The image of the Madonna has been embedded in the arts of the Western World for nearly two thousand years. She embodies the purest form of unconditional love and is perceived as the compassionate and forgiving nurturer of all Christian people. The Madonna is also seen as the loving mother, and the protector of all humanity.
Her followers believe that only she can fully understand human grief, passions and happiness; she forgives, mediates, and consoles, and she is the connection between human beings and their God. She has been venerated as the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of All, and as the embodiment of compassion.
She is seen as selfless, humble, and caring, and represents the feminine spirituality within Christianity. For many centuries the Madonna has inspired thousands of artists who labored innumerable hours creating her images using different styles, materials, and techniques.
This huge body of artwork, a cultural legacy of major proportions, represents a social system that still dominates the world. Art museums, galleries, palaces and private collections are filled with her icons. Through the centuries, images of the Virgin were created according to the religious interpretations of beliefs, myths, iconography and symbolism prevalent at the time.
The presence of Mary in the heart of Western civilization has a long theological history of transformation. Scholars concur that during early Christianity there were other paramount feminine faces of spirituality, such as Sophia, who was understood to be the feminine aspect of the complex Christian God.
During the sixth century, the presence of the Mother of God was reaffirmed within the Christian religious dogma all over Europe, including the Byzantine Empire.
Like the Madonna, the Goddess Isis also had a divine son, Horus, and artists often depicted her tenderly holding her precious infant on her lap and suckling him. One of her main characteristics was that of a nurturing mother. She was, like Mary, a compassionate and loving divinity, ultimately dedicated to her people’s well-being.
The creator God was visualized in female form since people’s beliefs reflected a social order that was essentially organized and implemented by the women of these cultures.
An abundance of images that represent the oldest religious belief system of humanity has been unearthed and these images can be viewed at major museums around the world.
The Madonna retained her occult divine status, often apparent through the symbolic messages incorporated into her iconography by the artists who created her icons.
For the last five centuries, as the Western world expanded its boundaries into the rest of the globe, many new temples dedicated to the Virgin Mary were built directly upon the sites of the old Mother Goddess temples of the indigenous cultures.
The lore, the origins, the dogma, the myths and the expanding array of symbols and archetypes continue to surround the enigmatic persona of the Virgin Mary. As a prototype of spirituality and perfection in womanhood, the Madonna looms larger than life.
The works of art were created by many different individuals who tried to convey and explain, from their different points of view and using the visual language available to them, the depth of the feelings and convictions of their cultures in respect of this Great Mother.
The earliest images of Mary were probably introduced into early Christian iconography during the second and third centuries. This was a time in human history when society was committed to relieving women of their remaining rights and powers; vestiges of the old matriarchal rights were banned from the prevalent patriarchal order.
From the beginning, the Madonna was seen as the symbol for the Mother Church herself. The presence of the Madonna was critical to the universal acceptance of Christianity in Europe, both eastern and western; her presence created a bridge that allowed the followers of the matriarchal goddess-worshipping religions to join the new patriarchal cult. This book offers the reader some of the best art that has been produced through the centuries to celebrate Mary…
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