Listers, the inculturation of the Mater Dei by people groups throughout the globe and throughout the centuries has led to a plethora of beautiful and unique expressions of her maternal attributes. She is our Mother and our Queen. While displaying her regal and maternal characteristics has taken on various forms for various cultures, the themes have always been universal in Sacred Art. However, modernity has brought with it brand new mediums and new ideas on how to display marian motifs. The following statues are unique for one reason or another, sometimes for materials used or due to the circumstances around the statue. Others are complete deviations from Sacred Art and others are ancient themes that American Catholicism has been hesitant to embrace.
Those interested in the theology and veneration of Mother Mary may reference SPL’s collection of marian lists. Here are a few:
Our Lady of the Rosary: 5 Lists about the Blessed Virgin Mary
How I Met My Mother: 10 Reflections from the Book that Changed My Attitude Towards Mary
4 Biblical Reasons Mary Is The New Ark of the Covenant
6 Biblical Reasons Mary Is the “New Eve”
Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima: 4 Things You Must Know About Our Lady of Fatima
Our Lady of Peace
The Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, California.
The statue, which some have called “the awesome Madonna,” was finished in the Summer of 1982. It stands higher than most three-story buildings. The 7200-pound statue rises to a height of thirty-two feet and rests on a twelve-foot landscaped mound. The head, hands, and feet are cast in stainless steel. The gown is constructed of welded strips of stainless steel.
Our Lady of Breezy Point
Made famous by the devastating 2012 hurracaine “Sandy,” this statue of the Virgin Mary stands amongst the desolation of the community of Breezy Point, Queens, NY. The photo apparently first surfaced in a WSJ article and the “Virgin of Breezy Point” was mentioned on several main stream media news broadcasts. The statue is a classical representation of Our Lady made unique by tragic circumstances.
A statue of the Virgin Mary sits amid rubble in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., Tuesday. Fire destroyed at least 80 homes there as Sandy hit the beachfront community.
Our Lady of Angels
Without question the bronze statue of the Virgin Mary above the doors to the LA Cathedral is one of the most controversial depictions of Our Lady in recent memory. The Cathedral has apparently described the statue as follows:
Mary does not wear the traditional veil. Her arms are bare, outstretched to welcome all. Her carriage is confident, and her hands are strong, the hands of a working woman. From the side can be seen a thick braid of hair down her back that summons thoughts of Native American or Latina women. Other characteristics, such as her eyes, lips and nose convey Asian, African and Caucasian features. Without the conventional regal trappings of jewels, crown or layers of clothing, she has a dignity that shines from within.
The statue has been mocked by conservatives as an ugly deviation from the long tradition of Sacred Art. It is common that various cultures will depict Our Blessed Mother as African, Asian, or Middle Eastern, but never before has a statue attempted to blend all these together. The statue’s lack of femininity and queenly garb has led many to comment that “it” looks gender neutral as well as ethnically neutral.
Not helping the statue is the Cathedral itself, which is a complete deviation from Sacred Architecture. The structure has been compared to bomb shelter and even a pagan temple.
The “Bombed Mary” statue is actually the head and upper torso remnant that survived the US nuclear attack on Nagasaki. More reverently referred to as “Our Lady of Nagasaki,” the piece is often venerated on the memorial of the attack. Like the “Virgin of Breezy Point,” the “Bombed Mary” is a classical representation made unique by circumstances – in this case the horror of human warfare. His Eminence Cardinal Dolan has written about his experience with the piece:
Last week I welcomed the Archbishop of Nagasaki, the Most Reverend Joseph Mitsuaki. He pleaded at the United Nations for an end to all nuclear weapons. Lord knows he has immense credibility: he is now the pastor of the tiny Catholic flock of a Japanese city where 75,000 people were reduced to ash by a single atomic blast on August 9, 1945. On that day, Joseph was still a baby in his mother’s womb, and only survived because she was far enough away from ground-zero.
And something else survived: the head of the statue of Mary Immaculate in the parish church in Urakami, a village right aside Nagasaki. It was this skull of Mary that the archbishop brought with him to the U.N. and to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
And it is this head that is haunting: she is scarred, singed badly, and her crystal eyes were melted by the hellish blast. So, all that remains are two empty, blackened sockets.
I’ve knelt before many images of the Mother of Jesus before: our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Pieta, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, just to name a few.
But I’ve never experienced the dread and revulsion I did when the archbishop showed us the head of Our Lady of Nagasaki …
Our Lady of Nagasaki, pray for us.
Our Lady of Milk
It is almost guaranteed that with an American culture bookended by Puritanism and Pornography that these unique depictions of the Virgin Mary are sure to be found embarrassing, unsettling, or even disrespectful. However in other cultures that can still venerate femininity without declaring it evil or reducing it to sexuality alone, there stands Our Lady of Milk or La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto. There is even an entire Facebook group dedicated to the image. The following is a sampling of “Our Lady of Milk.”