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Shrine of Our Lady of Matara

Shrine of Our Lady of Matara is a Roman Catholic church devoted to the Virgin Mary, in the town of Matara, Sri Lanka. The shrine houses a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. Though the statue's origins are unknown, church officials claim that it is 400 years old. The statue has been damaged, lost and recovered more than once, most recently during the 2004 tsunami in Asia, which damaged the shrine and killed 24 people attending Sunday Mass. The church celebrated its centenary year in 2007.

Church legend claims that a large wooden crate was hauled out of the sea by Weligama fishermen. When it was opened, the statue was found inside, untouched by seawater. The fishermen handed it over to the parish priest and the statue was placed in St. Mary's Church in Matara.

At a later period, during a cholera epidemic which claimed hundreds of lives, Catholics prayed before the statue to be delivered from the disease. The statue was taken in a solemn procession through the streets of Matara. After a few days, the area was declared safe by the health authorities and there were no further officially reported deaths. Since then the Catholics of Matara have attributed miraculous powers to the statue.

In the early 1900s, after over 300 years in the church of Matara, the statue looked faded and worn due to exposure and the thousands of devotees touching and kissing it. Arrangements were made with a sculptor in Ghent, Belgium, to renovate the statue


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