Pilgrimage into Words and Images

the Miracles of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Renaissance Prato

in Journeys
Author: Robert Maniura
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On 6 July 1484 an eight-year-old boy called Jacopino was chasing a cricket in the derelict area of Prato near the old castle when he saw the figure of the Virgin Mary, painted above a barred window of the ruined town prison (Figure. 1), ‘detach itself’ from the wall. The Virgin, who had been holding her son in her arms, placed him on the ground and, leaving him wriggling at the foot of the window, descended into the prison vaults. She proceeded to clean the place, ‘scrubbing three times with her hand’, before collecting her son and resuming her place on the wall. The boy hurried home to tell his mother what he had seen, but she would have none of it. She scolded him for his truancy and sent him back to school. Instead of returning to school, however, the boy returned to gaze at the image ‘as if in ecstasy’. His rapt attention drew others to the site and the image was seen to undergo further miraculous transformations: the figure of the Virgin cried, opened and closed its eyes and sweated blood. The questioning of the boy by the vicar of the bishop of Pistoia, in whose diocese Prato lay, served to draw even more notice and crowds began to gather in anticipation of further wonders.

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

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