A statue of the Our Lady of Lourdes has disappeared from a grotto on the grounds of a church in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow
The statue, which locals say is around 100 years old, vanished sometime on bank holiday Monday last.
Appeals have been made for its return while confusion remains as to how the heavy statue of the Virgin could have been removed.
A local woman said that the theft “beggars belief” as the area was buzzing with activity on the day the statue was taken.
It is believed the statue did not suffer significant damage during its removal as no fragments were found at the scene.
Locals say the statue is approximately five feet tall. A statue of Saint Bernadette, who kneels in the grotto in adoration of the Virgin was left untouched.
Gardai were alerted after curate, Fr. Hyacinth Nwakuna, made enquiries as to whether anyone had arranged to have the statue removed for cleaning or renovation and was told that no such arrangements had been made.
Local parishioner Eleanor Freeney spoke to Gript about the disappearance of the statue saying, “It’s upsetting because that statue represents the mother of my God, and to steal it is so disrespectful.”
She added that, “If it were anyone else’s religion no one would dare to do such a thing.”
The young woman continued saying, “My great grandfather helped build that grotto a hundred years ago.”
“Our Holy Mary statue has stood watch over our village for a century. It is unthinkable that someone would go to the lengths they have, and unbelievably ignorant that shows people are hoping to cause upset.
The lack or religious toleration in this country is growing.” she said
Gript has learned that the statue was recently repainted during the covid pandemic.
The grotto, which is built into the side of a steep hill, can be seen by passing traffic on the Glen of the Downs road and is an icon of the area.
Local Gardaí are investigating the disappearance of the statue from the grounds of the 200 year old church.