October 8th 2022

“Marianum”, c.1500, Petrus Banden Kerk, Vanray, Netherlands.

This figure of the Virgin and Child is the same kind as our Virgin in the Child in our Chapel. I thought the illustration above would help us imagine how our carved Virgin and child looked when it was first made.     In both, the Virgin has the moon at her feet and holds the Christ child in her arms.  Our Virgin and Child was from a single piece of oak and then painted and mounted against a radial pattern of sun beams to form a disc edged with roses.  If you look very carefully at our carving you may see traces of the colour under the varnish.  And if you look behind the figure you will see where the radiating beams were attached.  It would have been suspended high above the choir of a Dominican Church where the friars prayed the office, which means that our carving was intended to be seen from below.  Known as a “Marianum”, such ensembles were strongly associated with the preaching of the Rosary by Dominicans in the late 15th and 16th Centuries.  The texture of skin is quite fine and when painted this Virgin must have looked very realistic. There is much symbolism.  Notice that the Virgin holds her child in her left arm, and so closest to her heart.  In turn the Christ child holds a small bird in his left hand. In a a popular story from one of the non-canonical gospels, the child Jesus brings a dead bird back to life so the bird may symbolise the resurrection. The bunch of grapes symbolise the Eucharist.  We don’t know for sure how this Virgin and Child came to us. It once assisted prayer in a Dominican Church on the Continent, was taken down, dismantled, stripped of colour, varnished and sold.  Yet, it  is now in this Dominican Chapel doing what it was made for:  assisting us as we pray.  Our Lady of the Rosary pray for us!


Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.

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