Icons from Ethiopia
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Madonna and Child


The Icon of Maria Maggiore


In the last half of the 15th century and into the 16th century the Jesuits conducted quite a massive missionary activity in Ethiopia.

They brought with them and distributed a considerable amount of copies of the Lady Madonna picture in the church St. Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Before then there was a great variation in the Ethiopian version of Lady Madonna with Child. However, from around mid-16th century the Maria Maggiore concept becomes completely universal.


The typical, always recurring, elements are as follow:

The boy is seated on his mother's left arm, holding the book in his left hand, while the right one is stretched out in a blessing gesture. Maria with the mantle in Syrian style and the delicate braiding around her head, the right hand crossed over the left, the two outstretched and long fingers on the right hand and the scarf in her left hand - an old Roman sign to the Lord might here be a symbol of Virgin Mary's dignity as Queen of Heaven.


The Jesuits were expelled from Ethiopia in 1633, but the Virgin Mary production continued along with the intensive worship of Virgin Mary, originally introduced by decree of King Zar'a Ya'qob around 1441-42.

For the glory of Virgin Mary there are 33 feast-days in the ecclesiastical year.

(For more information look at the original icon in the Maggiore Church and study the thorough description of this icon)