A Madonna Unveiled

July 7, 2016 / Art & Archaeology

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A little known “unveiling” takes place after mass every day at Santa Maria in Vallicella, the Chiesa Nuova as it’s commonly called (even if it’s from early 17th century), on Corso Vittorio in downtown Rome.

– Image courtesy of Livioandronico2013, CC BY-SA 4.0

Legend holds that a non-believer threw a rock at an icon of the Madonna and Child, which promptly began to bleed. To protect the miraculous icon from any further attacks, in 1609 Rubens was commissioned to paint the altarpiece which would surround it, as well as a copper plate that would cover it.

– Image courtesy of Matthias Kabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Rubens’ altarpiece consists of a series of concentric rings of cherubs in adoration, while the copper plate depicts a Madonna e bambino benedicente (Madonna and blessing Child).


Via an ingenious system of strings and pulleys however, the priest is able to slide Rubens’ Madonna e bambino benedicente out of the way and reveal the ancient, miraculous Madonna and Child icon below.



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

11 Responses to “A Madonna Unveiled”

  1. Harvey-Jane

    How does one say “Totally cool!” in Italian?? Cause that’s what this is!

  2. Linda Boccia

    As an artist I always appreciate what has been painted or sculpted centuries ago in Italy, but what about showing us some contemporary Italian artists? They too are amazing, just not as showcased as their more famous predecessors.

  3. John Figliozzi

    We visited this church a few times during our stay in nearby Via Giulia, but never witnessed the “unveiling”. Now we have another reason to return (as if we need coaxing!). Thank you for this post – these kinds of little details are why we read the IN!

  4. Allan Mahnke

    Lovely! There are always surprises. We will know Rome well enough.

  5. John Schiess

    Amazing! Italy is so full of great surprises like this one. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Lina Falcone

    Just beautiful art work, I have seen in Rome it’s just amazing. Grazie for sharing.


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