The Holy Face of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Around the year 60 A.D. St. Luke visited the Blessed Virgin Mary at the home she shared with St. John the Apostle, in the town of Ephesus, southwestern Turkey.

At that time, St. Luke produced what is today the only known icon of the Virgin, making good use of a three foot by five foot cedar table top (one that was likely hand crafted by Jesus of Nazareth) accurately capturing Mary’s delicate facial features. The extremely well preserved icon has remained in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, for the last 1700 years.

About 1900 years later, in 1947, Sister Lucia, seer of the Fatima Apparitions that took place in Portugal in 1917, closely collaborated with sculptor Jose Thedim to produce an authentic image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Lucia and her two cousins originally encountered her there.

While the style of the work and the quality of the media are quite different, the resemblance between the two renderings is absolutely striking (see close-ups above).

Eyes, facial shape, nose, lips and chin are all remarkably similar.

Take a close look. Pray on it. Then make up your own mind.

“We do not praise God sufficiently by keeping silent about his saints, especially Mary, ‘the Holy One’ who became his dwelling place on earth. The simple and multiform light of God appears to us exactly in its variety and richness only in the countenance of the saints, who are the true mirrors of his light. And it is precisely by looking at Mary’s face that we can see more clearly than in any other way the beauty, goodness and mercy of God. In her face we can truly perceive the divine light.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Update: (My friend Bob Stanley rightly pointed out that we have another precisely rendered authentic image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the tilma of St. Juan Diego, done in 1531. The style and the type of media are different once again, and in the Guadalupe image, Mary is facing left, rather than right.  I added the Guadalupe image to the picture study for you.)

Icon of the Madonna by St. Luke, believed to accurately depict face of Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Luke painted this Icon of Mary (about the year 60 AD) while she was staying with St. John the Apostle. According to tradition, when St. Luke “wrote” the Icon, he accurately rendered the Blessed Virgin’s authentic facial features.

The Icon was written directly onto a three foot by five foot cedar plank, believed to be part of a table that Jesus had originally hand crafted during his time in Nazareth. When Mary went to stay with St. John, in Ephesus (a town located in southwestern Turkey) the table evidently made the trip, as well.

Lost for over 200 years, the Icon was discovered by St. Helena (mother of Emperor Constantine) in Jerusalem, buried near the True Cross, on or about the year 326 AD.

The title of the Icon is Salus Populi Romani (“Protectoress of the Roman People”). It is the only major Icon attributed to Saint Luke (who is also the writer of  the Gospel bearing his name, “the Acts of the Apostles” and most of St. Paul’s epistles.)

St. Luke is also believed to have been a physician (medical doctor).

Tradition and history informs us that St. Luke’s Icon has resided in St. Mary Major Basilica, Rome, for about 1,700 years.

Click here to read more about Icons