I recently went for a wander around another area of Rome to see how many of the pretty Madonna shrines I could find. May is a month dedicated to Mary in several Christian traditions, and therefore the ideal time for a second blog on these devotional gems dotted around the city.
This time I chose one of the most central districts. I began in front of the Trevi fountain, surrounded by swarms of tourists. While everyone focused on taking their best photograph in front of the famous sight, I turned to look at “Our Lady of the Little Arch” a Madonnella shrine that, while remarkable in itself, is often overshadowed by the fountain and the Church of Vincenzo and Anastasio opposite.
According to one of my books on Rome’s Madonnelle, written by Maria Cristina Martini, this shrine is in an unusually low position. Others around the city are at first floor level but this is situated close to the ground. The angels on either side are holding up a framed picture of the Madonna. It is protected by a little iron roof with a cherub’s face underneath it. Some records date the shrine’s construction back to the eighteenth century.
Feeling ready to escape the tourists, I walked up Via di San Vincenzo. Another eye-catching shrine sits on the corner with Via della Dataria, depicting the nativity. This one dates back to around the 16th-17th centuries. While the picture itself is not very visible, and its glass cover actually smashed, the elaborate baroque frame composed of four little angels is still in good condition. A dove representing the Holy Spirit hovers above.
The dove makes an appearance again in a shrine that can be found along the Via dell’Umilta. This one, known as “Madonna and the Apostles” and dated 1860, portrays the moment the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples (at Pentecost). Underneath the medallion-like shrine an inscription reads “Regina Apostolorum, Ora Pro Nobis.” The subject of the shrine is likely explained by the proximity of the Basilica of the Holy Apostles.
After this I wandered on to another busy spot in Rome, Piazza della Rotonda, in front of the Pantheon. This is where one of my favourite Madonnelle is situated: a soft fresco of Mary on the side of a pretty pastel-blue house.
Some of the symbols in the 18th century fresco are typical of depictions of the Immaculate Conception, such as the snake Mary is treading on. The painting is big, stretching over two floors, and hard to miss when you emerge from a visit to the Pantheon.
After a short stop in this square, I strolled through some back streets towards Largo Argentina. On the way I spotted several more shrines on corners of buildings, some with a more modern appearance, that looked striking in the bright sunlight. Here are a couple:
According to legends that I read about, the original Madonna image on this site moved its eyes in 1796. After that it became a popular scene of devotion and the Capparucci family, who lived nearby, constructed the more elaborate shrine that we see today. They later removed the miraculous image but the shrine nowadays consists of a pretty picture of Mary and Jesus, flanked by two lanterns. It is covered with a little iron roof and underneath you can read the following inscription:
I hope you also get a chance to visit this pretty Madonna shrine in the back streets. And if you go for a random wander I’m sure you will find many other precious Madonnelle gems. For more background about Rome’s Madonna shrines, you can consult my previous post here