A 35-foot copper and bronze statue of the Madonna stands tall against the Boston skyline, its granite support structure and gold crown-like top visible from Logan Airport and various parts of the city.
The statue is part of the Madonna Queen National Shrine, popular destination and a must-see for anyone who hasn’t yet visited. Though the physical beauty of the shrine alone makes it worth the trip, its intriguing history — one that links the Catholic and Jewish faiths — makes it even more meaningful.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded Italy and arrested 8,500 Italian Jews. Deported to concentration camps, only a few hundred would survive the horrors of the Holocaust.
Among the lucky ones was the famous Jewish sculptor Arrigo Minerbi, who was welcomed to refuge during the invasion in the Don Orione Institution in Rome.
Minerbi was protected from the Nazis by the Don Orione Fathers, whose founder, Louis Orione (1872-1940), was a gifted Italian priest devoted to orphans, the poor, the sick and elderly of all ethnic backgrounds.
Canonized by Pope John Paul II in May 2004, Saint Louis Orione had fostered a lifelong devotion to the Blessed Mother. It was this devotion that the Jewish sculptor chose to honor following the liberation, a gift in personal thanksgiving to the Don Orione Fathers for his life.
Minerbi sculpted a 35-foot Madonna that was placed on the hill of Montemario, overlooking the city of Rome. A replica of the six-ton masterpiece was later made and shipped to the Don Orione Fathers in East Boston in three pieces. It was reconstructed and dedicated as "The Madonna Queen of the Universe" by then-Archbishop Richard Cushing in 1954.
Do read the rest of the article, about the shrine and its uses today.
"A lot of people trust more in her than in anything else," Miss Despaigne said. "I was baptized when I was little but I don’t follow the Catholic religion. I follow her, because of her history, her idiosyncrasy, her miracles."
The Virgin was discovered in the Bay of Nipe in the early 17th century before being brought to the village of El Cobre, which is nestled in a lush tropical forest outside Santiago in southeastern Cuba. She resided in several small shrines, including one in a hospital, until the church at the peak of a hill in El Cobre was built in her honor.
The church’s current priest, the Rev. Jorge Rodriguez Rey, recognizes that many who hear his sermons are not believers. Tourists and nonreligious Cubans from across the island certainly outnumber practicing Catholics who go to the church, he said.