The Madonnine of Rome: Devotional Images of the Virgin Mary

Thu 15 Dec 2016

We wander around distracted, always taking the same streets and seeing the same things we’ve seen a million times before. While pretending to be interested in the automatically predicted phrases created by our smartphones and WhatsApp, something at the corner of the road captures your attention. With jasmine flowers resting at her feet, it is a “Madonnina” or a small statue of the Madonna - Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It is literally a “little” statue of the Madonna, but the adjective “little” doesn’t just describe her stature; it is also meant as an endearing way to describe her tenderness, synonymous with devotion and love. It is a miniature statue of Mary on the side of the street, capable of captivating and moving those who pass by her.

In Rome there are hundreds of these statues. In Italy there are thousands, or perhaps many more. I myself, born in a small town in Sicily, can recall standing in front of a Madonnina as a child with my grandparents. They would use their fingers to make a sign of the cross on their foreheads, slightly bow their heads for a moment, and exchange a quick glance with the Madonnina. Then, they’d carry on with their everyday chores around the house or in the garden, occasionally taking a break to chat with the neighbours.

A Madonnina may only seem like a little statue, but it could be a source of light during dark days, solace during bleak times, and hope when all things seem lost.

This is also a part of Rome’s immense history. On one of our Private Vatican Tours, you will discover the antique roots of this devotion, the secrets of great work of art depicting the Madonna, and its connection with the official ceremonies. The timeless masterpieces located in the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica are a testimony of this devotion, enlightened by the strength of the great artists through the centuries.

~Rosario Gorgone~

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