Madonna del Soccorso

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There has been a fair amount of discussion over at Fr. Bryce's blog about a painting he has dubbed Exterminatrix of Heresies.

I have posted this picture before. This is probably not a picture that you have seen too many places, nor is it often the way that we imagine or see the Blessed Virgin Mary portrayed in artwork. Having been to the birthplace of our congregation four times, and having spent one week there this past summer, this is a picture that I have grown to love and delight in. ?Fascinating? is the word that I use most often in my journal in describing this picture and its effect on me as I sit in its shadow and mediate on what it contains.

When St. Gaspar founded our congregation in 1815 he placed it under the protection of Mary, Help of Christians whose feast is celebrated each May 24. There is another image that we use under the title of Madonna of the Precious Blood, an image that St. Gaspar used in his mission travels. I have a banner with that image on it and it goes with me on my mission travels.

This image of Mary, Help on Christians hangs in the cloister of the Abbey of San Felice in Giano del Umbria. it was painted by Francesco Melanzio (1465-1530) and it originally hung in the left side of the upper sanctuary, probably when San Felice served as a Benedictine Monastery. (San Felice was given to us in 1815) You can see the monks portrayed hiding in the folds of her garment on the bottom left side of the painting. The look of fear on the major figure there is striking. The child Jesus, much like the child in Revelations 12, is caught away to safety. The devil has a sinister look on his face; he has a hold on the child?s clothing, not on the child himself. The Madonna with the club is the most fascinating feature. She never loses a look of gentleness and peace, but it is also a look of determination and strength.

I would be interested in your reflections on this painting.

Madonna del Soccorso, by Francesco Melanzio (Montefalco - c.1465-c. 1530)
Found in the left side Upper Sanctuary of the Abbey of San Felice, Giano. It now hangs in the Cloister. It was restored by Professor Giovanni Bartoloni in 1961

Fr. Bryce incorrectly states the painting hangs in a little church in Montefalco, Italy. It is possible it did at one time. According to the date in the upper right it was painted in 1494.

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I have been getting several e-mail lately wanting to know the story behind the picture of Mary, Exterminatrix of Heresies that I have in the upper right hand corner of my blog. The image is actually part of a larger... Read More


Fr. Bryce got the idea of adopting Our Lady under that title as the patroness of his blog while we were at the Thomistic Theology conference in Michigan last August.

One of the distinguished speakers there mentioned that "Mary, Exterminatrix of Heresies" had been the proposed title on a papal encyclical draft back during the Modernist controversy. We both figured "sounds pretty good to me!" and exchanged the thumbs-up sign.

A fine painting to display during pro-life events.

  one of Fr. Keyes' photos

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. published on March 17, 2004 7:23 PM.

Gaspar's Mission was the previous entry in this blog.

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