Legend, History and Symbolism of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

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Alfonso V. Amarante CSsR (Province of Naples)

Translated by Br Jeffrey Rolle CSsR

            “Make her known throughout the world.”  With this exhortation Pope Pius IX entrusted to the then Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists, Fr. Nicholas Mauron (1888 – 1893), the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help so as to return the icon to public devotion.  It was 11 December 1865 in the Church of Saint Alphonsus on Via Merulana in Rome.

            150 years later, on 27 June 2015, on the occasion of the liturgical feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Superior General of the Redemptorists, Fr. Michael Brehl officially inaugurated the Jubilee Year dedicated to the sacred icon which will close on 27 June 2016.  In the letter establishing the Jubilee, Fr. Michael Brehl emphasized how the mandate to make known the icon of Mary has accompanied the missionary vocation of the Redemptorists, directed to the most abandoned and especially the poor. She sometimes even preceded us with grace and tenderness: “More than carrying this icon of Mary to the world, Mary has carried us in her tender embrace of perpetual help.”[1]

The history

            1. A complicated birthdate

In the spirituality of a religious person, sacred images are not beautiful merely for their artistic value but for the transcendent reality to which they point.  So, in the Marian images we find the mother, the disciple, a point of reference, a friend, a companion on a voyage.  In the compelling and troubled “History” of the icon, as told by Fr. Ernesto Bresciani (1838 – 1919) suspended between history and legend, apologetics and oral tradition, we can touch with our hands how the divine will intersects inseparably with the intricate human events of the protagonists, making them a story of salvation.[2]   The history of this icon has been the object of various studies.  Here we will follow the story of the icon as it interacts with other contributions written over the course of 150 years.

            We find ourselves before an icon of the Hodegetria type, that is to say, “that which points the way.” According to what Bresciani writes, it dates back to the 13th to 14th century, while for Ferrero it is much later, 15th to 16th century.  Already, this first discrepancy in dates does not help the scholar trying to make sense of what is before him. Added to the discrepancy in the historical dates are the results of the scientific studies conducted during the restoration of the icon under the guidance of Marrazzo in the early nineteen-nineties.  These studies date the wood to the 14th to 15th century and the painted panel to the 18th and 19th century.  For this work, we will focus only on retracing briefly the history up to 1866 and then linger on the message. On this journey, we will take Bresciani as our helmsman.

            2.  – The guilty merchant and the innocent girl

            Bresciani, the first Redemptorist author to write about Our Mother of Perpetual Help indicates that the earliest information, he has relating to the icon, dates to the end of the fourteen hundreds, when according to tradition, a merchant stole from a shrine on the island of Crete, the image highly venerated for the many wonders attributed to it.[3] This information related by Bresciani was found next to the icon on two scrolls,[4] one written in Latin and the other in old (or vulgar) Italian dating to about 1600.  “Of significant importance for our icon is the text on the scroll from Saint Matthew’s Church, entirely transcribed by Torrigio in 1642 and twice by Bruzio in 1661 c (…..) the oldest and most decisive, Friar Mariano of Florence. (1518)” [5]

            Without entering into the controversy over the dates and the scrolls – and taking as plausible the account of how the icon arrived in Rome – the motive of the merchant for stealing it is unknown.  The story in itself poses many questions.  Did the merchant take the sacred image: To procure exclusively for himself a powerful protection? To earn a fortune selling the precious relic in the West? To protect it from profanation?  Credit must be given to the story written by Bresciani all of which must be read from the optic of Divine Providence which seems knowingly to guide the icon toward the destination to which it was heading: Rome, the eternal city.  The merchant arrives in Rome after a year of tormented navigation and grave illness.  He finds a place of rest in what would be his final days, with a friend who took him into his home.  The merchant, maybe regretting having stolen the icon, gives it to his friend, confides the secret and asks his friend to guarantee him a promise that as soon as possible he will return the icon to public veneration so that it can receive the reverence it deserves.

            Bresciani continues his story, affirming that the wife of the merchant’s friend became enamoured with the icon and wanted it all to herself forcing her husband to renege on the promise made to his dying friend.  The Virgin, through many apparitions to all the members of the family, expressed the wish to have the image exposed in a shrine.  They ignored the warnings until the Madonna appeared for a few days to the little girl in the family, revealing the name by which she wished to be known:  “Mother of Perpetual Help” and indicating the precise location where she wished the icon to be placed: “in the Church of Saint Matthew, on the Via Merulana between the Basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint John Lateran.”  Questioned by the family as to who was the beautiful woman who appeared to her in her dreams, the little girl said without hesitation, the Mother of Perpetual Help pictured in the icon.  Finally convinced, the mother, herself warned many times in her dreams, obeyed and recounted to the Augustinian Fathers who were the custodians of the church, the prodigious story and the wish of the Virgin.  The news spread rapidly throughout the city and the icon was brought in solemn procession[6] to the church of Saint Matthew on the 27 March, 1499.  Besides this account, many other accounts concur that the image was brought to Saint Matthew’s church on the 27 March 1499.

            3.  The devout friar and the diligent young boy

According to Bresciani, the icon enjoyed three hundred years of uninterrupted veneration, during which time in 1708, Cardinal Francesco Nerli (1636 – 1708) proclaimed the icon “Miraculorum Gloria Insignis” for the countless wonders and graces obtained through intercession.

            In 1798, Napoleon’s troops invaded the city of Rome, sending Pope Pius VI into exile.  With the idea of tidying up the city planning, many churches, rectories and convents were destroyed.  The little church of Saint Matthew was not saved, rather it was completely razed. [7] The sacred icon was again miraculously saved, thanks to the extreme intervention of one of the friars.  The Augustinians fled to the church of Saint Eusebius and later found a home in the rectory at Santa Maria in Posterula, bringing with them the icon.

            But, because in this church there was already the veneration of la Madonna delle Grazie the icon was relegated to a private chapel in the rectory without any decoration or acts of particular devotion.  It was gradually forgotten by its devotees, and became practically unknown to all.  But, maybe it is better to say it became unknown to almost everyone because there was one person who did not forget the wondrous power of this sacred icon.    Friar Agostino Orsetti as a young Religious, was formed in the community at Saint Matthew.  He never stopped raising fervent prayers, neither were extinguished in his memory the images of the numerous miracles obtained through intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  He would linger often to pray in the chapel where the icon was being held.  The young Michael Marchi (1829 – 1886), future Redemptorist Missionary, was a friend of Friar Agostino.  Friar Agostino often spoke  excitedly of the icon and at times, also with sadness regarding  the state of abandonment in which it presently was.  His wish was to return the icon to its old glorious splendour.

            4.  – The archivist and former altar boy of grateful memory

            When the memory of the sacred icon seemed irredeemably lost and buried, in to the story walks new characters and events which help fulfil again the wish of the Virgin and the desire of Friar Agostino and the merchant of Crete.

            For the Redemptorist missionaries, now present in a substantial part of Europe and growing in North America, the need arose for a General House in Rome. Thus, in January 1855, the Redemptorists acquired  “Villa Caserta” on Via Merulana. [8] In the garden area of the villa was where the church of Saint Matthew stood until the end of the previous century, prior to its demolition. In that church, the icon of the Madonna found a home for three centuries.  The property, prior to its purchase by the Redemptorists had become private property.  The Redemptorists then occupied themselves with building a church which they dedicated to their founder Saint Alphonsus Maria di Liguori (1696 – 1787) where the sacred icon would again be exposed.

            In 1855, Michael Marchi’s application to become a Redemptorist was accepted.  He professed vows as a Redemptorist on 25 March 1857.  A few years later,  the chronicler for the community at Via Merulana did an archival research on the house.  Digging through the authors who wrote about old Roman religious customs, he discovered that right on the site of the Villa Caserta, probably in the garden area, was a little church dedicated to Saint Matthew,[9] in the care of the Irish Augustinian Fathers, in which there was veneration to the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  The chronicler became excited about his finding and shared it with the rest of the community. To his disappointment, all leads in the story end with the Napoleonic invasion and the consequent destruction of the church.  Among the confreres in that community is Father Michael Marchi, who on hearing the story of the Madonna of Perpetual Help and the church of Saint Matthew immediately confirms he knows exactly where the icon can be found.  He tells in an abundance of details, the zealous stories through which Friar Agostino instructed him about the icon, noting the “state of abandonment in which it was with no decoration, no veneration, not even a small lamp, overall covered in dust.”[10]

            At the same time, exactly in 1863, the Jesuit preacher Fr. Francesco Blosi [11] during the Marian Saturdays lauded the marvels of this image which at one time was found between the two Papal Basilicas.  Two years later, the Superior General of the Redemptorists, Nicholas Mauron, with an official testimony written by Fr. Michael Marchi made a request to the Pope that the icon be returned to the place where the Madonna herself had requested.  Pope Pius IX, by his own hand wrote a note on the back of the paper on which the request was written, granting the request.

            11 December 1865.  The Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide will call the Superior of the small community at Saint Mary in Posterula and tell him that it is Our Desire that the image of the most blessed Mary to which this request refers, be returned to its location between Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Major; with the obligation that the Father Superior of the “Liguorini” provide a decent painting as a substitute. Pius PP. IX[12]

            January 19, 1866. Fathers Marchi and Bresciani present the letter of request to Fr. Jeremias O’Brien, Prior of Saint Mary in Posterula on behalf of the Superior of the Redemptorists:

            M.R.P Prior

           In the conversation yesterday with V.R. regarding the Madonna from the old church of Saint Matthew, which according to the disposition taken by the Holy Father, and communicated to V.R. through S.E. Cardinal Barnabò, prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, should be returned to public devotion on our Esquiline.  I promised V.R that by order of His Holiness, I will provide a decent painting to substitute the one of the Madonna which you are handing over to us.  I also added a free gift to your community of Saint Mary in Posterula.

           I come therefore by means of the bearer to present to you an offer of fifty scudi (old Italian money) in honour of Blessed Mary and Saint Augustine.  V.R. please let me know if you would like a copy of the icon of the Madonna or another painting of a different object which I will provide for your satisfaction. [13]

            After making the offer to the Prior of the community at Posterula, Fathers Bresciani and Marchi brought the icon to the Redemptorist community at Via Merulana.

            Other than the monetary offer, on 20 June 1866, Fr. O’Brien, Prior of the community at Posterula was given an authentic copy of the icon as was prescribed by the pontifical rescript.  This transaction is recorded on a receipt dated 20 June 1866 and signed by Fr. Marchi and Fr. O’Brien.

           I, being the undersigned Fr. Marchi on behalf of Very Reverend Fr. Nicholas Mauron Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on the 19 January of the current year 1866 at the rectory of the Reverend Augustinian Fathers in Posterula received from Most Reverend Father Prior, the miraculous image of the Madonna venerated under the title of Perpetual Help.

           And as per Pontifical rescript dated 11 December 1865, the said Very Reverend Fr. Mauron must substitute a suitable painting, and the esteemed Fr. Prior having requested a copy of the venerated image: thus it is that the same Fr. Marchi has brought on this day the authentic copy requested and presented it to the esteemed Fr. Prior
In witness whereof, both [sic] have signed in his own hand.

Fr. Jeremias O’Brien Prior

Rome 20 June 1866

 Michele Marchi of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.[14]

            In January 1866, when the icon of the Madonna of Perpetual Help was brought to the Redemptorist community it was noticed to be in need of restoration.  The restoration of the icon was entrusted to the Polish painter Leopoldo Nowotny (1822 – 1870)

            With the completion of the restoration, on 26 April 1866, the image was again restored to public veneration opening a new season of life for the spreading of the devotion, thanks to the missionary quality of  the Redemptorist ministry, in which the Madonna has always been a companion on the journey.  A further restoration of the icon in 1994 provided the opportunity for an in-depth scientific study.  The radiocarbon analysis, 14C,  dated the wood of the icon to the period between 1300 and 1450.  The diagnostic investigation concluded that the icon painted on the wood was written toward the end of the 18th century.  Probably, the artist of that era, in copying the original which was by then almost deteriorated, had westernized some elements of the ancient oriental iconography.[15]  Using his exceptional artistic skill, the artist rendered the image more familiar to our aesthetic, artistic sensibilities.

            Within a short space of time, devotion to the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help became established and spread through the efforts of the Redemptorists.  Because of the sudden popularity of the devotion to the icon, there began in Rome, rumours that the Redemptorists “practically stole the painting of the Madonna of Perpetual Help from the Reverend Augustinian Fathers”.  Bresciani, in 1889, responding to the Redemptorist Fr. Edward Douglas (1819 – 1898) concerning this allegation recalls once again the facts regarding the Redemptorists acquiring the painting of the Virgin.

           I heard with displeasure from Your Most Venerable on the 20th of last month, that someone has been saying that we practically stole the picture of the Madonna of Perpetual Help from the Reverend Augustinian Fathers: whoever is saying this is either ignoring the facts or just being malicious.  It consoles me however to hear from V.R. that as far as he knows, no one among the Augustinian Fathers has ever said such a thing…

           His Holiness Pope Pius IX established that our Reverend Father General give to Most Reverend Father Prior of Posterula an equivalent painting in recompense for the one of the Madonna of Perpetual Help, but as the said Father Prior made it known that he would prefer monetary compensation because of the poor state of their home, our Most Reverend sent, courtesy of Fr. Marchi the sum of £250.  This amount, quite exceeding the intrinsic value of the painting was given by Fr. Marchi in my presence to the esteemed Father Prior who accepted with recognition and gave the painting to us.  This took place precisely on the afternoon of the 19 January 1866.

           Besides the above mentioned sum, our Most Reverend Father General, abounding in generosity, was pleased to send to the same Father Prior an authentic copy of the Madonna of Perpetual Help so that a perpetual memory of the icon would remain in the rectory of Saint Mary in Posterula. [16]
Indirectly from this letter, one can infer of the success of the spread of the devotion to the Madonna of Perpetual Help after a long period of silence.  It has so happened that over the last 150 years the devotion has taken root and strengthened, thanks to the evangelizing works of the Redemptorists throughout the five continents.  Now our icon of the Madonna has become one of the faces of Mary most invoked, widespread, and well known worldwide.

            THE MESSAGE OF THE ICON

            1.  – What is an icon?

            The language of art, more than giving definitions, evokes.  It is heard through the ears but speaks to the heart.  It speaks through form, colour, shades, lines, spaces.  In the religious sphere, symbolism has always had a fundamental importance in describing a reality which is not terrestrial but supernatural; a reality not material as can be idealized but is otherwise Transcendent.  This awareness was already clear to the apostolic community from the time of the transfiguration of Jesus where he opened the disciples’ eyes to see him in another light.  (Lk 24:30–31)  We know that the word icon, derives from the Greek eikon, meaning image.  In the Biblical tradition, Christ is the image of the Father, incarnate so as to reveal the true face of the Father. (Col 1:15)  The Church has always had the awareness of herself being that face, so that every believer is the image of the invisible God to the extent that we conform ourselves to the living Christ.  In the East, the icon does not portray or simply represent a religious subject, but it implies a real visual theology which calls forth the contemplative faculty of the spirit.

            The icon is an open window on the mystery, not simply a decorative element but a real and proper sacrament (sacramental to be precise) which introduces us into the celestial reality.  It is precisely for this reason that icons are an integral part of Byzantine liturgy. They invite a gaze through which one can go beyond, to transcend oneself continually, so as to touch the invisible concealed therein.  Therefore, the icon is not admired but meditated, prayed. It is not by chance that the artistic expertise in which an icon is written, the popular style, the habit of not signing one’s name on the painting, has the sole purpose of bringing the onlooker to concentrate only and exclusively on the mystery it represents. Usually the authors of icons were monks and the images were written, often by them in a kneeling position, in an atmosphere of meditation, penitence and prayer.  They immersed themselves for many days in the mystery which they intended to make emerge. They reflected on the mystery, studied it, prayed it so as later to be able to portray it on wood through form, colour, and symbolic imagery.  They knew that those who would view the icon were not viewing it so as to delight themselves in its beauty but rather to pray, meditate and as such did not concentrate as much on the physical form nor on the psychological elements but they showed the internal form, the spiritual structure, “seen” in contemplation.

            2. – Chromatic exegesis of the elements

            The icon of the Madonna of Perpetual Help belongs to the “school of Crete”. The most recent studies on it locate it within a wide arc of time.  It is a picture on a wood slab measuring 51.8cm in height and 41.8cm in width.  More than being just one image, it represents a scene in which four characters are present and described as is customary by the acrostics that surround the scene. [17] At the top right of the image there is the Archangel Gabriel (marked by the symbols (OAΓ) who as he announced to Mary her divine conception, now brings the announcement of the passion by way of the cross, the nails, and the red garment, colours of charity but also of the passion.  To the left, we find Archangel Michael (OAM) who is carrying the symbols of humanity redeemed by the passion of Christ (the lance and the sponge and the vase containing vinegar), represented by the colours green (for humanity) and red. [18]

            The Virgin Mary who dominates the scene is framed by the symbols ΜΡ – ΘΥ, meaning, Mother of God.  In the chromatic shades we find, admirably synthesized, all the Marian theology and an anticipation of the dogmas on the Virgin Mary.  To cover the hair and as such to remove any sign of voluptuousness and female vanity, Mary is clothed in a blue headdress, symbol of virginal purity.  Mary is also wearing a red tunic symbolizing maternal charity; Mary is Virgin and Mother.  She is completely covered in a mantle whose inner lining is green.  Clearly a reference to what she said of herself in the Magnificat “My soul magnifies the Lord…because he has looked with favour on his humble servant.”  Mary, with her YES, has consented to be a docile instrument in the hands of the Almighty. She permitted herself to be moulded by grace, overshadowed completely by the Holy Spirit who turned the humble handmaid of Nazareth into the Mother of God and Mother of us all, the Queen of Angels and Saints.

            In the figure of the child Jesus, we encounter a Christological synthesis.  To the right of his head are written the characters IC – XC (Jesus Christ).  Jesus is the only character in the scene who appears in full figure.  To represent the Incarnation is the green tunic in which he is completely dressed while over the tunic is a gold cloak, a sign of divinity indicating the double nature: Christ is true God and true man.  The gold mantle is interspersed with red representing charity as he admirably taught us in the event of the Last Supper, a synthesis of his life and death at the vigil of his passion: “having loved his own who are in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1)[19] .

            3.  – The message: Virgin of the Passion, Madonna of Perpetual Help, Mother of Redemption

            The richness of the symbolism contained in this image merits a long litany of names by which it could be called: Virgin of the Passion, Virgin of Gold, The one who points the way, Madonna of Perpetual Help, Mother of Redemption.  By the characters present in the scene, the icon is catalogued as Virgin of the Passion but it is more correct to affirm that in it is represented the entire mystery of redemption.  As we scour over the image, we are accompanied in Mary’s house by the Temple, the Grotto, the streets of Galilee; and later in Jerusalem in the Upper room, Golgotha, the empty tomb, the streets of the world and the glory of the heavens. [20]

            The message of hope contained in the icon is communicated through the posture of the baby Jesus.  There is in fact a controversial detail: the sole of the foot.  Just as today we speak of fingerprints, so in the ancient mentality –  the uniqueness, unrepeatability of the individual was portrayed by the sole of their feet. Therefore, here we find represented the humanity of  Christ.  Furthermore, there was the custom of stipulating the pact of a covenant by untying the lace of the sandals (Ruth 4:7; Ps 60:10; Lk 3:16) to show the sole of the foot.  That is to say, Jesus is here represented as true God and true Man, becoming flesh for our redemption, re-establishing the pact of the covenant destroyed by the disobedience of sin” (Preface 7 of Ordinary Time).  The Virgin Mary, who is holding the baby at the same time, seems to be protecting him, giving him to us and pointing him to us.  The baby Jesus, turning his gaze upward where he sees the signs of his passion, leans against Mary’s bosom, seizing her hand and in this abrupt movement, loses his sandal.  In reality we have already noted that in the icons, the psychological meaning is relativized but again it is better to understand it from the perspective of Jesus and following the lines of his eyes we propose our interpretation.

            Since the Virgin Mary dominates the scene, the focal point of the image are the intertwined hands of Jesus and Mary.  Following the look on both their faces, following two imaginary lines, we can reflect on their cooperation in redemption.  Jesus, therefore, doesn’t seem to be merely looking at the signs of the passion but sees them as though they are being brought in solemnly, as in procession, almost in triumph, like trophies.  He looks outside the image and his gaze is focused, absorbed.  The real point of reference is the Father, seated in Heaven.  Mary therefore with her right hand indicates the way (Hodegetria) which leads to the Father, who is following Jesus His Son whom Mary herself gives to us indicating to us the manner in which humanity is perpetually rescued.

            Ideally, this hand can in fact be considered to be the yearning of our humanity, which Mary, the first among the believers, model of discipleship re-joins to Christ, who at the same time blesses and holds it tightly so as to draw it back to Heaven, giving the guarantee that: if we are to cross the valley of suffering we will never be alone: “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast”(Ps 139:10) and all under the maternal gaze of Mary.  She who bore the Son and gives him constantly, is looking intently at me.  She who was beneath the cross and knows pain very well, she to whom was entrusted our fragile humanity, constantly tempted, keeping the covenant hanging by a thread, this loving mother always comes to our aid.  Her gaze is serene, her hand is powerful, her perpetual help is guaranteed, because (as in the icon), the gold background bears witness. If we turn to her, she will lead us to Christ who saves every evil with His glorious cross. If we allow her to mould us like she allowed the Holy Spirit to mould her, we will be able to go through every suffering so as to delight in a destiny of glory in the hands of the Father.  The entire icon speaks to us of tenderness, of mercy. More than about the passion, it speaks of hope which becomes certainty in the mystery of redemption.

            Conclusion

            Rivers of grace and conversion have been granted by the Virgin as a result of praying with and meditating on this sacred icon.  Through the spread of this perpetual devotion and the perpetual supplication of Mary, many Redemptorists along with millions of the faithful have been brought closer to God.  But it is even more beautiful to recite the Rosary before this image because in its tenderness, it allows us to retrace the central mystery of our faith, of our redemption.  While praying the Joyful mysteries we can fix our gaze on the Child Jesus, the Son of God, becoming flesh for our salvation securely in the hands of the Virgin Mother who offers Him to us asking us to allow ourselves to be modelled by the Spirit as she was. With the Luminous mysteries, through the contemplative gaze of Mary on the public life of Jesus, we are transformed into that which we meditate. With the Sorrowful mysteries, lingering for a while on the instruments of the passion, on the redemptive cross, on the bounteous sacraments which generate new and eternal life, we can almost touch the outrageously intense love God has for us, and hear Him asking us to love with this same intensity.  With the Glorious mysteries, we are reinforced in the solid hope of our divine destiny to glory, guided and protected by the maternal gaze of Mary who indicates to us the way to the Father through following Christ.

Endnotes

…………………………………………………………….

[1] M. Brehl, Circular letter Celebration of the Jubilee year of the Madonna of Perpetual Help, Rome 27 June 2015, 1.
[2] E. Bresciani, Cenni storici sull’antica e prodigiosa immagine della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso già venerata in S. Matteo in Merulana e ridonata al culto pubblico nella chiesa di S. Alfonso sull’esquilino, Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, Rome 1866, 14-28.  On the Marian icon of OMPH, the studies offering greater information on its history in chronological order after that of Bresciani are the following:

E. BRESCIANI, Breve relazione sull’antica e prodigiosa Immagine della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso che si venera in Roma nella chiesa di S. Alfonso pubblicata dappoi la solenne coronazione di essa veneranda immagine […],Tip. della S. C. de Propaganda Fide, Roma 1867; C. HENZE, Mater de perpetuo succursu: prodigiosae iconis marialis ita nuncupatae monographia, Collegium Iosephinum, Bonnae1926; F. FERRERO, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Soccorro. Proceso histórico de una devoción mariana, Editorial el Perpetuo Socorro, Madrid 1966; A. SAMPERS, Circa traditionem BMV de Perpetuo Succursu, in SHCSR 14 (1966) 208-218; M. CATTAPAN, Precisazioni riguardanti la storia della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, in SHCSR 15 (1967) 353-381; E. BUSCHI, Santa Maria del Perpetuo Soccorso, Scuola Tipografica “Città Bianchi”, Veroli 1968; F. FERRERO, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro. Información bibliográfica y cronología general, in SHCSR 38 (1990) 455-502; F. FERRERO, Santa María del Perpetuo Socorro. Un icono de la Santa Madre de Dios, Virgen de la Pasión, PS Editorial, Madrid 1994. In the archives of the Redemptorist missionary community in Venice is an unpublished review by Buschi and a book by Cattapan on the Madonna of Perpetual Help; this book is also not published.  Buschi’s review confirms the information gathered by Cattapan which is presented in part in the article published in SHSCR in 1967, regarding the origin and the dating of the picture of the Madonna of Perpetual Help.  The last study which helps to clarify the dating and the efforts at restoration and conservation done on our icon was supervised by A. Marrazzo.  L’ultimo restauro dell’icona della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, in SHCSR 64 (2016) 307-349.  Several scholars maintain that before us is a “protipo” image of the Hodegetria, distinct from the prototype or archetype.  Finally, there is a doctoral thesis presented at the department of art and archaeology at Princeton University: M. J. MILLINER, The Virgin of the Passion: Development, Dissemination and Afterlife of a Byzantine Icon Type, University Princeton 2011.
[3] Cattapan writes that this first account was reported by Fra Mariano of Florence in his manuscript following a visit he made to Rome in 1517. Cf. M. CATTAPAN, Precisazioni riguardanti la storia della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, 360.
[4] The scroll in Latin is reported in two works: C. HENZE, Mater de Perpetuo Succursu, 34-36; F. FERRERO, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, 286-288.
[5] M. CATTAPAN, Precisazioni riguardanti la storia della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, 359. Cattapan reports what  Panciroli wrote in his text in 1660  su i tesori nascosti nell’alma città di Roma “Also in the year 1480; under the Pontificate of Alexander VI on the 27 May, this Church [Saint Matthew] was enriched by the image of Our Lady brought in from the East, which for the miracles and graces conceded is itself listed among the miraculous” ivi., 364.  Cattapan cites as his source  Le cose meravigliose della Città di Roma, corrette ed ampliate dal R. D. Francesco Torrigo Romano di molte cose, nel presente Anno MDCXVIII. For both  Cattapan and Ferrero regarding the account of Fra Mariano, refer to the work:  FRA MARIANO DA FIRENZE, O. F. M., Itinerarium Urbis Romae. With introduction and illustrative note by Fr. Enrico Bulletti of the same Order. (Studi di Antichità Cristiana), Ed. Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, Roma 1931.
[6] Cattapan in his work on the icon offers an explanation of the discrepancy regarding the month and year in which the icon was transferred.  Cf. M. CATTAPAN, Precisazioni riguardanti la storia della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, 365; 367.  Cattapan in the last page cited, reporting another text by Torrigo writes, “MARCH. On the 27th day of 1499 the image of the miraculous Madonna named “of Succour”, was placed in the Church of Saint Matthew in Merulana”
[7] Cf. F. LOMBARDI, Roma. Le chiese scomparse. La memoria storica della città, Palombi, Roma 1996, 90  “In 1798, the church of Saint Matthew and the monastery were destroyed by the government of the Jacobine Roman Republic with a view to renewed urbanization of the city which was never realized.  The only memory of the church remaining are a few fragments of marble and parts of the pavement found in Saint John Lateran.  On the demolition of the church of Saint Matthew and the consequent loss of its archives, see also C. ALONSO, El convento agustino de S. Mateo in Merulana de Roma, in SHCSR 54 (2006) 151-184.
[8] Cf. L. WALTER, Villa Caserta. Ad aureum domus generalitiae jubilaeum, F. Cuggiani, Roma, 1905.
[9] Cf. ibid p.36 particularly the topographic map
[10] F. FERRERO, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, 301-302.
[11] Regarding the Jesuit Giovanni Francesco Blosi (1804-1875) cf. A. SERAFINI, Pio Nono, Giovanni Mastai Ferretti dalla giovinezza alla morte nei suoi scritti e discorsi editi e inediti, vol. I: Le vie della Divina Provvidenza (1792-1846), Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, Roma 1958.
[12] E. BRESCIANI, Cenni storici sull’antica e prodigiosa immagine della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, 53.
[13] The letter, found in the General Archives of the Redemptorist Missionaries of Rome and quoted in its entirety in A. MARRAZZO, L’ultimo restauro dell’icona della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, in SHCSR 64 (2016) 308.
[14] The ticket is found in AGHR, Fondo B. Mariae V. Perpetuo Succursu (PS). III, duplicato.
[15] On the restoration and the historical technical investigation on the icon of the Madonna of Perpetual Help cf. A. MARRAZZO, L’ultimo restauro dell’icona della Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, 318-335.
[16] On the acquisition of the icon by the Redemptorists cf. F. FERRERO, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, 181-189, 301-306. From the original manuscript of Bresciani cf. AGHR Fondo B. Mariae V. de Perpetuo Succursu (PS).  Carefully reading this declaration from Bresciani one can see a contradiction regarding the sum of money paid.  Fr. Mauron in his text of 1866 (cited earlier in this article) declares, for the image, the Redemptorists have given to the Irish Augustinians “50 Scudi” whereas in this letter of Bresciani written twenty three years later he speaks of £250.  In my view, this contradiction can be explained as follows: A decision was made to introduce the pontifical lira in 1866 at a value equivalent to the Italian lira.  Thus in 1866, there were at least two currencies in circulation in Rome, that is, the scudo and the lira.  The actual one scudo coin was made of silver whereas  2.5, 5 and 10 were gold coins. The currency was gold in as far as was possible – at least theoretically – to change the coins of the corresponding weight into gold equivalent.  The scudo pontificio was gold currency.  The rate of exchange, according to statistics from Istat was fixed at 5.375 lira to one scudo. Multiplying 5.375 by 50 the product arrived is £268.75 this a little more (18 lira) than Bresciani indicated in his letter to Fr. Douglas.  (the symbol £ is used here for Italian Lira)
[17] Regarding the inscriptions in Greek cf.  C. HENZE, Mater de Perpetuo Succursu, 1-16.
[18] As of yet, there is no precise study done on the colours of our icon.  Some hints circulating around the particular chromatics chosen for the icon which do not correspond to the classic established interpretations are found in Ferrero’s and Cattapan’s work.  It is our hope that in the future a study will be done in this area.
[19] I refer to the study of Bisi and Raffa on icons because it is accompanied by a considerable literature on the history of icons, colours and their meaning.  G. BIFFI – G. RAFFA, Luce del tuo Volto. Percorsi avanzati tra teoria e prassi, Dehoniana Libri, Bologna 2014.
[20] Cf. T. SPIDLIK – M.I. RUPNIK, La fede secondo le icone, Lipa, Roma 2000. Cf. M. RUPNIK, Il rosso della piazza d’oro, Lipa, Roma 2013. Cf. G. PASSARELLI, Iconostasi. La teologia della bellezza e della luce, Mondadori, Milano 2003.