59. The picture “Mary”, known as Our Lady of Trakai, or Mother Protectrix, Patron of Lithuania (16 cent.)

The Trakai Mother of God dates to the second half of the sixteenth century. It was fitted with silver casings in the eighteenth century. The painting is tempera on lime boards. Artist unknown. Size 127 x 160 x 1.6 cm.

The picture was painted on four boards with a glue ground. The background was engraved in the second half of the seventeen the century with floral decoration. Mary is depicted a little lower than waist height, looking strictly forward with the Child Jesus turned towards Her left hand that is raised in blessing. Frontal composition. And the form of the faces and hands resemble icon technique while the figure type and modelling of the faces and hands and lighting remind us of renaissance painting. The casing provides linear consolidation of the basic forms and floral decoration. Our Lady’s cloak is decorated with large rings while the under garments and head covering are marked with small closely linked rings. The background is covered with bas relief decorated with acanthus leaves. The figures wear royal crowns. Our Lady’s crown is filigree and encrusted with multicolour stones, while Jesus wears a flat metal crown.

Legend has it that in 1390 this picture was donated to Grand duke Vytautas by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologos and that around 1409 Vytautas donated it to his church in Trakai. The picture soon became famous for its miracles and it drew pilgrims from across the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland. On April 12 1611 Grand Duchess Constance prayed in Trakai for her husband Grand Duke King Sigismund III Vasa (1587-1632) to recover his health and for victory at Smolensk. The king recovered and the Smolensk campaign that had been dragging on without success for two years end after three months with the city’s falling to the kinstr. On July 10 1604 Grand Duke Wladyslaw IV Vasa (1632-48) visited Trakai to revere the painting in person. Plague struck Lithuania in 1604 and was followed by famine so Bishop Benedykt Woina of Vilnius (1600-15) and the parish priest of Trakai organised a penitential procession from Vilnius to Trakai. Bishop Wojna went all 30 km barefoot. Every mile (approx. 7.5 km) the procession halted and the Jesuits gave sermons. The plague ceased. Thenceforth it became traditional for pilgrims from Vilnius and what are now Poland, Lithuania, Belorussia and Ukraine to come on pilgrimage to Trakai for the salvation of their body and soul.

Pope Clement XI (1700-21) crowned the miracle-working image and instructed Bishop K. Brzostowski to celebrate the coronation rite which took place on Sept. 4 1718 and lasted for nine days. This was the first image to gain a papal crown in Lithuania after Our Lady of Częstochowa was crowned in 1717. In the period 1718-83 42 miracles were recorded in Trakai and the last was in 1902. In thanksgiving for grace received people would offer offerings. Until the end of the eighteen th century this was the most famous image in the Grand Duchy. Not only the original painting but also copies of the image were held to be miraculous. Such were numerous in Lithuania – at Giedraičiai, Gruzdžiai, Onuškis, Kazokiškės, Nemenčinė, Varniai and Vilnius. The oldest and most famous copy is at Agluona in Latvia.

The painting was restored in 1994 at the P. Gudynas Restoration Centre.

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