The earliest accounts of the shrine go back to the reign of the Dutch on the coast. To escape their persecution, a few Catholic families fled an area called Manthai and arrived in Marathamadu with the statue. Another 700 Catholics fleeing Jaffna met them there and together they set up the shrine. From mud, to wood to now white and blue marble, the church has stood the test of time, through conflict and strife, due to the fervour of the faithful. Even during the war, pilgrims continued the journey to Madhu, which was then an arduous pilgrimage through the thick jungle.
Today the road to the shrine is a convenient one, cutting short travel from Colombo to five hours. For Catholics in Sri Lanka, the Madhu pilgrimage too is an important one. Even after the grand feast concludes, many will continue to travel to the grounds this month seeking the Holy Mother’s grace and to obtain blessings.