Regardless of religion, race, or culture, the entire world can identify her image and have their own opinion about her. Nobody can deny her historical importance, whether they believe in her or not. Her example is followed by thousands of millions who attribute hundreds of miracles to her. She is the most famous woman in history and has introduced Christianity to most of the world.
The depiction of the Virgin Mary in art transcends Christianity. Her likeness has led to the spread of the religion throughout the world: from the Mediterranean, where Mother Goddesses were commonly found in costal civilizations, to the American Continent, where polytheistic tradition had Gods and Goddesses in equal standing. The Virgin took different forms to engage with these cultures.
In each of these civilizations, the image of the mother of Christ found a believable equivalence to take her place in the spiritual hierarchy of these nations. No inhabitant of pre-Columbian America, the Philippines, or continental Africa could deny a maternal loving figure, especially at a time when everything they held true was being destroyed by colonists.
Christianity places Mary in a peculiar place. She is not as important as Christ, yet three of its main dogmas focus on her: the Virgin birth, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumption. These three are the most recurring themes in art featuring her.
It is through Mary that the story of Jesus finds a point of convergence with humanity. This protective, kind, and loving figure conquered other beliefs and converted entire civilizations to Christianity. Marian themed artistic representations were the norm of art for over 13 centuries.
Western art is full of depictions of different moments in her life, such as the annunciation, the birth, and early life of Jesus. It’s not difficult to find images of the Madonna and Child during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
The Virgin is a symbol of motherly, protective, goodwill love. But beyond her divine traits, Mary’s purity comes from the halo of virginity she carries. This sets her apart from other women in the Christian tradition. It’s not hard to find a sculpture, canvas, or some sort of allusion to Mary’s power and influence in just about every temple or place of worship in Latin America. It’s no secret then that the image of the Madonna has paved the way for the propagation of Christianity across the world.
Translated by María Suárez