Skip to main content

Miraculous Images

Miraculous Images

– Sister M. Jean Frisk, S.S.M.

Are Sacred Images Important?

Sacred images, in general, have special importance for many believers. Generally speaking, Eastern Christianity emphasizes a mystical link between the visible copy and the holy person or event represented. Latin Christianity tends to emphasize more concrete aspects such as the history of miracles associated with an image, and the concrete solidarity of a faithful group.

Images graced by supernatural signs receive additional importance. They become centers of spiritual attraction, drawing pilgrims to the shrines which arise to house these precious works. As with Our Lady of Czestochowa, they sometimes come to symbolize the ethnic or political identity of a region, or even of an entire nation. They often inspire missionary dynamism. For example, the Redemptorists used to present the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help during pastoral work.

Why Miraculous?

How does a specific image of Mary become recognized as a "Miraculous Image"? The most obvious answer is that an extraordinary event, a miracle, occurs on behalf of the image. Typical signs include: weeping; bleeding; exuding oil; animation; teleportation; healings; and others.

Another reason involves cases of miraculous origin associated with the image itself. Some images are held to be so ancient that their origins are unknown and often ascribed to divine activity; 'falling from heaven' in the language of the Christian Orient. Other ancient works are held to be of apostolic origin. From the 5th century on, legend ascribes the creation of particular images to St Luke. Miraculous signs (e.g. dreams, voices, lights, reaction of animals) have indicated the location at which certain sacred images were to be found (e.g. buried statues) or venerated (e.g. Our Lady of Czestochowa became unmovable when taken to Bright Hill). There are even many reports of an image having moved to its desired site without human aid, often frustrating attempts to return it to its place of origin.

Finally, special events surround the history of the image. For example, images were created to commemorate an apparition, like the 'Pilgrim Virgin' statues representing Our Lady of Fatima. Many times works were rescued from burning churches or left untouched while nearby structures were incinerated. The tilma showing Our Lady of Guadalupe was undamaged by a bomb which exploded nearby. Our Lady of the Pillar survived the bombing of Zaragoza, Spain during the Spanish Civil War as did the Mother Thrice Admirable at the Schoenstatt Shrine in Germany during World War II. Less extraordinary, but still 'special' are those ecclesial events in which popular images are publicly blessed and recognized. Roman Catholicism crowns images on these occasions. The Eastern analog involves plating over the image with precious metal and stones. Often, such special events mark the start of a series of later extraordinary miracles occurring on behalf of the image.

Our Lady of Pompeii
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Salus Populi Romani
Our Lady of Vladimir
Our Lady of Good Counsel
Black Madonnas

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


Marian Library

Roesch Library
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1390

Study Mary

Study the theology and history of Mary at the University of Dayton.

Learn More

Keyword Search

Would you like to begin a new keyword search?

Get Started