Santa Maria della Bruna
According to legend, St. Luke painted this image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who holds the Infant Jesus in her arms. An expression of great tenderness seems to suggest that our Lady is contemplating the great mysteries of redemption. The Infant’s right hand caresses His mother’s face, and the left grasps the edge of her veil. His position and expression seem to speak of His great love for His mother. A crown on top of her large veil, with star ornaments on the veil at the shoulder, is reminiscent of St. Bernard’s words that Mary is a “brilliant star who enlightens us with the splendor of her virtues.” This image was venerated by the hermit Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their original home on Mount Carmel.
In the beginning of the thirteenth century, the religious of the Carmelite Order, forced by Mohammedans to flee their peaceful solitude by the sea, brought the painting from Mount Carmel to Naples. When settled, their first concern was to place the painting above the high altar in their Church, where it secured countless miracles for the people venerating it. It hung there for more than 100 years, until placed in a side chapel at the order of the Empress Margaret. Then, in the jubilee year of 1500, the ancient picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was carried in procession to Rome by the pious Neapolitans. During the pilgrimage, several people were miraculously cured, including Thomas Saccone, who had been blind and lame.
Skeptical of these miracles, “King Frederic II of Naples conceived a plan to test the power of the Heavenly Mother. He ordered that all the sick and infirm [of the city] assemble before the image with written documentation of their maladies. High Mass was celebrated and special hymns were sung, and when the miraculous picture was unveiled, a ray of light fell upon the face of the Madonna, reflecting its brilliance on the assembled sick. The instantaneous healing of each person was authenticated” (Cruz, p. 160).
Sources: “The Little Book of Carmelite Spirituality and Practice”, with additional information from Joan Carroll Cruz’s “Miraculous Images of Our Lady” (Rockford: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1993).