The wonderworking Images of the Holy Virgin
In many Polish Catholic homes, an image depicting the Holy Mary still occupies the most honourable place in the house. The belief in the miraculous power of a Marian image has survived to this day in many communities, especially rural ones. People pray to Mary every day, but also in times of danger, asking for support and protection. In the past, miraculous images were even borrowed in a situation of illness, death, tragedy and whole families would ask for intercession in difficult times. The mother of Jesus of Nazareth, humane, protective and suffering from the loss of her son, became the closest to the folk approach to religiosity. It was through her that people turned to the fear-provoking God. And it was she who received the biggest number of representations in folk art, as well as ceremonies, holidays and sanctuaries (80% of sanctuaries in Poland are devoted precisely to the Marian cult).
It is fascinating to trace both the changes, as well as the permanent elements in Mary’s image. A careful analysis of her folk representations allows us to examine the changes in the customs prevalent in the Polish countryside. The most common way of depicting the Mother of God is to present her as a brand-new mother with the Child Jesus in her hands or in despair, with her dead son taken off the cross, in her lap. The Hodegetria (Holy Mary with the Child Jesus) and the Pietà (with dead Jesus Christ in her lap) are the most common Marian images. In both cases, she is simply a mother, first happy with her newly born child and subsequently in despair over the death of her young son. In both of these situations, she is not a great, distant figure on a pedestal, but a woman whose feelings are understandable and close, even to simpler people.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.
See selected Marian images in the collection of Malopolska’s Virtual Museums:
Painting “Our Lady of Myślenice” by Sebastian Stolarski
Painting on glass “Our Lady of Ludźmierz” by Władysław Walczak-Baniecki
Icon “The Mother of God” (“Pokrow”)
Icon “Our Lady Hodegetria surrounded by prophets and saints”