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Salus Populi Romani

Salus Populi Romani

The Basilica houses the most important Marian icon, the Salus Populi Romani. According to tradition, it was made by Saint Luke the Evangelist, the patron saint of painters.

The panel, made of cedar wood, (117 x 79 cm) depicts a half-figure of Our Lady with the Child Jesus in her arms.


Salus Populi Romani and the Popes

The icon is especially dear to popular piety and highly linked to the identity of Rome and of the Popes.

According to a tradition reported by Cesare Baronio, the Salus Populi Romani was taken on procession through the streets of Rome for three days. Pope Gregory I (590-604) is said to have paused in prayer in front of the icon to implore for an end to the plague.

Popes have made many donations to the icon as ex-voto offerings: from Clement VIII (1592-1605) to Gregory XVI (1831-1846) and Pius XII (1939-1958), pontiffs have made offerings of precious crowns and jewellery to the icon, expressing in this way, the intercession entrusted to Salus Populi Romani during the various challenges in time.

Pope Paul V (1605-1621) had the monumental Pauline Chapel built, a sumptuous home for the Salus Populi Romani. A solemn celebration took place for the icon’s “Translation”, which is commemorated with a celebration every last Sunday in January. Both the reliquary and the silver covering from the time of Paul V are today kept in the Liberian Historical Museum.

During the Marian year on 1 November 1954, Pope Pius XII paid homage to the icon with a procession from Saint Mary Major to Saint Peter’s where she was crowned Queen with precious crowns and jewellery. Today they can be found in the Liberian Historical Museum.

Pope Francis entrusts his Apostolic Journeys to the protection of the Salus Populi Romani, which he visits before every departure and after every return. In doing so, he is continuing a Jesuit tradition. Ever since its foundation, the Society of Jesus, has fostered devotion to the icon, by distributing copies of the icon throughout the world.


To listen to the Basilica’s podcast about the Salus Populi Romani, please visit this page.


Salus Populi Romani