Cardinal Ryłko (center right) accompanies the team of conservation experts Cardinal Ryłko (center right) accompanies the team of conservation experts 

Vatican carries out conservation check on ancient Marian icon

A team of Vatican Museum experts carries out a routine conservation check of the ancient Roman icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani, which is housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

By Devin Watkins

The Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major has announced that a conservation check has been carried out on the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani.

The routine work took place on Thursday morning in the presence of the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko.

Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, led the team of experts from the Painting Restoration Laboratory, who carried out the check.

Prayerful conservation

After a brief moment of prayer, the ancient Roman icon was temporarily removed from its place above the altar in the Pauline Chapel.

The team then brought it to the Basilica’s Chapter Hall, where they verified that the icon remains in excellent condition.

Those present then prayed the noon-day Angelus, and returned the icon to its place in the chapel built in the 1613 by Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese).

A conservator inspects the icon with a flashlight
A conservator inspects the icon with a flashlight

Turning to Our Lady in times of trouble

Tradition attributes the writing of the Maria Salus Populi Romani (or “salvation of the Roman peoples”) icon to the hand of St. Luke. The Roman Pontifical says the image was brought to Rome by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine.

Ever since Medieval times, the image of Our Lady has been particularly venerated by the inhabitants of Rome, who turn to her especially in moments of danger or disaster.

Pope Francis had the icon brought to St. Peter’s Square at the height of the initial wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, when on 27 March 2020 he held a special Urbi et Orbi blessing.

He also pays the icon of Our Lady a visit before and after his Apostolic Journeys abroad.

The icon underwent extensive restoration work in 2017, and was returned to the Basilica with great pomp on 28 January 2018 in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

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21 January 2022, 11:00