Our Lady of Washington

??kb jpg detail of a photograph of the statue 'Our Lady of Washington'; thousands of photographs of this image were distributed in homes around America at the time of the construction of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the home of the statue; taken from the book 'The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1917-1927
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One outstanding art work which in chaste simplicity is intended to be a first appeal to all visitors is a statue of "Our Lady of Washington," selected from among nearly 5,000 of the most beautiful attempts by artists to visualize The Mother of God, to be the Patroness of this shrine. A light will always shine on this statue.

After having covered all parts of Europe and obtaining more than 5,000 different copies of the Madonna - among them the most famous in the world - "Our Lady of Washington" at Catholic University was chosen as patroness of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

From the day the National Shrine was first contemplated it was determined that in point of artistry it should be the most beautiful in the world. In carrying out this thought, Bishop Shahan and Father McKenna determined that the patroness of the National Shrine should be the most perfect type of Madonna that could be found.

Every part of Europe was searched. Before he took up his work at the Catholic University twelve years ago, Father McKenna had been a world traveler and has always been a devotee of the Madonna. He has one of the best col- lections in all the world of reproductions of the Madonna and Divine Child in art, and was. so assured by Signor Alinari in Rome, the great Italian connoisseur of prints, examples of whose color reproductions are now on view in a large collection of renaissance and other old masters at the Library of Congress.

15kb jpg detail from a painting of Our Lady of Washington kneeling in prayer for the success of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; Frederick de Henwood; adapted from the original statue of Our Lady of Washington; taken from the book 'The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1917-1927' After carefully examining all of these art works, Bishop Shahan and Father McKenna were not satisfied. ,While passing through Caldwell Hall, one of the main buildings at Catholic University, they halted before the statue of "Our Lady of Washington," which stood before the chapel since 1889. They viewed the statue from every angle. The search was ended. Here was embodied everything they sought from an ecclesiastical and artistic viewpoint.

"Our Lady of Washington" was erected in Caldwell Hall as patroness of Catholic University, in 1889, and in these thirty-eight years has stood guard at the chapel. About fifty priests are constantly on duty at Caldwell Hall, and a conservative estimate places the number of masses said there in this period at more than 500,000.

This remarkable figure of Our Lady is beautiful from every angle. The face is exquisitely chiseled, like a Botticelli Madonna. The head is meekly bowed in prayer, the hands are clasped, the folds of drapery are sculptured with a grace rare even in a Donatello, and under her feet the Blessed Virgin crushes the serpent, symbolic of Saint John's vision in the Apocalypse. After long search for the most beautiful Madonna in the world, "Our Lady of Washington" was chosen.

It is believed by those who have made a special study of the Madonna in art that this statue of "Our Lady of Washington" will soon be as famous as "Our Lady of Nuremberg," attributed to the early sculptor, Peter Vischer, and that it will exercise the same wonderful appeal to the faithful.

from The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1917-1927, by Dr William P Kennedy, 1927

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