The Adventures of a Life-Sized 17th-Century Statue of Christ: Liberated from Morocco, Displayed in Madrid, and Copied in Forlì

[Christ of the Rescue]. Novena in Onore di Gesù Nazareno la di cui Immagine fatta Schiava da’ Mori Africani e Redenta dai PP. Trinitari Scalzi del Riscatto degli Schiavi. Si venera in una sua Copia in Forlì, Nella Chiesa di detti Padri sotto il titolo della Madonna del Popolo.

Forlì, Barbiani, 1777.

12mo. 51, (1) pp. Modern grey wrappers; edges speckled in blue. Very good.


Unrecorded Italian-language account of the adventures of an early 17th-century wooden statue currently resident in Madrid. The present devotional pamphlet was printed in conjunction with the display of a copy of the miraculous statue made for the Church of Madonna del Popolo in Forlì (near Bologna), and recounts the full context of the piece in the form of nine daily meditations forming a ‘novena’. The Novena itself was meant to be prayed for the “poveri Schiavi Cristiani, che sono in potere de’ Barbari”; and the trials and tribulations of the statue embodied for devotees both the sufferings of Christ himself, and the sufferings and rescue of contemporary Christian slaves.

As the titles of each chapter suggest, the work is in fact rich in detail: 1) L’Immagine di Gesu Nazareno adorate anticamente con magnifico culto nella Chiesa di S. Michele Ultramare 2) L’Immagine di Gesu diventa preda de’ Mori 3) L’Immagine di Gesu Condotta alla Citta di Mechinez, e presentata al Re Muley Ismain 4) L’Immagine di Gesu fu con molte battiture percossa 5) La Santa Immagine fu schernita 6) L’Immagine di Gesu strascinata per la Citta 7) Fu la S. Immagine gettata in un Lago di Leoni, perche la deformassero 8) L’Immagine di Gesu riscattata con trenta danari 9) L’Immagine di Gesu transportata alla Real Corte di Madrid, e con insigne culto al presente adorate.

Briefly, the 1.73 metre-high statue was crafted in southern Spain in the first half of the 17th century and brought to the Moroccan city of La Mamora (today Mehdia) to decorate a Christian church there, S. Miguel de Ultramar. In 1681 Sultan Mulay Ismail re-conquered the city, and brought the eye-catching statue to his capital Meknes where it was publicly denigrated. A priest of the Discalced Trinitarians - an order dedicated to the ransom of Christian slaves - caught wind of the statue and arranged to purchase it during the Trinitarians’ customary dealings with their Muslim counterparts (through a Jewish intermediary, according to the text here). When placed on a scale to assess its value in silver, the statue miraculously became far lighter, thus costing only 30 denari. The present work not only gives a thorough physical description of the statue - “era in fatti pesante, scolpita in legno assai duro, di statura proporzionata d’ Uomo perfetto [...] Ha il Capo coronato di Spine, la Fronte tinta di Gocciole di Sangue, I Capelli sparsi per gl’ Omeri, la Veste violacea, le Mani legate om croce con una fune pendente dal collo sino ai piedi, come si vede nella sua Immagine esposta nella Chiesa” - but adds details not found in all legends, such as that it was ransomed alongside 221 slaves; that by its magnificent presence it had already succeeded in converting several infidels; and that even after reaching Madrid in 1682, a “Black African” who happened to be visiting the city was immediately moved to convert upon viewing it (p. 9).

Today the statue is found in its own titular church, the Iglesia del Cristo de Medinacelli, built over the ruins of the former Convento de los Trinitarios Descalzos. We have not been able to determine if the copy at Forlì survives.

Unrecorded in OCLC, ICCU, KVK.

Stock Code: BN#54454 Tags: , , ,