Custom claims a few of these icons had been painted by Saint Luke himself. However even when historians have proven that’s not the case, these usually miraculous photos level at what may be the oldest Marian custom within the Mediterranean.
Article written by Jean Pierre Fava and kindly and patiently reviewed by Mgr. Dr. Edgar Vella, curator of the Museum of the Mdina Metropolitan Cathedral.
On the crossroads between Europe, North Africa and the Center East, Malta has been not solely a cradle of Mediterranean civilizations, however one of many decisive situations the place European identification has been cast, again and again, all through the centuries. From the Greeks to the Romans, by way of the Normans and the Moors, many have sought to rule the Maltese archipelago however had been finally defeated by proud locals. At the moment, its many Christian heritage websites mirror the islands multicultural previous and current, providing guests a real glimpse of the universality of the Christian message typically, and of Malta’s wealthy historical past and deeply rooted religion particularly.
In truth, Marian devotion on the island of Malta goes again to early Christianity. Some would recommend it’d even return to Paul’s well-known shipwreck within the island, as advised within the biblical e-book of the Acts of the Apostles.
It’s a well-known indisputable fact that the New Testomony says little or no, virtually nothing, about how Jesus seemed like. It doesn’t say something in regards to the seems to be of the apostles both. The identical goes for Mary: there’s not a single Christian scripture from apostolic occasions offering any particulars about her look both. It’s no shock then that artists relied, from the very daybreak of Christianity, on the various totally different inventive canons of their day and age and never on the written testimony of their very own Christian communities once they needed to painting both their Messiah or every other character thought of essential, might it’s in icons or frescoes.
Custom holds that a kind of early artists was additionally the doctor answerable for authoring one of many Gospels, and for being Paul’s scribe and companion all through his apostolic journeys: Luke himself. Japanese church buildings take into account him as the unique “iconographer,” answerable for “writing” the primary icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In truth, Luke was touring with Paul once they shipwrecked off the northwestern coast of Malta, spending the unnavigable winter months there. Luke’s presence within the Maltese archipelago would possibly clarify why each historic artifacts and oral traditions present proof of a really early Marian devotion unfold all through these islands.
Much more, Luke isn’t solely historically credited with the authorship of the very first Marian picture of Christianity: his Gospel is by far essentially the most Marian of all of them, brimming with the seeds of what would later develop into full Mariological theological developments. Maltese traditions declare that it’s seemingly that Luke spoke to the islanders in regards to the Mom of the Savior. Right here, we wish to current you with a set of among the legendary Marian icons of Malta.
1.- The Hodegetria on the Mellieha Nationwide Marian Shrine
Based on a convention, this transferring picture of the Blessed Mom wearing a purple material and holding Christ baby on her lap was painted instantly on the rock by the Evangelist Luke in AD 60, when he reached Malta with Saint Paul. Current evaluation by artwork historians present that the current model of the icon dates to the thirteenth century. The type of the mural reveals basic options of Byzantine iconography. The Blessed Virgin Mary is depicted as an impressive determine, carrying the colour of royalty (purple) and looking out on the viewer with proud eyes. A flower on her brow stands as a logo of her virginity whereas her finger factors at Christ Little one because the supply of salvation. This pictorial association, often known as Virgin Hodegetria (“The Virgin who exhibits the way in which”), was typical of Byzantine Marian icons throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Since its creation, the icon has attracted pilgrims from all around the world, together with Pope John Paull II, who famously prayed in entrance of the icon in 1990. Along with twenty different Marian shrines, the Mellieha Nationwide Shrine is at the moment a part of the European Marian Community. It is rather possible that Christian follow, on this web site and the cave-church embracing this icon, vastly predates the current thirteenth century Siculo-Byzantine icon. Certainly, a convention confirms this and relates that in AD 409, plenty of Catholic Bishops visited the hallowed grotto and consecrated it as a Church. This occurred very near the Council of Ephesus of AD 431 when the Blessed Virgin was universally acknowledged and acclaimed as Theotokos, (Beginning-giver of Christ God – Mater Dei in Latin). Subsequently, it’s attainable that the current icon of the Mater Dei isn’t the primary icon of the Virgin on this sacred place, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Mellieha, from The Archdiocese of Malta.
*The Icon of Our Woman of Mellieha: A Journey by way of the multi-disciplinary conservation challenge, Valentina Lupo and Maria Grazia Zenzani (Aletier del Restauro Ltd.). Treasures of Malta No. 67 Christmas 2016, Quantity 23, Situation 1.
2.- St. Luke’s Madonna on the Mdina Metropolitan Cathedral
This icon depicting the Virgin with the Little one Jesus held on the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul, within the previous Maltese capital of Mdina, owes its title to the long-held perception that Saint Luke authored it, within the first century. Nevertheless, art historians now agree that it probably dates to a later moment of Christian history, probably the Middle Age period. Its presence on the Cathedral might be traced to at the least 1588. This icon performed a vital position for native believers. The Madonna and Little one was additionally carried yearly throughout the procession held at Mdina in thanksgiving for the Nice Siege victory. In 1604, native Bishop Gargallo determined to position it on the principle altar of the Cathedral. He additionally coated it with a silver lamina leaving seen solely the faces of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her baby Jesus. Gargallo’s order had been duly executed, since by 1615 this icon stood on the principle altar beneath the good polyptych of St Paul. In 1618, Bishop Cagliares thought it clever to have the Blessed Sacrament positioned on the Privileged Altar devoted then to Our Woman ‘del Soccorso,’ and the St. Luke Madonna appeared on this altar, for the primary time, within the data of the 1634 Pastoral Go to. The earliest reference to a Cathedral in Mdina dates again to 1299.* Nevertheless, the current Baroque cathedral was constructed between the top of the seventeenth and starting of the 18th centuries, after the previous one was severely broken by an earthquake which hit Sicily and Malta in 1693. As soon as the brand new cathedral church was constructed, this treasured icon retained the identical predominant allocation assigned to it by Bishop Cagliares. It was positioned on the altar of the Blessed Sacrament chapel the place it has remained ever since. In 1898, Pope Leo XIII authorised the official coronation of the “Saint Luke Madonna.”
*Letters by Pope Gregory the Nice to Lucillus, Bishop of Malta, courting between AD 592 and AD 599, present that Malta already had a fully-fledged Christian neighborhood with its personal Church and Bishop. Custom holds that after St Paul’s shipwreck and keep in Malta (AD 60), Publius, the Roman Governor, turned Malta’s first Bishop.
3.- Marian Icons of The Greek Catholic Church
The twelfth century icon of “Our Woman of Damascus” (Damaskinì – in Malta often known as the Damaxxen) and the 14th century icon of “Our Woman of Mercy” (Eleimonitria) had been dropped at Malta by Christian refugees that escaped from the Greek island of Rhodes following Islamic invasions. Right here, the 2 icons discovered a protected refuge within the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church of Our Woman of Damascus. Each icons show a shade scheme typical of Syrian icons, gold and darkish purple, and depict the Blessed Virgin Mary wanting straight into the viewer’s eyes as she holds Christ Little one in her left arm. Nevertheless, the Eleimonitria appears at all times to have been in Rhodes in its personal church. However, the extra historic icon was initially honored in Damascus (Syria), whence it took its title. It was stated to have reached Rhodes below miraculous circumstances in 1475. From the primary the Damaskinì was intimately related to the opposite wonder-working icon, the Eleimonitria. For example, when the Turks besieged Rhodes in 1522, the 2 icons had been taken, for security’s sake, to the church of St. Demetrius throughout the metropolis partitions. The Knights of St. John held the 2 icons of the Mom of God in nice veneration, as did the native Maltese inhabitants. Grand Grasp Jean Parisot de la Valette, particularly, was a fervent devotee and prayed commonly earlier than the Damascene icon, particularly throughout the Nice Siege of 1565; and when the siege was raised, the grateful Grand Grasp prayed earlier than the icon of Our Woman within the Greek church (on the time in Birgu; and in addition named Vittoriosa after the Nice Siege victory) and there offered his hat and sword as a votive providing and gesture of gratitude. They nonetheless hold there, despite the fact that the Greek church is in Valletta, since 1832.
*Borg V., Varied Marian Devotions – The Damascena. Marian Devotion in the Islands of St. Paul. 1983. The Historic Society 1983
*Buhagiar M., The Virgin of Damascus within the Greek Catholic Church, Valletta, Malta The Shared Veneration of a Miracle-Working Icon. Division of Artwork and Historical past, College of Malta
4.- The icons of the Blessed Virgin of Philermos (Black Madonna of Malta) and the Caraffa Madonna at St. John’s Co-Cathedral
The Magnificent St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta homes the Chapel of the Madonna of Philermos (aka Panagia Filevremou, Blessed Virgin of Philerme and Black Madonna of Malta), constructed to accommodate the icon of the Madonna of Philermos. This Chapel can also be the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The icon was introduced over to Malta by the Hospitallers (The Order of St. John), in the present day often known as the Sovereign Navy Order of Malta (S.M.O.M), after being defeated in Rhodes and expelled. Based on custom, the icon had been dropped at Rhodes by a pilgrim getting back from the Holy Land. The Order of St. John thought of two sacred photos as its most holy relics – the Hand of St John, a present by the Turkish Sultan to the Grand Grasp on the fall of Jerusalem, and the Madonna of Philermos. The Knights thought of this icon to be miraculous. The Madonna of Philermos was honored by the Order since they settled in Rhodes in 1307. When Malta was surrendered to Napoleon in 1798, Panagia Filevremou was stripped of its treasured ornaments and adopted Grandmaster Hompesch into exile. At the moment the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament holds one other wonderful icon: the silver-clad icon of the Caraffa Madonna, which is carried in procession yearly on the day of the Immaculate Conception, the eighth of December. The Caraffa Madonna was donated to the Conventual Church by the Prior Fra Girolamo Caraffa. Its authentic collocation was the tondo on prime of Mattia Preti’s altarpiece of the Coronation of Saint Catherine within the Chapel of the Italian Langue. It was solely after the Madonna of Philermos was taken away in 1798 that the Caraffa Madonna was relocated to the Chapel of the Madonna of Philermos.
After leaving Malta, the icon was given to Czar Paul I of Russia, who had been elected Grandmaster of the Order. Throughout the Russian revolution of 1917 the icon was taken out of Russia, and given to the Czarina Maria Feodorovna who saved it until her loss of life. After different vicissitudes it was entrusted by the Russian Orthodox clergy to King Alexander of Yugoslavia, who saved it in Belgrade. On the time of the German invasion in 1941 it was faraway from the capital and brought to Montenegro. After that every one traces appear to have been misplaced. Not too long ago, it was traced in Montenegro, saved within the Nationwide Museum. It appears that evidently because the Germans had been advancing, the icon was entrusted to a monastery. Throughout Tito’s rule the police managed to put fingers on it, and took it to Belgrade. Ultimately the federal government determined to return it to Montenegro, and in the present day continues to be saved on the Nationwide Museum.
* Zammit Cabaretta A. The Order of St. John and the Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Marian Devotion in the Islands of St. Paul. 1983. The Historical Society 1983. Accessed January 2021
5.- Our Woman of Victories icon at Our Woman of Victories Chapel
In the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Malta’s capital, Valletta, one can discover a Byzantine Icon of unknown origin. Custom maintains that it was given to the Church by Grand Grasp Adolf de Wignacourt (1601-1622 AD). The icon has a carefully painted copper face and finely engraved silver riza. This church was erected in 1567 as a thanksgiving to Virgin Mary for her assist in combating off Islamic invaders throughout the Nice Siege of 1565. The church was constructed on the location the place a non secular ceremony was held to inaugurate the laying of the muse stone of the brand new metropolis Valletta on twenty eighth March, 1566. For its first ten years, the church served as the primary place of worship of the legendary Knights of the Order of Saint John. On the twenty first August 1568, Grand Grasp Jean Parisot de la Valette (1495-1568 AD), who financed from his personal pocket the development of this church, died after struggling a extreme sunstroke whereas looking at St Paul’s Bay. Initially, he was buried in his beloved Church, however later his stays had been buried within the crypt of St John’s Conventual Church. In 1716, the Maltese artist Alessio Erardi was commissioned by Grand Grasp Ramon Perellos y Roccaful to color the vaulted ceilings with magnificent scenes, depicting the life cycle of the Blessed Virgin Mary.