Salus Populi Romani

Oil on panel
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The name of this icon means "Health [or Salvation] of the Roman People." The phrase was in use in pre-Christian times. Legend has it that the icon was created by St. Luke the Evangelist and brought by St. Helena in the 4th century to Rome, where it was credited with a miraculous delivery of the city from the plague in the 6th century. The picture at left shows the icon after the restoration of 2018. Another image in the basilica represents St. Luke painting the icon.

The icon is like the Virgin Hodegetria: Mary gazes frontally in a blue mantle with stars on the shoulder and hood. The child blesses the viewer with his right hand and holds a book in his left. But instead of pointing to the Christ Child as in the Hodegetria, the Virgin's right hand rests over the child's lap.

The second picture at left is Baldassare Croce's St. Luke Paints the "Salus Populi Romani" (Oil on panel, 1613), in the museum of the basilica. The basilica also has a 19th century copy of the original (third picture on the left).

Read more about St. Luke and about portraits of the Virgin and Child.

Sources: Photograph of the original, Wikimedia Common; other photographs taken at the basilica by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.