With more than 80 chapels and oratories honoring Mary, the Basilica is proud to represent the peoples, cultures, and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith. Whether through mosaic, stone sculpture, or vivid stained glass, the art and architecture of America’s Catholic Church provide a kaleidoscope of the many manifestations of the Blessed Mother from across the globe.
In this new series on the blog, we invite you to take a virtual tour of the most distinctive places Mary is honored in sculpture at the Basilica – from the beloved Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel to the reflective Our Mother of Sorrows Chapel. Today’s post focuses on sculptures honoring the virtues of Mary, featuring immersive 360° tour images from throughout the halls of America’s Catholic Church.
Mary, Help of Christians Sculpture
Honoring Mary’s role in providing succor to the faithful, the Mary, Help of Christians Chapel depicts the Virgin on a globe encircled by clouds. Flanked by three sets of adoring angels, she wears a crown and holds a scepter and the Child Jesus, whose outstretched arms reach out to all of humanity.
Our Mother of Good Counsel Sculpture
A devotion that dates back to the 15th century, Our Mother of Good Counsel honors the wisdom of Mary. On the Feast of St. Mark in 1467, a cloud descended upon the ruins of a fifth-century church in Genazzano, Italy. Upon its disappearance, the people of the village discovered a small picture of the Madonna and Child on a thin sheet of plaster. The miraculous image remained delicately balanced on a ledge in the church for years, even surviving a bombing during World War II, and came to be known as Our Mother of Good Counsel.
The image is replicated in the Basilica’s Our Mother of Good Counsel Chapel, portraying Mary as the Eleousa. Around the mosaic are depictions of men and women who were devoted to Our Mother of Good Counsel. On the right of the altar, Our Mother of Good Counsel is also sculpted in Trani marble.
Mary Mother of Mankind Sculpture
The Mary, Mother of Mankind statue stands as the focal point of Memorial Hall, reminding us of Mary’s motherhood over all the human race. It was the first work of art commissioned by the National Shrine and was unveiled on May 8, 1937 – the day before Mother’s Day.
Our Lady of the Rosary Sculpture
The Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel memorializes the popular tradition that the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Dominic during the 13th century and bestowed on him the devotion of the Rosary. It features a Botticino statue of Our Lady of the Rosary offering her son Jesus to the world, set against a flaring reredos carved with fifteen golden flames signifying the mysteries of the Rosary. The dome mosaic is a study in blue, spangled with eight-pointed stars – one of the symbols of Saint Dominic and the Blessed Mother.
Our Lady of Slovakia: Mary, Mother of Sorrows Sculpture
Over the course of her life, Mary endured many trials – but throughout it all, her attitude was one of steadfast faith and unflinching obedience. Located in the Great Upper Church, the chapel of Our Mother of Sorrows prominently features a life-size marble sculpture of the Pietà, depicting the sixth of the Seven Sorrows: Mary holding Jesus as he is taken from the Cross.
Rohling, Geraldine M., PhD, MAEd. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Guide and Tour Book. Washington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 2018.