Jacopo Zucchi
The Miracle of the Snow

Oil on wood panel
Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

Pictured here is the legend purporting to explain the location for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: One summer night in Rome in the 4th century, a married couple had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who told them to build a church where the snow had fallen. It was August 5th, but there was indeed a covering of snow on the Esquiline Hill. The construction of the church was authorized by Pope Liberius, who in this image stands opposite the couple with a shovel, accompanied by deacons, bishops, and other clergy. On the couple's side of the snowfall are lay people, soldiers, and choristers all in contemporary dress.

Above and blessing both groups is the Virgin Mary on the putti-strewn cloud so often seen in Marian images of this period.

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More of portraits of the Virgin Mary

Photographed at the Pinacoteca Vaticana by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.