Letter about proposed shrine
Proposal to create a National Shrine - submitted to the Bishop, by Pat O'Connell, on behalf of the Knights of St Columba, of Clifton diocese (January 1953).
The present shrine church of Glastonbury was built and consecrated in the early part of the late War and still lacks a shrine worthy of its traditions.
It is therefore suggested that the National Thanksgiving for the Centenary of the [dogmatic definition of Our Lady's] Immaculate Conception, which will occur in December 1954, should take the form of the restoration of the Ancient Shrine of Our Lady saint Mary of Glastonbury in this way.
The existing Wall at the East [ie west] End of the present church be taken down and the sanctuary extended some thirty feet. That behind the newly erected altar there be a group of statuary in heroic size, the centre piece to be Our Lady of Glastonbury supported on either side by the Glastonbury Saints and Martyrs - six on each side.
As far as can be ascertained, no statue of Our Lady of Glastonbury exists; from a reproduction of the Abbey seal however sufficient detail can be obtained for a facsimile.
That the figure of the Madonna be taken to Rome for blessing and crowning by the Holy Father, and on its return to England, it be met and escorted from the Port of entry to Glastonbury by those Councils of the Knights of St Columba through whose towns it will pass.
That it be set in its resting place by the Cardinal Archbishop, supported by the Hierarchy and Clergy.
That it be declared a Canonical Shrine with a Privileged Altar.
It is especially emphasised there is no suggestion of setting up Glastonbury in any way to compete with or rival any other shrine, but its great antiquity and claim are such as to justify the sacred position it holds.
To provide a worthy setting for a National Shrine will call for the very best in architecture and sculpture, and to this end an artist of pre-eminence will have to be commissioned.
Attached hereto is an Architect's preliminary impression, which will serve only as a guide to what is in mind.
The cost will be high - perhaps £40,000. It is felt that an international appeal would produce this money, since Glastonbury is world famous. Some 70,000 visitors each year are recorded by the Corporation of Glastonbury, many of whom visit the present Church, where there is nothing to reveal its unique inheritance.
A National Shrine would attract countless souls to Glastonbury in the future as it did in the centuries past.