Search This Blog

Monday, May 12, 2008


If you wander around the older parts of Rome,
and you are like me and look up often, you will undoubtedly notice small shrine-like images of Mary.

They come in lots of styles, painted, behind glass, reliefs, mosaics. Some are on the corners, some have canopies or fancy frames. Sometimes they are accompanied by lights, or flowers, or notes on paper, or medallions in the shape of hearts. They are all humble in a way: outside, part of the street, mostly old, mostly neglected. Disappearing.

They are called Madonnelle or Madonninas, small Madonnas. Estimates are that there are less than 500 still in Rome (where are they all?!!), but I have read that at the height of their popularity there were thousands of them.

It used to be that there was no public lighting on the streets; many of these Madonninas have lamps or candle stands in front of them and so were able to provide light at night.

Some are said to have performed miracles. This seems to have resulted in their being moved indoors. A loss I think, but the stories, of course, have survived.

Here are some links about them that tell some of those miracle stories:

I have been intrigued and charmed by these little shrines for my whole visit here.

In photographing them, it also became important for me to show them in context, and I discovered that this provided me with a wonderful way to engage (to use one of Fannie's words) with Rome's street scenes. This is why I am showing them in pairs.

My friend, Claire, told me a little more about them when I asked her months ago. She says, "These shrines to the "Blessed Mother" are typical in the Roman Catholic faith. Mary is beloved as Jesus' mother. Marion theology within the Church has five main doctrines re: Mary - Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, and Assumption into Heaven without dying. She can be depicted in any of these 'roles.'"

1 comment:

sarah said...

Thank You! I loved the little Marys you showed me when I visited. It is terrific to see some again. They are so engaging. Your blog is such a treasure.