athgarvan (athgarvan) wrote,


Fatima is a little town in Portugal in which there is a fine basilica in honour of  the Blessed Virgin. Thousands of pilgrims visit Fatima each year. I've never been there myself.

In 1949 a Mayo woman, Mrs. Kathleen Conroy, had the idea of donating a monstrance, designed and made in Ireland, to the shrine. No public appeal was made, but gifts began to flow in from  friends. Apart from the beautiful workmanship, the monstrance contains 1,750 jewels, including 650 diamonds. Made of silver it is heavily gilt, and is fitted with an 18ct gold Lunette. The base has the emblems of the four provinces of Ireland and the stem consists of the form of Mary. It was made by Gunnings of  Dublin and is a wonderful expression of modern Irish devotion in art.

Even after the Monstrance was complete, money and jewellery continued to arrive at Gunning’s so they decided to make an 18ct solid gold lunette and house it in a custos of silver gilt studded with diamonds . This custos (inset), in which the Eucharist is placed when not exposed in the Monstrance, is a work of art in itself. The Monstrance and Custos are heavily chased all over with Celtic interlacing and other motifs and up the stem of the Monstrance is a chased figure of the Blessed Virgin.

The monstrance (€500,000) is now considered the second most valuable piece in Fatima, after the Portuguese Crown of Gold, which has set into it the bullet that wounded Pope John Paul. The Catholic Church, before Vatican 11, gave great employment to many people in the precious metal business. No institution comes near to replacing the Church as an employer of silversmiths since.

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