It is said that Abingdon should make more of St Edmund of Abingdon, whose name is part of the Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Edmund in Abingdon. It might also be said that Abingdon should make more of Our Lady of Abingdon.
St. Edward the Martyr and St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, both encouraged pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Abingdon, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia included in the New Advent website. Our Lady of Abingdon was as famous in medieval times as our Lady of Walsingham is now.
So was Our Lady of Abingdon lost for ever like most of the Abbey?
When the ‘Sow and Pigs’ public house, in Culham, was demolished in 1913, a large stone was found. It was subsequently recognised as a Madonna and Child and given to Our Lady and St Edmund’s Church in 1949. For eight years the headless and armless statue stood on a chapel floor.
According to one source, Canon Sexton, the parish priest, traced it to a shrine visited by many people on their way to a Sunnyg’s Well (Sunningwell) where people went hoping to be cured of blindness.
In 1957 Canon Sexton had the statue restored with the help of sculptor Philip Lindsay Clark and the advice of a Benedictine monk / medieval art expert. It is not richly adorned like Our Lady of Walsingham and looking up to heaven, but modest and looking down to people in the church.
The church website https://www.ourladyandstedmund.org.uk/brief-history says the statue was originally a part of the once great Abbey of St Mary at Abingdon, and was defaced and removed during the dissolution of the monastery and hidden away in a cottage wall.
The statue does not usually feature on Abingdon tourism guides or in history books. So are we all missing a local treasure?