A different corona: Virgin Mary, Queen of the Pious Schools

The digital chamber-exhibition of the Piarist Museum is offering a representative selection from different depictions of the Virgin Mary preserved in the collection. Scenes from Mary’s life, universal symbols of Marianism, and copies of icons and statues of Mary shrines related to the Piarist Order and Hungary appear on 17th-18th century Baroque engravings.

720688.jpgThese special illustrations revive the engagement of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, the Annunciation, the working and praying Holy Family, Our Lady of Dolours, the cult of the rosary and the litany of Loreto. The Mother of Mercy (sheltering people under her outspread cloak), the statue and icon of Mariazell shrine and the engraving copies of miraculous icons and statues of different Hungarian pilgrim shrines (Boldogasszony, Buda, Győr, Máriapócs, Máriavölgy, Nagyszombat, Sasvár, Szentantal) show up as well. Owing to the multiplying graphic method of the Baroque era, the engraving, religious objects and cult objects of pilgrim shrines endowed with wonderwork and healing power could reach even the homes of common people and could appear in their personal piety. They often touched the original cult objects with the engraving copies of icons and statues in order that the miraculous healing and protecting power could be transferred to the copies. One of the most specific forms of this folk religiousness is the swallowable holy picture (Schluckbild or Esszettel), which was a miniature of the icon, a stamp-like engraving that could be swallowed in case of illnesses. Sometimes, they mixed it with the feed of the stock that suffered from different diseases.

720577.jpgSaint Joseph Calasanz (1557-1648) offered the Piarist Order that he had founded to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The gesture of the order founder was clearly shown in the original name of the order (Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools) and in the Piarist blazon as well, whose motifs came from the name of Mary (coroneted interwoven letters M and A) and the Greek abbreviation of the words ‘Mary Mother of God’ (ΜΡΘΥ). Calasanz followed his friend Saint John Leonardi in the election of the blazon and the name. Giovanni Leonardi was the founder of the Congregation of Lucca, whose history was interlocked with that of the Pious Schools for a while.

705082.jpgThe Piarist order founder was strongly attached to the Virgin Mary, which can be seen in choosing his own monk name (Giuseppe del Madre di Dio), his prayers, letters and his visions that were written in his biographies. After his death, the icon “Queen of the Pious Schools” (Regina Scholarum Piarum) at the San Pantaleo Church became the main object of Marianism of Piarists as of the end of the 17th century. It was placed on the high altar of the church in 1688. In 1694, the prebend of Saint Peter’s Basilica coroneted the icon, of which countless painting- and engraving copies were made. During the 17th-18th centuries, Hungarian Piarists put these icon copies on the side-altars of their churches and chapels (Privigye, Nyitra, Kecskemét, Sátoraljaújhely, Tata, Vác). Piarists’ respect towards the Queen of the Pious Schools icon was undiminished during centuries. In 1907, Pope Pius X approved of introducing the invocation “Queen of the Pious Schools” into the litany of Loreto. The original icon can be seen at the San Pantaleo Church in Rome via a virtual walk as well.

722796.jpgHowever, Hungarian Piarists respected other icons and statues of Mary with Hungarian relations too, and their copies were often placed on the altars of their churches. At a tower chapel of the Piarist church of Kecskemét, you can visit a copy of the tearful icon of the Virgin Mary of Saint Nicholas Church of Nagyszombat made after 1746. The Painting Collection of the Piarist Museum also preserves a similar copy (acno. 2011.625.1.P) with unknown origins. Also at the Piarist church of Kecskemét, in the sacristy, you can find a special Pieta altar made in 1756, which is the painted copy of the statue “Doctor of the Sick” of the Franciscan church of Sümeg. Piarists of Pest furnished and started using their chapel on the main square of the city in 1761, on the storey of the Esterházy Palace bought in 1755. One of the four side-altars was consecrated for the respect of the Virgin Mary of Pócs from the beginning, but the new chapel had several beloved religious objects from the period, like the copies of the Virgin Mary of Mariazell, the Helper Mary (Mariahilf), and the Child Jesus of Prague.

720583.jpgAs it appears in the 18th-century engravings of the Klauber brothers of Augsburg at the exhibition, King Saint Stephen dedicated the crown to the Virgin Mary; the Piarists coroneted her monogram in their blazon, but crowning different Mary icons was widespread in the Baroque era as well. Our exhibition would like to encourage everyone to join your ancestors and offer your less glittering and decorated “crowns” to Our Blessed Virgin, to whom one turned so many times during centuries for shelter, help and intervention in times of epidemics or other troubles.


Péter Borbás
Piarist Museum
Head of Collections


Translated by Zita Aknai


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