Today marks a very important day as a Catholic writer for me, for today is the third anniversary of “Mondays with Mary”, which coincides with the 150th blog post of the series. To be completely honest, I would have never thought that this series would last for three years nor did I ever think it would reach 150 posts. When I set out to begin this series in May 2012, it was initially designed to be a four-week series focusing on Mary during the Month of May after reading Blessed Pope Paul VI’s, Mense Maio.
As I look back on the three years of this series, along with the other series’ that I have written on this blog, as well as the many other blog posts, it’s truly been the Divine Will of God in all of it from the very beginning.
My ability and love of writing began with my entrance into the Masters in Theology program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, which in turn led to my Dad reading many of my papers, and since he thought my writing was as articulate and profound as the books he had read (maybe a slight bias since I am his son), it was Dad who encouraged me to start writing in the first place. Although he has left this Vale of Tears and watches over me and the rest of the family from a different plain on the other side of Heaven, I know he will be with me in the days, months, and years ahead, not just as I write but in general.
As we began the great Month of Mary a few days ago, I realized that although I have used a lot of Marian Art in my blog posts, I have yet to write on it specifically. Let me first say, as a disclaimer, that I have studied art in the past, however, I am by no means an expert, heck – I’m not even an amateur, but I do love Sacred Art as you would know if you have seen my home or office. Today’s blog post isn’t going to discuss the pieces of art as someone might examine an artist and their work, but it will focus on five pieces of Marian art and what those pieces give us in relation to Marian Theology. I only chose five, but there are countless Marian paintings.
The first piece is Raphael’s, Madonna of the Chair.
This piece from Raphael (1483-1520) is the renowned and distinguished painting depicting Mary, Jesus, and an adolescent St. John the Baptist. Many see Mary’s perfect Motherhood in this painting as well as the Baptist’s role model for children, since he would prepare the way of the Lord. The legendary educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, used this painting as the icon for her children’s houses that would take her name.
The second piece is Roberto Feruzzi’s (1853-1934), Madonnina – Little Mother.
As he walked through the streets of Venice one day, Feruzzi noticed an image before him of a young woman holding in her arms her baby brother. He was wrapped in a shawl and he was close to her bosom. He noticed that the girl, although young, was a witness of maternal care that only mature women know. Originally, the painting was called Madonnina – Little Mother, however many today know it to be – Madonna of the Streets. It’s a beautiful painting of Mother Mary and her infant Son. One of the Women’s Household’s at Franciscan University of Steubenville bears this name.
The third piece is Bartolomeo Murillo’s (1618-1662), Immaculate Conception.
In this painting we view Mary surrounded by the angels known as cherubim. They surround her for they are raptured with the holiness she displays through her Immaculate Conception. Blessed Pope Pius IX declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception solemn in 1854 through an infallible statement (ex cathedra). The definition reads –
“…We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
The fourth piece is Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner’s (1625-1707), Mary Untier of Knots.
In this painting, we see Mary standing on a crescent moon and stepping on the head of the snake, most commonly represented as the serpent from the Garden of Eden. As the Holy Spirit remains above, with angels surrounding her, Mary as the Untier of Knots loosens and unties the knots given to humanity through the sin of Eve (and Adam) from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. To learn more about this image made popular through the devotion of Pope Francis, please read my post – “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Francis on the “Faith of Mary.” There is also a novena to Mary under this title.
The fifth piece is Raphael’s, Madonna della Granduca.
Although Raphael has given the world many beautiful paintings, his most classic, and arguably, his most beautiful of Mary is the Madonna della Granduca. This image witnesses for the entire world the true love that the Mother has for her Son, while also showing the humanity of Jesus Christ in the arms of his immaculate young mother.
As we commemorate the Month of Mary, I would encourage you to share with your family and friends this post and the many others I have written for the sole purpose to explain to Catholics the importance that Mary plays in Salvation History as the Mother of God. Don’t be afraid to show her the exceptional veneration (hyperdulia) that the Church has authorized us to give her, never outweighing the adoration and glory of God.
I would also encourage purchasing the prints of these paintings and other paintings of Mary to display them in your residence as a witness to the beauty, love, and truth that is the Blessed Virgin Mary.