Our Lady of Ostrabrama

Hi everyone! This week I would like to talk about a painting that I grew up admiring but I wanted to tell you all about! Beginning, most likely, from the medieval period, up until around the 17th century or so, Marian art has been a prominent topic of art-making. In fact, it was an extremely relevant and highly produced topic during the Renaissance and Baroque. One painting that art textbooks will probably not have, because it’s residing in Eastern Europe, is called Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, or Our Lady of Ostrabrama, created around 1630.

Unknown, Our Lady of Ostrabrama, 1630
Image from Wikipedia

This painting is currently residing in the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania, and it’s a tempura painting. Here, the Virgin has a large golden crown painted behind her head. She is wearing a red dress with a blue cloak over her; the cloak is green on the inside. In addition to this, Mary’s head is covered in a white material. Mary is also staring down, in a contemplative manner and she has her hands over her chest, almost as though she is in prayer.

Here, the Virgin Mary is represented in clothing, but she is typically represented in an extravagant golden design. This is how Our Lady of Ostrabrama is represented today:

Our Lady of Ostrabrama, Vilnius, Lithuania
Image and Feature Image from Wikipedia

When this was created in the seventh century, it was originally placed on the gates of the city. The city had placed the painting there to scare off any unwelcomed visitors or attackers and invite believers. This idea of placing an artwork on the city gates was not a new idea. Although this was later than 1630, there was another example of placing a painting on city gates in Italy as well. This was done in 1657, and the painting was the Immaculate Conception with Saints. There are probably more examples of Marian paintings being placed on city gates to protect a particular city, too.

Mattia Preti, The Immaculate Conception with Saints, 1657.
Image from Semantic Scholar

In addition to this, there’s a legend in 1702 that made the Our Lady of Ostrabrama painting miraculous. During this time, the city was captured by the Swedish army, but the gates slammed down as they were entering the city, and this managed to kill some soldiers. Afterwards, the city was able to regain military power and beat the Swedish. This was considered to be the first miracle, and there have been many others. Just about sixty years after the first miracle, a monk published a book explaining that there were seventeen miracles that had occurred.

This Madonna plays a significant role primarily in Eastern Europe and Russia. There are, however, churches and shrines today in many countries around the world that show their dedication to this Mary demonstrating that this Marian painting has been able to impact many people’s lives throughout the world. In all, it’s very fascinating to see the way art can spiritually effect individuals.

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