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Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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Among Christianity’s most iconic images sits the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Christ beneath her veil of protection – a motif inspiring reverence for century upon century. Perhaps no rendition carries more fame than the ornate Byzantine icon today known as Our Mother of Perpetual Help, its journey winding through danger and obscurity before emerging to captivate millions worldwide. 

The earliest origins of the icon remain unknown. By the 15th century it graced a side altar of the Church of San Matteo in Crete, where folk tradition held it produced miracles. But danger loomed as Crete fell towards invading Ottoman forces – a catalyst for the town to secret the precious painting away to a safer home across the sea. According to lore the icon made its way to Rome into the care of a local merchant's family. There it lay secreted in their private household chapel for nearly 300 years.

Its modern revival came only after multiple failed attempts to give the icon a fitting home in different churches per the family’s wishes. Its final transfer in January 1866 to the Redemptorist Order’s Il Gesu Nouvo church sparked a change of fortune. As devotions there brought reports of answered prayers, the image gained press and crowds flocking to venerate it. Before long framed replicas were circulating internationally to meet soaring interest. 

Just over a decade later Pope Pius IX bestowed the Marian icon with her present title – Our Mother of Perpetual Help. With the icon finally placed in a golden framed altar within Il Gesu Nouvo, the 20th century brought ever-greater throngs on weekly Wednesday devotion, bolstered by stories of healing and grace continuing through the present day. 

Now likely Christianity’s most reproduced devotional image, the once obscure painting carries global fame. But beyond its intricate beauty and legendary backstory, the icon’s appeal persists thanks to the assurance it exudes of perpetual aid through Mary’s grace. To countless devotees her veiled, protective presence offers timeless comfort amid life’s hardship and the promise that with faith, our Mother’s help need never cease.


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