Loyola University Chicago

Campus Ministry

Division of Student Development

Restored Image of Madonna della Strada


The recently restored image of Madonna della Strada in the Church of the Gesú, Rome

Have you ever wondered why Loyola's chapel is called "Madonna della Strada"? Most of those who attend Mass at our beautiful chapel and even those who visit it may know that the name of the chapel simply means "Our Lady of the Way" in Italian, and it refers to a specific artistic representation of the Virgin and Child, a copy of which is enshrined above a side altar to the north of the chapel's main altar. The original image, which is in Rome, was an object of devotion that first inspires St. Ignatius Loyola when he was a street preacher in the Eternal City. Although since the 18th century, there was a popular myth that the image received its name because it was displayed on the exterior of a church that faced the street, there is no historical evidence to prove this. During restoration of the image in the late 1990's, conservators learned that this beloved icon was originally part of a larger fresco that probably dated from the late 13th to early 14th century and most likely decorated the wall of the Madonna della Strada parish in Rome. The image was called "Madonna della Strada" because it was from the church with the same title. The parish church was called "Our Lady of the Way" since the church was on a ceremonial route on which the pope made his way to and from Roman stational churches. Over the years, this fragment of the original fresco was transferred to canvas that was mounted on a piece of slate and then displayed within the parish church. After the pope approved the Society of Jesus, he gave the parish church to the Jesuits. Before his death, St. Ignatius instructed the Jesuits to preserve the image, which was ultimately displayed for veneration at a side chapel in the Gesú Church, which replaced the smaller Madonna della Strada parish as the mother church of the Society of Jesus. Over the years, artists added decorations, such as necklaces and earrings, to the original images of Our Lady and the Christ Child; however, these additional artistic flourishes along with centuries of grime, were removed during recent renovations.

The image of Madonna della Strada that graces a side altar of our Chapel depicts the medieval Roman painting before its recent renovation. The altar below it is made of Tunisian onyx with French rose trim marble, and the walls of the shrine are decorated with glittering blue, white, and gold mosaic. The shrine was donated by the McNally Family., whose brothers attended Jesuit schools.

Sources:
Waldrop, Gregory, S.J. "Object of Devotion." America 21 Dec. 2009: 22-24. America. America Press Inc. Web. 18 May 2016. <http://americamagazine.org/issue/720/art/object-devotion>.

Mertz, James J., S.J. Madonna Della Strada Chapel: An Apostolate of Love. Chicago: Loyola U., 1975. Print