Legend tells how, in the Middle Ages, a beautiful statue of Our Lady, her Son on her lap, and a burning taper in her hand, appeared on the banks of the River Teifi in Cardiganshire. Any attempt to move the statue to the parish church in Cardigan resulted in its reappearing at the spot where it first appeared. It became a place of pilgrimage and St Mary’s church was built on that spot in 1158. The original statue was destroyed in the Reformation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, monks from Brittany gave their abbey church the name of Our Lady of Cardigan and revived the devotion. They made the same dedication to the small church they built in Cardigan in 1912. The monks left in 1916 and the devotion lapsed.
In 1952, Bishop Petit learned that there had once been a shrine in Cardigan and decided to restore it. He commissioned a new statue, which was blessed in Westminster Cathedral in 1956.
Unfortunately the statue wore badly, and in 1986 a new statue – in bronze – was installed in the Church on Pentecost Sunday in the presence of 4500 pilgrims. It was blessed in Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral, and like its predecessor, it toured throughout Wales before being placed in the current Church.
The Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Taper was designated as the Welsh National Shrine of Our Lady by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986.
Pope Benedict was unable to make a visit to Cardigan during his state visit to the UK in 2010, however the statue of Our Lady of the Taper was taken to Westminster, where the Holy Father Blessed the Statue, and lit the taper as he prayed for the people of Wales and the UK.
It now welcomes visitors and pilgrims from near and far, who come to pray and experience the beauty of Cardigan.