On Saint Patrick’s day 1697, a large number of people gathered to celebrate the saints feast day in Gyer Cathedral in Hungry, when a miraculous event took place. Bloody and what appeared to be sweat was observed coming from the face of the figure of the Blessed Lady in a picture which had come from Clonfert cathedral in Ireland following its destruction during the Cromwellian invasion. From the eyes of the Blessed Virgin in the picture, bloody tears continued to roll for 3 hours from 6 am to 9 am. Drops of blood fell onto the pictures of the Infant Jesus in the picture. As the bleeding continued for three hours, linen towels were used by several priests to wipe the perspiring face as blood and tears continued to flow. During the event the picture was removed from its frame on the wall to examine it but no natural source of the emanation was found. The linen remains preserved to the present day in a silver frame in the treasury of the capital church.
A witness to the event wrote: “Then did an extraordinary and naturally inexplicable phenomenon happen, that right on March 17, the holiday of Bishop St Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, around six o’clock in the morning, while numerous people were hearing Holy Mass, all of a sudden it was noticed that this Blessed Lady’s image wept; immediately the multitude swarmed about the place, seeing the thing in astonishment; some began to cry and repent their sins, others to doubt… from the whole town gathered inhabitants of all ranks and all religions, those from the chapter, took the image from the wall; the wall was dry, and the image not only continued to weep, but was wet with sweat of blood, the drops were wiped with pure white cambric, but the image painted on the canvass wept again, so that a few drops fell on the cheek of the baby Jesus even, whose marks are still to be seen in the picture now…. For three hours did the vision last, during which the church rang with the devoted prayer of the Christian multitude that gathered there together. Among them was Count Heister Siegebert, the Imperial Military Governor of Gyor.”. The Count a member of the nobility and a military General was so moved by the event that he erected a new altar in the Cathedral to honour the Blessed Virgin.
News of what was taking place immediately spread throughout the city and not only Catholics, but Protestants and Jews flocked to see the miracle. It was witnessed by thousands, and many of them gave testimony of what they saw. A document signed by more than a hundred witnesses bears the signatures of the imperial governor of the city, the mayor, all the councilmen, the Bishop, some priests, Calvinist and Lutheran ministers and a Jewish rabbi all of whom, volunteered to give their testimony to an undeniable event. A bloody spot is still visible on the preserved linen cloth.
In 1767, the miraculous picture was set in a magnificent baroque altarpiece in Gyer Cathedral. A professor of chemistry was given permission in the mid-1900’s to chemically examine and analyse a particle removed from the darkest vein. What the chemical test found was a mixture of human blood and tears.
The archives of Gyer Cathedral contain a document written in 1697 on parchment testifying to this event by eyewitnesses. It is signed not only by the clergy and the laity who were present at the Mass, but by the mayor and the councilmen, by the governor, Lutheran and Calvinist preachers, a Rabbi and over one hundred signatures represent eye-witnesses to the miracle. n 1874, Pope Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence on the feasts of Saint Patrick and the Assumption, before which public novenas are held.
Persecution in Ireland
In 1697 Hungary was enjoying a prolonged period of greater peace. But during that year in Ireland from where the picture originated things were very grim. That was the year when the English Parliament passed an edict expelling all priests from Ireland and the British Isles. Catholic churches were confiscated and all traces of the Catholic religion were erased from them. In its place a newly created protestant church called the Church of Ireland was established by Cromwell’s London authorities as the national or established Irish church and only its religious practices were allowed. Even the dead could only be buried by ministers of that religion.
Banishment from Ireland
The English Parliament’s Banishment Act of 1697 banished all Roman Catholic ordinaries and regular clergy from Ireland. By May 1st 1698 all “popish archbishops, bishops, vicars general, deans, Jesuits, monks, friars, and other regular popish clergy” were required to gather in one of several named ports to be shipped out of Ireland lest they offer the people an alternative to the new religious regime. Catholic clergy remaining or entering the country after this date would be punished as a first offence with 12 months’ imprisonment followed by deportation. A second offence constituted high treason with the death penalty. Dr Walter Lynch’s successor as Bishop of Clonfert, Murtagh Donnellan was arrested in 1703 but was rescued by an armed crowd.
Ethnic Cleansing in Ireland
During the most ruthless ethnic cleansing that has ever taken place in western European history (1649–1653) Oliver Cromwell massacred the Irish. Doctor Walter Lynch, Bishop of Clonfert was one of the bishops forced to leave Ireland at that time. Bishop Lynch always carried with him the picture of the Madonna from Clonfert Cathedral, fearing that this treasured relic might fall into Cromwellian hands and be destroyed. Clonfert was a very important ecclesiastical site in early Christian Ireland and throughout the middle ages until its desecration at the time of the reformation in the sixteenth century.
Bishop Lynch Escapes
Walter Lynch, Bishop of Clonfert, and some fellow prelates were arrested and herded to the island of Inisbofin off the Galway coast where they were detained for transportation. In 1652, he and some members of his group succeeded in escaping to the Continent, where Irish refugees were warmly received in various countries. Bishop Lynch spent some time in Belgium and Portugal and later travelled to Hungary where he was doubtless acquainted with the close medieval ties that bound that nation to his own.
10 Years in Gyer
Bishop Lynch lived in poverty until his plight became known to Bishop János Pusky of Gyer, who invited him to his cathedral city, where he was appointed a canon, and given a house, and a decent income. Eventually he became auxiliary bishop of the Diocese. The Irish Bishop learned to speak Hungarian and worked for ten years among the faithful. His life in Gyor is described as that of an exemplary ‘humble priest.’ He spent his income supporting the poor. ‘The people of Gyor truly loved this foreigner for his generosity and devotion’. Although grateful for the hospitality, his heart still longed for his native country. Thus, after ten years when the Cromwellian persecution in Ireland had subsided, he prepared with great expectation for his homeward journey.
From Clonfert to Gyer
On the eve of his planned departure back to Ireland on July 14th 1663 Walter Lynch died and was buried in the crypt of Gyer Cathedral. During his dying hours he gave the Bishop of Gyer his only material treasure, the picture of the Madonna of Ireland. The image of the Virgin and Child, one of his few belongings was then hung on the wall of the northern aisle of Gyer cathedral. This picture had hung previously in the Cathedral of Clonfert in Ireland prior to its destruction by the Cromwellians. Hungarians have for more than three centuries, flocked to see it especially on St. Patrick’s Day March 17th. The picture is known as ‘The Madonna of Ireland’, but is also known as ‘The Consoler of the Afflicted’.
Our Lady of Ireland
In 1913 Archbishop Schrembs of Toledo, USA, visited Gyer Cathedral in Hungary. He saw the beautiful painting and was deeply moved when told of the wonderful 1697 event. He requested a copy to be painted for the many Irish Catholics in his diocese who would be happy to learn its history and to possess the picture of Our Lady of Ireland. The copy was ceremoniously placed face to face with the original and then given to Bishop Schrembs.
On August 23, 1914, Archbishop Schrembs dedicated the new St Stephen’s Church in Toledo, Ohio where the Hungarian people had paid about 2/3 of the cost of the building. The Bishop presented the Madonna to this church, saying: “I am convinced that the picture will be treasured in a Hungarian Church just as much as it would be in an Irish one.” Both Hungarians and Irish were thrilled. The image depicts Mary crowned as queen, Our Lady of Ireland, and before her, lying on several circular pillows, is the Infant Jesus crowned as the Little King, and covered with royal robes.
Archbishop Schrembs dedicated the new St Stephen’s Church in Toledo, Ohio on August 23, 1914 in which he placed the picture on the left said to be a true depiction of the original which was later embellished with crowns and was touched up.
Sources: http://www.ourladysrosarymakers.com/Marysfeastsmarch.html#anchor_83 http://gyor.egyhazmegye.hu/egyhazmegyenk/tortenet/konnyezo-szuzanya-bucsuja (Information from the Diocese of Gyor) http://www.wherewewalked.info/feasts/03-March/03-17.htm