Nestling into the rolling hills outside Adelaide, among sheep, cattle and, Yankalilla is a quiet, historic town. In the week that Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop is due to be canonised in the Vatican, tiny Yankalilla still hosts the first small schoolhouse built by St Mary’s Sisters of St Joseph order around 150 years ago.
However it is for another religious miracle that the town is known. In a humble and elegant stone church, an image of the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Christ emerged from the wall of the church in 1994.
Looking carefully, a visitor can make out the familiar Pieta scene of an angled view of a slightly stooped Mary comforting Jesus, made famous by the superb Michelangelo sculpture in St Peter’s in the Vatican (shown below). Lit by the striking stained glass windows in the afternoon sun, the area has been left unpainted and framed to highlight the event.
Unusually, the event has occurred in an Anglican church – one of only two Anglican Marian shrines in the world (the other is in Britain). The location has become a pilgrimage site with visitors from all around the world arriving to view the venerable image or to collect holy water available from the church well.
As a sidelight, the Christening font originally came from Salisbury Cathedral in England and is 100 years older than the church and has a fine collection of graffiti from folks in earlier times who scratched their names into the marble.
Whatever your beliefs around such events, the picturesque and sparsely populated peninsula is sprinkled with world-class wineries and stunning beaches, now coupled with a hallowed and mysterious image in a humble stone church.