The grotto of miracles where statues pray to each other. Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, Dubrovnik, Croatia. 2009

As a piece of visual communication, I find the iconography in the photo below, confusing.


 I mean to say, “what’s going on”?

A statue of what I presume to be Mary, or maybe it’s supposed to be a pilgrim, praying to Mary in a fake grotto where crutches have been left behind. Is the big statue (with it’s back to the viewer) meant as a way to communicate to the illiterate that they should pray in the direction the statue is facing?

If statues are supposed to represent some sort of Christian idea, rather that being idols, why are people encouraged to pray towards them? Most people I’ve seen praying in churches, tend to do so with their eyes closed, which would mean that they can’t see what they are praying towards. Perhaps the statues give the devout something to focus their thoughts on before they shut their eyes.

I’m guessing that the crutches have been left by people whose prayers have been answered. It would be interesting to see how many crutches would be collected if those who prayed, but didn’t receive blessing, had to leave their equipment behind as punishment for being unworthy of divine intervention. Which reminds me of the following exchange from the movie, “The Island”:

Lincoln Six-Echo (played by Ewan McGreggor): What’s “God”?
McCord (played by Steve Buscemi): Well, you know, when you want something really bad and you close your eyes and you wish for it? God’s the guy that ignores you.

To me the grotto is almost like one of those chain mails that circulate in our e-mails every now and again. Read the message, believe you will get something and then pass it on.

Oh, and by the way, the polyptych behind the altar is by Titian.

9 thoughts on “The grotto of miracles where statues pray to each other. Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, Dubrovnik, Croatia. 2009”

  1. The Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston had a jaw dropping exhibit last year of paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese. I remained unmoved by religious imagery but if I were to succumb it would have been in these exhibit rooms surrounded by work of these artists. Your shots of the interior of churches and cathedrals are always fantastic.

  2. Titian? Now you’re talking. When you were in Venice did you visit the church at Frari? There’s a wonderful Titian of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary above the altar.

  3. Pat

    I’m with you on the religious imagery. I had an overdose of it at the Prado (the exception was Bosch’s “Garden of earthly delights”). Thanks for the compliment but to be honest, it’s not had to take photos in such amazing places.


    I never really go to look at churches per se, but I will have a look inside if I’m passing one by. I have to admit though, I’m very tired of the same old theme that one sees inside churches. I just wish there was more secular painting from those times so long gone by. I suspect that’s why I find Bruegel the Elder so intriguing, I just love the idea of seeing a slice of ordinary life from so long ago.

  4. Grottos can be interesting places — especially those built by committed religious amateurs where the iconography can be both amusing and confusing! I remember visiting a number of them with my grandfather many years ago as a child in Wisconsin. These handmade grottos seemed to be a cultural oddity of the upper midwest.
    So yes, of course you should kneel next to the big statue and pray for your deliverance from what ever is tormenting you at the moment. The crutches are there to prove that deliverance can be yours!
    Stunning paintings behind the altar, by the way!

  5. You’re so right! I love Brueghels. The ice skating and wedding party and dancing and eating and drinking (our favourite pastimes) and all those tiny little people – kind of like a prototype Where’s Wally Now? You’d never be bored if you had one on your wall.

  6. I remember visiting a church in Austria with a Japanese guy. He kept asking questions about everything. I answered the best I could about stuff, but some of his questions left me scratching my head.
    I’ve had payback since coming to Japan and asking people what things at temples and shrines mean.

  7. Epic

    If I was mega rich, I own a Brueghel.


    The whole Christian thing would seem so weird to most Asians.

    “What? You worship a god who couldn’t protect himself from ordinary soldiers?”
    “Run that thing about about your Christian god who is three gods but really only one, by me again.”

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