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The Madonna dell’Idea

A 5th century masterpiece makes the Treasure of the Museum even more precious

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15 February Feb 2019 1306 15 February 2019

On the 1st of February 2019, at 5.30 pm, on the occasion of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life, His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop held the Procession with the Icon of the Madonna dell’Idea.

This is the “Candlemas”, an event that the Church traditionally commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, forty days after the birth of Jesus, because it was held on the feast of lights.

The Madonna dell’Idea is a cusped panel, painted on both sides. Datable from no later than the mid-15th century, the panel is traditionally attributed to Michelino da Besozzo, painter and miniaturist, one of the foremost exponents of the international Gothic style. This small panel shows on one side the throned Madonna and on the other the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, or purification of the Virgin.

This work of art is exhibit in the Museum and, like other works in the Treasury, still serves a number of religious functions in the life of the Cathedral.

Formerly, the ancient procession took place from the Church of Santa Maria Beltrade, a church no longer in existence, to Santa Maria Maggiore. Known as the winter basilica, indeed, for a millennium, Milan had a “double” cathedral, alternating liturgical services in the two basilicas, and was finally demolished at the end of the 17th century.

Various suppositions have been put forward to explain the origin of the name “Idea” given to the image of the Madonna. Some theories speculate that it is a Christianisation of a number of pagan rites, others conjecture that it originates from the Greek word for “image”.