May is the month, when in Italy, we celebrate Mother’s Day, I have thought it could be quite suitable and interesting to list to you some titles the Madonna has in Lucca or in the surroundings so that you can learn something about the local culture that is not in so many guidebooks or articles.
The list of names or titles is almost endless, some are quite original and they are strictly related to an artist or a tradition, or to a miraculous event.
There is no need to say, that the devotion to the Virgin Mary in the city has always been very important.
In the XII century, there were almost 70 churches dedicated to her. But even one of the city gates and one of the bulwarks of the Reinassance walls have her name.
However, you may notice statues or frescoed images of the Lady which are a little bit different as she has an attribute or she is doing something, so I have decided to list you these 3 + 1 to start:
- Madonna del Soccorso aka Emergency Madonna
- Madonna with a “purse”
- Madonna dello Stellario aka the Starry Madonna
MADONNA DEL SOCCORSO aka EMERGENCY MADONNA
This is probably one of the most popular and widely spread Madonna around the Lucchese countryside and the devotion is based on a special event that occured in a village nearby the city.
According to this story, a father was so furious with his son and told him to go to Hell. Needless to say, the Devil showed up to get the young boy. His mother was so scared that she started to pray the Virgin Mary for help. The Madonna in all her glory appeared and she had a big bat to hit the Devil and chase him away.
If you see St. Francis church open, especially during the weekend, do not hesitate to take a peek inside and you will see on the first altar on the left a frescoed image which was found after the recent restoration in 2013.
It is one of my happy places!
MADONNA WITH A “PURSE”
Quite unusual this image of the Virgin Mary, unfortunately sometimes it does not get the attention of the visitors as it is in front of a very famous roman site in Lucca: the Amphitheater.
However, once you have admired the ruins or you have had a special dinner at Surreale restaurant, have a look at the Madonna with her purse.
Actually, this is a little misunderstanding.
It is not that accessory women can not live without and that we are capable to fill with the impossible, but that red bag is a scapular.
It is a garment, a long piece of cloth which goes over someone’s head and hangs down the shoulders (in Latin scapula means shoulder blades). It is like an apron over the shoulders. It can be in different colors such as green, brown, white, black and so it has different meanings. In this case, it is the brown one, which is the best known.
The Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in 1251 in Cambridge and offered him this cloth promising that if a dying person will wear it with faith then he “will not suffer the everlasting fire”.
Of course, it does not mean the person will avoid to be sent to Hell, if during his life has not behaved as a good Catholic person.
MADONNA DELLO STELLARIO AKA STARRY MADONNA
Besides being one of my favorite part of the city, at this crossroad, raise your gaze and look up to see the Starry Madonna on top of a column.
The statue was made by Giovanni Lazzoni, a sculptor from Carrara in 1687. Maybe it is difficult to see from down the road, but the Virgin Mary is stepping over a snake, so this is quite a traditional representation of her role as a winner over the evil.
In this case, for the Lucchese people she represents also the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on the 8th December. I am not sure if the firemen, on that day, still put a flower garland on her arm.
Her halo is made of twelve stars as the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles, she is the connection between the old and new.
However, the detail I like the most of this statue is on the base of the column. Here you can see a bas-relief that shows the renaissance walls, a gate and its drawbridge, the trees and the skyline of the city.
Even more on the banner on top it is written in Latin: vere libera serve nos liberos. It can be translated in As you are really free, preserve free us, too!
It sounds as a prayer and a hope to maintain Lucca as an independent Republic.
MADONNA DEL SOLE aka SUN MADONNA
Last but not least, this Madonna is in the Cathedral of Pietrasanta.
It is a holy medieval image representing the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus and St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist at her side, made by an unknown painter. It started to be called the Sun Madonna as it was carried during a procession around 1617 and after a long period of pouring rains, the sun returned to shine.
There are more miracles and legends related to this Virgin Mary that I would like to tell you if we go a tour of Pietrasanta together.
Anyway, there are only few days during the year you can see this Madonna uncovered: on 8th September, on Saturday before Palm Sunday, on 31st May and the last Sunday in November.
If you have enjoyed reading this blogpost you might go on a mission and look for the Madonna on a boat or the Miracle, the Rose, the Stone or the Cough Virgin Mary… just let me know what you can find!
Or if you want to know more about these, too!