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The Miraculous Statue

It is hard to describe with documentary precision when, from where and how the most treasured Madonna of Transylvania was taken into the Monastery-church of the Franciscans of Csiksomlyo.  The available historical facts are uncertain, as is the historyof the Seklers.  Deeply involved in the bitter struggle for survival this people had little time for gathering and preserving historic documents.  They were making rather than writing history!

It is, however, beyond doubt that in the first half of the 15th century devotion to Mary was already fervent in the Franciscan church of Csiksomlyo.  This is adequately documented by a papal document, a bull of Pope Eugene IV, issued in 1444, granting special indulgences to that church, dedicated to the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This papal favor made public in such a solemn form is witness to the important role the Franciscan religious center was playing in those early times.  The document was occasioned by the rebuilding of the church, probably destroyed in one of those Tartar raids mentioned previously.  And though the celebrated hero of Christianity, John Hunyady, Conqueror of Turks, financed the rebuilding, the papal favor was a great help, giving even greater importance to the reconstruction.  The part the great and illustrious warrior had in this reconstruction made some think that the statue of the Madonna, too, might be his gift to the sanctuary.  However, a careful artistic analysis of the statue definitely dates its origin at a later period.

In the region’s two largest cities, Brasso and Szeben, the Saxons (TransylvanianGermans) were famous for their artistic achievements.  Under the influence of these German art centers, imbued with elements of the Sekler genius, many lategothic winged altars were built in the land of the Seklers, of which many are still existing, Also, Madonna statues were carved in an unusually large quantity in these art centers, especially under the direction of the German sculptor, Veit Stoss, one of the best sculptors of this period, who at the turn of the century had studio in Transylvania.  It seemed these Transylvanians had an inner apprehension of the imminent Reformation and wanted to flood the country with statues of the Blessed Virgin to counteract the coming anti-Marian drive.  Several of these, midway between late gothic and early renaissance Madonnas are still enshrined in churches of the district of Csik.  The Madonna of Csiksomlyo is the best and loveliest of all that have come out of Master Stoss’ school.

Because of its unique beauty and its artistic perfection, the opinion that the other Sekler Madonnas were modeled after the statue of Csiksomlyo, is quite common among art experts of Transylvania.  If this opinion is true, it will greatly help to establish the approximate date of the statue’s origin.  All of these Madonnas, except the statue of Csiksomlyo have the year of their making engraved.  The earliest date that can be deciphered is 1525.  That means, that the Madonna of Csiksomlyo had to be made before that year.  The opinions of the majority of artists, therefore, place its origin between 1510 and 1515.

The fact that the largest and most beautiful Madonna was to adorn the ancient Marian sanctuary of the Franciscans of Csiksomlyo indicates that in the beginning of the 16th century the place had already a leading role in the Marian cult of the Seklers.  The new artistic statue had unquestionably given a forceful new impetus to this cult.  Her growing popularity was evident from the fact that replicas of the statue found their way into the churches of the neighboring villages.  The devout people wanted to see her and think of her, and be with her at least through her likeness, even when away from her sanctuary.  This is how the imitations of the famous Madonna became so popular in the Sekler villages in the vicinity of Csiksomlyo.