When I saw this image both on Fr. Z’s blog and Amy Welborn’s, I thought it was one of the more stunning, modern images of Our Lady. I was particularly struck by the Chinese characters, and how, at least to this western eye, and non-Mandarin speaker, they hearken to the tradition of gold stars on a blue background. This traditional imagery is associated with Our Lady, and has a rich history in Catholic art.
So where does this imagery come from? Long before the the University of Notre had a Golden Dome, and the Fighting Irish donned the gridiron, the colors blue and gold have been associated with the Virgin Mary. Blue can indicate royalty and fidelity, and it is associated with heaven and eternity. Gold also can indicate royalty, but the true source of the golden stars is in the Book of Revelation, where Mary is depicted with a crown of twelve stars.
Incidentally, in the early days of the European Union, some disturbed individuals objected to the EU flag having twelve golden stars on a blue field, thinking this was a conspiracy by the Catholic states to somehow give Catholic prominence to the newly found organisation. Now, that would be great if it were true, but seeing as they can’t even get a recognition of God in the constitution, I’m a bit skeptical of this grand conspiracy. But I digress.
In many images, you will see the Blessed Mother with a crown of twelve stars, particularly if the image is the Regina Caeli, or Queen of Heaven. But several gold stars on a blue background is a common decoration of church ceilings.
Perhaps the pre-eminent example of this imagery is at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame (right). Okay, okay, sure there might be some better examples in Europe, but come on, give a Domer a little leeway, alright?
There are also other connections between stars and Mary – the morning star, Mary Star of the Sea (Stella Maris). But here’s your one, true chance for some serious Catholic Trivia…
What was originally on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, prior to Michelangelo’s frescos?
Gold stars on a blue background.