Virgin's Girdle, Giulia Lessanutti, extracts
Agnolo Gaddi, fresco, Triumph of the Virgin Mary, 1392-95, Cathedral of Santo Stefano, Prato (Ufficio Beni Culturali Diocesi di Prato)
‘The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, is one of the most familiar figures in Italian art. From the thirteenth century she is frequently shown being carried by angels up to Heaven after her death: her Assumption. As she rises she allows her belt-like girdle, the Sacra Cintola, to fall down to be received by St Thomas, miraculously transported from India to her funeral.
The Sacra Cintola exists today as a precious relic, an object of devotion connected with a holy person. It has been a proud possession of the people of Prato, a small commune northwest of Florence and epitomises a fascinating history that is believed by many faithful followers of the Roman Catholic Church.
As a theme in art, however, the Sacra Cintola has been neglected by historians, theologians and even the Pope. Scholars have conflated the iconography of the Madonna della Cintola with the Assumption, popularising the latter.’
(from Madonna della Cintola)
‘With disease always present, great disasters likely to strike, and uncertain futures, anxiety and fear were part of everyday life. Is it any wonder that people looked for other-worldly assistance? The belief in the miraculous powers of a relic of the Virgin Mary became the core of Marian devotion, along with the understanding that she was a loving and nurturing mother who could act as a bridge to her son. People had a deep need for a comforting, maternal divine figure to whom they could turn for assistance.’
(from The Girdle’s Arrival in Prato)