"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Art: Our Lady of Fatima, the Thomas McGlynn Statue, Part 1

In my last post I mentioned the Catholic Thought book club at Goodreads was reading Vision of Fatima by Thomas McGlynn O.P. which detailed his trip to Portugal to discuss with Lúcia de Jesus dos Santos, otherwise known as Irmã Dores and the last living child that had witnessed the Fatima apparitions, the creation of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima based on Lucia's vision.  As it turns out one of the first marble productions of McGlynn's Fatima statue that came out of his consultation with Lucia is at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer in uptown Manhattan.  A shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II at the church has been united with the McGlynn statue since the Holy Father credited Our Lady of Fatima in saving his life when he was shot on her feast day.  You can read about the shrine at Catholic New York, my diocese newspaper. From the article:

On the 100th anniversary of the first Marian apparition at Fatima, a shrine was dedicated in Manhattan May 13 to the memory of St. John Paul II, who credited Mary with saving his life after an assassination attempt in Rome on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981.


Father McGlynn was commissioned by a distributor of religious goods to make the statue shortly after the Second World War, when devotion to Our Lady of Fatima began to spread beyond Portugal. Although he was confident his representation of Mary was accurate, based on his research, he determined to show a small model of it to Sister Lucia, the only surviving seer, for confirmation.

Carrying a letter of introduction from Cardinal Francis Spellman to the bishop of Lisbon, Portugal, he got permission to visit Sister Lucia at her convent. When he finally met Sister Lucia, Father McGlynn was surprised and disappointed when she politely told him his statue was inaccurate.

He remained at the convent and under Sister Lucia’s direction, produced an entirely new statue. In his memoir, Father McGlynn said Sister Lucia corrected his ideas of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima and also explained to him the spiritual vision of Fatima and encouraged him to make it better known.

The sculptor came home for the dedication at St. Vincent Ferrer of the redesigned statue on Mother’s Day, 1947. By cruel coincidence, his mother, who planned to attend the event, died while he was en route home, and lay in a funeral parlor across from the church as he preached at the dedication. Father Devaney said from that day, Father McGlynn looked at Mary as his mother, in much the way St. John Paul did.

So this version of the statue by Fr. McGlynn was based on Sister Lucia’s vision of Our Lady and was created in close collaboration with the future saint.

I decided Saturday to trek up to St. Vincent Ferrer's church to examine the statue, and this post and the following is an examination of the statue and the creative process in developing the statue as written in the book.  

First, St. Vincent Ferrer was a lovely church.  There was a plaque that said it was in the English Gothic style.  It is run by the Dominican Friars, St. Vincent Ferrer being a Dominican, one of the many Dominican saints.  Here’s a picture inside the church looking toward the apse.

And here toward the rear, a beautiful rose window.

I loved this little chapel with a painting of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Our Lady.  Those are little statues of Dominican saints around the painting.  You may have to click the picture to bring it into a large image.

Here is the façade of the church and a close up.

It really is a beautiful church.

The McGlynn statue with the St. John Paul shrine was located along the left wall in what might have been a transept, but if it was a transept it wasn’t very pronounced.  It was not in a chapel but a niche that was formed from the side wall jutting out as you walked toward the altar.  Here is the entire shrine in one view.

Fr. McGlynn Our Lady of Fatima Statue at St. Vincent Ferrer Church

And here are the shrine with the focus to the right.

Our Lady of Fatima Statue at St. Pope John Paul Shrine

And with a focus to the left.

Our Lady of Fatima, Fr. McGlynn Statue

I asked one of the priests in the church, an older Dominican Friar, if this was an original and he said yes but wasn't sure if it was the first. Later someone that worked at the church said this was the first of the statues Fr. McGlynn made from the plaster prototype he brought back from Portugal. So this was certainly a thrill. Here is a close up.

Our Lady of Fatima Statue, St. Vincent Ferrer Church

And from the waist up.

Fr. McGlynn, Our Lady of Fatima

Personally I think this statue is breath taking and far superior to the traditional Our Lady of Fatima that you commonly see.  I don’t have the time to go into detail in this post.  I will continue with zoomed in pictures in my next post and excerpts from the book on how the various parts of the statue came to be.   

1 comment:

  1. A look at the Our Lady of Fatima statue sculpted by Fr. Thomas McGlynn in collaboration with Sister Lucia. It's different than the commonly known Fatima statue popular today. I favor Fr. McGlynn's statue.