Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

The Madonna of Impruneta: Icons and processions

Madonna di Impruneta. Via Wikimedia.

The Madonna of Impruneta is an icon showing the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. Its origins can be traced to the year 1060, when some woodcutters found it in the woods of Tuscany and brought it to the church at Impruneta. According to an alternative version, a man named Biagio coming back from Rome had his cart stuck in the mud but pulled out by his oxen after his praying to the Virgin Mary. Inside the cart, Biagio found as a miraculous sign a terracotta sculpture and took it to the local church.

Since 1354, the Madonna has been brought from Impruneta to Florence in about twenty-five processions to prevent droughts, floods, famine, and the plague, later to end wars, sieges, and foreign invasions. Its cult was particularly popular after 1502 during the brief republic under the rule of the Gonfalonier Tommaso Soderini; it became even more intense under the later Medici family, who made the cult their own in 1633 to overcome the plague and in 1711 to beseech the recovery of the Grand Prince Cosimo III. In each case, the icon’s arrival was accompanied by miraculous events, healings, and visions, which led the townspeople to believe it was a sacred and miraculous representation of the Virgin Mary. Later the cult of the Virgin was scaled down, but processions continued. Every year Florence celebrates the Feast of the Madonna of Impruneta on the Saturday before Palm Sunday with a commemorative procession. Moreover, the Madonna has returned to Florence twice, the first time after the war and in 1988 for the Marian year.

Throughout history, the icon has been the subject of immense devotion. Pilgrims, popes, and religious figures have made their way to Impruneta to seek solace, blessings, and miracles. The Madonna’s feast day, celebrated there on September 8, attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors to participate in special religious ceremonies and processions in which the icon is carried through the streets of Impruneta with songs and prayers in an atmosphere of joyous devotion. So the Madonna of Impruneta now stands not just as a revered artwork but also as a beloved religious symbol for both towns, cherished for its beauty and its miraculous religious aura.

Basilica di Santa Maria a Impruneta. Photo by Vignaccia76 on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0.
Madonna di Impruneta procession.

GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief

Highlighted in Frontispiece Volume 15, Issue 4 – Fall 2023

Summer 2023




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