Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pope Pius XII Celebrates the Queenship of Mary

From the archives of the Istituto Luce comes this wonderful newsreel report on an event of the Marian year proclaimed by Pope Pius XII, which ran from the feast of the Immaculate Conception of 1953 to the same date of the following year.

“The Marian year (1954) is at its most moving display. From St Mary Major, the miraculous image of the Madonna has reached St Peter’s. On the sedes gestatoria, Pius XII comes down among the faithful, to proclaim the liturgical feast of the Queenship of Mary, fixed by a recent encyclical to the 31st of May each year. At the end of his affectionate pilgrimage, inside the basilica of the Prince of the Apostles, the Pope crowns the sacred image of the Madonna Salus Populi Romani, to whose materal protection Rome owed its preservation from the war. (The voice of the Pope): ‘The regality of Mary is a reality beyond this earth, but one which at the same time, penetrates to the very depth of the heart.’ In the piazza, the faithful greet and celebrate their bishop, the Pope who crowned as Queen the Madonna of Rome, and the Pope, smiling, paternally blesses his children, invoking the divine mercy upon the earth, and asking from heaven the love of Mary to protect Rome and the world.”

(The full discourse of the Pope, pronounced on November 1st of 1954, can be read on the Vatican website, but only in Italian.)

The crowning of images of the Virgin Mary was a tradition important enough to be included in the Pontificale, and one especially dear to the Italian people. However, many of these crowns have subsequently been removed by restorers, including the one given here by Pope Pius, the idea being to bring the images back to their “original” appearance. This has been done with two others among the many famous Marian images in Rome, the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Michelangelo’s Pietà; in the case of the latter, the crown was not, of course, fixed to the statue itself, but held over the Virgin’s head by two angels affixed to the wall over it.
The Pietà, photographed in 1949, before the angels and crown were removed. The altar has been disused since the statue was attacked by a lunatic in May of 1972, and the cross, candlesticks and altar cards have also been removed, along with the frontal seen in the photo below.
A wider view of the chapel of the Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica, photographed in 1949. The column seen behind a cage on the right is one of twelve which in the ancient basilica of St Peter were arranged around the Apostle’s tomb, supporting an architrave; statues of the twelve Apostles stood on top of the architrave, one over each column. These are known as “Solomonic columns from the popular legend that the Emperor Constantine recovered them from the ruins of the Jerusalem temple, and brought them to Rome to decorate the original church. From there it was but a short step to the belief that the Lord Himself leaned upon one of these columns when He spoke “in the portico of Solomon”, as recounted in John 10, 22. Long after the old basilica was destroyed, it was moved into this chapel, and subsequently to the treasury museum, where the visitor can see it today, and note that a great many pieces were hacked off by overzealous pilgrims. The baseless tradition regarding the columns’ origin was accepted by Jews in the later Middle Ages as well as Christians, and Solomonic columns also figure prominently in Italian Jewish art.

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