Via Media

Via Media


Nice story about the origins of a statue of Mary that is a Boston landmark:

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.

And, continuing the Marian theme…a Virgin honored among Cubans…even those with no use for Catholicism:

"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.

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posted July 29, 2006 at 12:27 pm

“You have to allow time to reflect on the beautiful statues, wall murals and mosaic scenes of the life of Christ,” said Harnden. “After visiting the church, I left feeling peace in my heart.”
I’m a frequent visitor to the shrine (it’s practically my parish Church). It is a great place to recollect. I always feel the same peace when I leave.
The plaza area in front of the actual statue is dedicated to Pope Paul VI; he visited the shrine in 1960. Here’s another page with pictures:
I have also developed a devotion to St. Don Orione thanks to the shrine. He was a great advocate of charity and love for the Church. Here’s his Vatican biography:
“Let no one, therefore, outdo us in the sincerity of our love, devotion, and generosity toward Mother Church and the Pope. Let no one outdo us in laboring so that the Church and the Pope may be universally known–their desires realized and loved. Let no one outrun us in following the Pope’s directions, all of them–unreservedly and without complaint, eagerly and without hesitation. Let us give full, filial, and perfect assent of mind, of heart, of action, not only to what the Pope as Pope decides solemnly in matters of dogma and morals, but also in all things whatever they may be, that he teaches, commands, or desires. Let no one surpass us in showing the tenderest solicitude for the Pope, by sacrificing ourselves, and longing each day and each hour, to become living holocausts of reverence and tender love for the Church, and our sweet visible Christ on earth–the Pope!”
“It is not among the palm trees that I wish to die, but among the poor who are Jesus Christ.”

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Another Steve

posted July 29, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Not wanting to appear a pedant but Germany did not invade Italy in 1940. The Mussolini regime took Italy into an alliance with the Nazis. In late 1943 the Italian government collapsed and Italy changed sides. The German army already in Italy occupied all territory not in the hands of the Allies and rushed in reinforcements. Things got very difficult for Italian Jews from then on.
Anyway, apart from that it’s a good story.

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Clare Krishan

posted July 29, 2006 at 3:58 pm

Here’s a snapshot of the statue painted gold in Italy – I’m not familiar with either personally so I’m perhaps not qualified to comment but I prefer the modest pedestal on the original (the Boston edifice reminds me of the kind of mausoleums totalitarian states build posthumously for their ‘Dear Leader’, forgive me …)

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posted July 29, 2006 at 8:05 pm

Re: the Cuban Virgin
Well. Even Fidel had a mother. That story makes me feel very sad.
Also, I had never heard that Hemingway gave Mary his Nobel Prize…. Well, I guess we know why he named his daughter Mariel. But that makes me feel even sadder.
May God have mercy on all of us poor suffering sinners who do stupid things.

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posted July 30, 2006 at 7:54 pm

My sicilan family lived in the shadow of this shrine on Orient ave.

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posted July 31, 2006 at 11:29 am

I can’t get too enthusiastic about the Madonna Queen shrine; as this photo shows, the outdoor shrine is not very attractive, and the indoor church, a large blank wide box, looks like a school auditorium.
The shrine used to have a display called the Christorama, but I never got to see it.

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