Mary of the Day: March 16 – Image of the Madonna della Clemenza (Our Lady of Mercy or Clemence) – Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere (ROME)

The solemn intronation of the Image of the Madonna della Clemenza (Our Lady of Mercy or Clemence) takes place in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. This image is among the oldest in Rome: it goes back with certainty to the VIII century. Mary is represented in her royal majesty of the Mother of the Lord. Even the Basilica, which contains it, the oldest Church in Rome dedicated to Mary, in “Fonte Olei” ( meaning the fountain of the oil that flowed forth the night of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem) is one of the most famous monuments in the world. It contains the most famous Marian mosaics.

After the transfer, the icon has always remained in Santa Maria in Trastevere (first in the early Christian basilica then in the building rebuilt in the twelfth century by Innocent II.), In the chapel built by Cardinal Altemps in the sixteenth century. This Madonna is a “Basilissa” or Queen, wearing the same clothes that the Empress Theodora wears in the mosaics of Ravenna. It is probable that this painting is from the beginning of the VIII century because next to the Madonna there is a figure that could be John VII (705-707), pontiff of oriental origin and very devout of the Virgin. There is an inscription which refers to him engraved on the ambo or pulpit of S. Maria Antiqua with the words: “the slave from the Mother of God”.

It is an “acheropite icon”, that is not painted by human hands (for example, this is referred to by a pilgrim from Salzburg visiting Rome in the early Middle Ages).

In 1953 it was decided to restore the icon to the Central Institute of Restoration, under the incrustations of the icon, we can see the Virgin Queen seated on a throne with the child, with two angels at the sides and a kneeling Pope at his feet in act of devotion. In an interview, Maria Andaloro, professor of Byzantine art history at the University of Viterbo says:

“… in this painting, we can see one of the most exciting encounters that can occur between the ancient language and modernity, between the artistic dimension of Byzantium art and a elaboration of the Roman style, between the evident ellenizing harmonies in the face of the angel of the left and that of the child, and the anti-classical disharmony as seen in the representations of their bodies. Second aspect, is the wonder of the oldest icon of this size (165 cm x 110) to have come almost intact to us. Third aspect, is a very profound testimony of the Christian liturgy in Rome. Like that as well as the other Marian icons of the Pantheon, of Santa Maria Maggiore, of Santa Maria Nova al Foro Romano “.

The chronicle tells that a restorer, at the end of his work of cleaning the image returning home was involved in a traffic accident, and fell into a coma for six days. When he woke up the only thing that remembers is Our Lady who gets up to offer him the child Jesus.