The ruins of Tintern Abbey are renowned worldwide. They are among the most extensive remains of any Cistercian monastery in the United Kingdom. However, apart from the shells of the buildings themselves, almost nothing survives of what they would once have contained.
This makes it all the more remarkable that a full -sized torso, recognisable as the Virgin, does survive, although broken at the waist, headless and childless. It is possible to discern where she once would have held her Child, lying in her left arm. These pieces are thought to date from the late 13th century.
Philip Chatfield first heard of the existence of these fragments when working on the early stages of a statue of the Virgin and Child for St Mary's Priory Church, Monmouth, Wales, in October 2005. He was interested to see them and made a visit to the Abbey shortly afterwards in order to do so. Subsequently he wrote a report on his visit, and he made the suggestion of carving a replica, based as closely on the old fragments as possible.
During the following months a group of local people considered this suggestion and in due course approached Cadw, the custodians of Tintern Abbey, about the feasibility of such a project. Their response was encouraging and The Friends of Our Lady of Tintern were formed to put together a formal application. On 29 June 2006 they heard that their application had been successful.
An order was placed for the stone and Philip began work on detailed drawings, studying the original fragments and comparable pieces in the United Kingdom and in Europe, and consulting experts in the field.