was placed by the monks in the new Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church on July 31 1922. 

The historic statue, part of which dates back to the 14th century, is the only artefact of significant size to survive the destruction of Buckfast Abbey during the Reformation period in the 16th century.  

Many iconographic statues, mosaics and frescoes of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ child appeared across Europe in medieval times, with a fresco in the Rome catacombs dating back as far as the second century.

The history of the Our Lady of Buckfast’s statue is a remarkable tale of discovery and restoration.

The Abbey is the only English Benedictine monastery to be re-founded upon its original pre-reformation site and having fallen into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII in 1538, the Abbey Church was rebuilt stone by stone upon its medieval foundations by a team of returning French Benedictine monks in 1882.

It was during this process that a considerable fragment of the original statue of Our Lady was discovered in a nearby wall. 

With its colouring and gilding intact, specialists were able to recreate the 14th century statue incorporating the original fragment - using evidence from the image on the seal of the medieval Buckfast Abbey held in the British Museum. 

Following its restoration in the late 1880s, the statue was housed in the Chapter House’s temporary church before being moved to the Abbey Church in August 1922 to mark the building’s official inauguration.

A century later the abbey paid fitting tribute to the critical moment in its history with a Votive Mass of Our Blessed Lady led by Father Abbot David Charlesworth.

Father Abbot said: “It was a pleasure to welcome so many people to our mass on Sunday and celebrate another incredibly special milestone for the abbey.

“With such a fascinating history to be shared, we look forward to welcoming more visitors to the Lady Chapel this year to enjoy and learn more about our treasured piece of history – the statue of Our Lady of Buckfast.”

Those who attended the mass received a complimentary copy of the specially compiled booklet about the fascinating story of the statue to commemorate the centenary of her installation.