A True Mary§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: July 8, 2007; revised: July 8, 2007; readers in past month: 794

Near the Missori metro stop in central Milan is the church of Sant’Allesandro. It’s an elegant old church, albeit a bit musty on the outside and exceedingly dark inside. Nevertheless, they have one of my most favorite paintings of the Madonna. It’s behind an altar in a chapel alcove (Cappella della Natività) to the right of the main altar. It’s a fresco and was painted by Guglielmo Caccia in 1613. It’s a magnificent piece in general, but what I like about it in particular is that Mary, as well as Joseph, Jesus and others in the painting, is depicted somewhat as you would expect her.

She was a teenage Israelite girl when Jesus was born. How would one expect her to look at that age and from that genetic heritage? Not a 30-year old beautiful, sturdy looking woman with light brown hair as we often seem to see her in art. I would think that she would be a small person with curly brown hair and facial features similar to young Jewish girls from that part of the world today. In this painting of the nativity scene, Caccia has painted her in this way. She doesn’t look strong like the Mother of God, but soft and vulnerable like a poor Jewish teenager, which to me is more accurate and befitting the Christian story: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.