Oil on canvas
of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
This is a 19th century copy of the ancient icon Salus Populi Romani. The name means
"Health [or Salvation] of the Roman People." Legend has it
that the original, also in Santa Maria Maggiore, was painted by St.
Luke the Evangelist and brought by St. Helena in the 4th century to Rome, where it was credited with a
miraculous delivery of the city from the plague in the 6th
century. Another painting in
the basilica represents St. Luke painting the icon.
The icon is like the Virgin
Hodegetria in the look and arrangement of the mantle, the Virgin's
frontal gaze, the child's two-finger blessing, and the placement of a
book in his left hand. But in the Salus, instead of pointing to the
Christ Child, the Virgin's right hand reaches over to rest protectively on the child's lap.
More of the Virgin and Child
Photographed at the
site by Richard Stracke