Images of the Virgin Mary and their importance to popular devotion
Year mention: 1617
Christ appears to Mary ; Mary falls at the foot of the Cross ; Mary oversees Christ's burial ; Mary receives Christ after his descent from the Cross ; Mary sees Christ carrying the Cross ; seven sorrows and seven joys of Mary.
Acceptable errors
Open doctrinal issues

The prevelance of certain scenes is the result of their popularity among the common people instead of their importance in the Scriptures or the judgement of the Church Fathers, nevertheless, this does not present a dangerous error

Molanus, Johannes
Monogram S. - Mary's Seven Sorrows, 1516-1545
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam,

In chapter 31 of book 2, Molanus examines a further matter regarding errors and whether they are dangerous errors and how to deal with them; this discussion starts in the preceding chapter. The central position in this chapter is taken by errors that are not real errors even though they do not correspond to the Scriptures or the teachings of the Church. The problem lays often in the fact that there is no certainty in the Scriptures about the matter nor a univocal position among the commentators. The cases presented by Molanus in this and the previous chapter are also often relatively popular depictions among the popular devotees, which requires an even more careful stance from the authorities. For Molanus in these cases, the most important aspect to consider is whether these errors still can be probable, because if so, he does not see a strong motive to adjust or abolish them.
The fourth case presented by Molanus unites several different iconographies in which Mary and Christ figure, what they all share is their popularity among the common believers. It is being argued that for these depictions of Christ and the Holy Virgin there are no clear references in the Holy Scriptures or in the writings of the commentators and the main reason artists paint them is the appreciation of the commoners of these images. However, as these images do not contain any impious elements, Molanus sees no reason to consider such paintings erroneous, because they do not contradict the Scriptures.

“On the other hand, several images of the Virgin Mother of God, who deserves all veneration and praise, are painted more because of the popular devotion of simple people than because of the firm testimony of the Scriptures or the [Church] Fathers: The one in which she falls at the foot of the Cross; the one in which, seeing Christ carrying the Cross, she suffers a thousand tears; the one in which she receives Christ in her bosom and her arms as he descends from the Cross; the one in which she watches over his burial with attention; and finally, the one in which Christ appears to her in the first place. It is in this way that the seven sorrows and seven joys of the Virgin Mary are painted, because of the popular devotion of simple people.”

“Rursus de beata Virgine Deipara omni laude veneranda quaedam magis ex populari et simplici devotione pinguntur, quam ex solidis vel Scripturis vel Patrum testimoniis: ut, quod ceciderit sub cruce, quod Christum cospiciens baiulatem Crucem, deliquium passa sit, quod eum de Cruce depositum in finum et brachia susceperit, quod sepulturam eius diligenter observaverit, denique quod Christus ei primo apparverit. Sic etiam ex simplici et populari devotione pinguntur septem Dolores et septem guadia Mariae Virginis.”

Christ appears to Mary, Christ Carrying the Cross, Christ's Decent from the Cross, Cross, Jesus Christ, Mary falls at the foot of the Cross, Mary oversees Christ's burial, Passion of Christ, Seven sorrows and Seven joys of Mary, Virgin Mary

Date mention

Historical Location

Iconclass Number
73E3; 73D413; 73D71; 73D7

Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), book 2, ch. 31, 115

Molanus 1996, 213-214.’

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