Last year, while researching a novel I was writing, I stumbled upon a wonderful and miraculous story of the Irish Madonna of Hungary. It was a fascinating, well-documented account of a painting of the Virgin, with the child Jesus sleeping contentedly in a crib beneath her folded hands.
The picture was, supposedly, brought to Hungary by an Irish bishop, Dr. Walter Lynch, who was forced to flee, first from Clonfert, where he was appointed bishop in 1647, then to Galway City, and then to the Isle of Innishbofin, off the coast of Ireland. Bishop Lynch and the remaining soldiers of the Catholic Confederation were doggedly pursued by the invasion force of Oliver Cromwell and the conquering army sent by the English Parliament in 1649.
Lynch lovingly brought the painting with him to safety when he found a ship to take him and the Madonna to the continent. The mournful tears of thousands of Irish mothers are a testament to the brutality and hatred of the time of Cromwell and its devastation upon Erin’s soil. The crimes were unspeakable.
The Irish bishop, in exile, somehow found a home and a welcoming flock in a small town called Gyor, in Hungary. There he spent the rest of his life, yearning, as all expatriated souls torn from the loving arms of their mother country, for hearth and home. Upon his death, he willed his most valuable possession, the painting of the Madonna and Child, to the cathedral and the faithful of Gyor. It was hung in a small, side chapel and forgotten.