The Holy Icon

The Shrine dedicated to Our Mother of Good Counsel located in Genazzano, Italy is where one finds this renowned Marian icon. This old sanctuary is in the area of a temple formerly dedicated to the goddess Venus. The ancient Romans celebrated the feast of the goddess Venus every April 25. For this event, people of all social classes—freemen and slaves, patricians and plebeians—gathered together for a great feast. 

During the reign of Pope Sixtus III in the fifth century, a shrine was constructed dedicated to the Mother of God because the town had contributed a large portion of its revenue for the renovation of the Roman basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. In this church in Genazzano, one experiences every day what the Church’s two-thousand-year experience has expressed in a brief and dense expression: to Jesus one goes through Mary: “Ad Iesum per Mariam.”

The Basilica of our Mother of Good Counsel in Genazzano, Italy

Prince Pietro Giordan Colonna, whose family had acquired lordship of the city, entrusted the church to the Augustinians in 1356. The notarial deed drawn up states that the church was a parish and was already called Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio. Over the years, the church fell into disrepair and the friars set about rebuilding the church. A wealthy widow named Petruccia di Nocera came to their support. To restore the church was the ambition of her life, and so strongly was she drawn to the undertaking that she felt inspired to sacrifice her home and moderate income to further this cause. The work ran into difficulty and the villagers mocked the efforts of Petruccia and the friars. While others might have felt daunted, Petruccia never once faltered in her hopes. She constantly reiterated her assurance that the work would be completed because Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Augustine and the Blessed Virgin, would see fit to crown her feeble efforts with unforeseen success.

On April 25, 1467, at the hour of Vespers, the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody coming from heaven. They saw a white, shining cloud that descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel amidst the mysterious ringing of the church bells. The cloud vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. The people stood in wonder before its beauty! The town rejoiced with the words, “A miracle! Long Live Mary, our Mother of Good Counsel.” Mostly peasants, they were convinced it had come from paradise.

News spread throughout the country. The faith of the people of Genazzano was regenerated. Pilgrims came from throughout the province and beyond. Processions of people traveled to venerate the miraculous image. Innumerable cures and consolations were documented by the local church authorities. Between 27 April and 14 August 1467 alone, 161 miracles were recorded. The people rallied around Petruccia, and the church, together with the convent, was soon completed. Pope Urban VIII made a pilgrimage there in 1630, invoking the protection of the Queen of Heaven, as did Pope Pius IX in 1864. On November 17, 1682, Pope Innocent XI had the icon solemnly crowned. 

Meanwhile, two Albanians from Scutari, Giorgio and De Sclavis, appeared in Genazzano with a curious tale. They had fled from their homeland to escape the invading Turks. Before fleeing, they had stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture, walked on the waves of the Adriatic Sea, climbed mountains, crossed rivers and passed through valleys. When night fell, a mysterious cloud, which protected them with its shade from the heat of the sun during the day, guided them with light, like the column of fire in the desert that guided the Jews in their exodus from Egypt. This went on for days and nights, until they could see the towers of Rome, where it suddenly disappeared by the church in Genazzano. Entering the church, they were astounded that the icon by the sanctuary was identical to the one in the church in Scutari!

The amazing news reached Rome. Pope Paul II sent two bishops to investigate the story. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. An icon that had been venerated there for centuries was, indeed, missing. The image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. Meanwhile, the church at Genazzano survived the tumult of several earthquakes and withstood the bombing during World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the explosion, remained intact.

Petruccia, having lived to see her fondest hopes abundantly realized, died in 1470, honored by all. The Augustinians who owed so much to this good tertiary laid her body to rest at the feet of the beloved Madonna, with an inscription above which told of her share in the great work accomplished by God at Genazzano.

Measuring approximately 15-1/2 inches by 17-1/2 inches, the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster, depicting a mother figure who is half turned toward her son and half toward the viewer. The Christ child rests on Mary’s left arm, her head bends toward him, their cheeks touch tenderly. It is a moment of maternal love and tenderness.

The holy Image of the Mother of Good Counsel was painted on the model of one of the most revered Byzantine icons of the Mother of God, that of the Eleousa or Glykophilousa, that is, the Madonna of tenderness. Two halos surround their head, framed by the iris. Their faces reveal an infinite sweetness. Mother’s is a perfect oval, intensely expressive eyes, very thin eyebrows, finely drawn mouth and nose, wavy blond-brown hair divided into two bands. The face of the Son is rosy and rounded, with very lively eyes, hair just hinted at on the broad forehead. Lovingly embraced to his Mother, he nevertheless reveals a resolute divine majesty. Our Lady’s face shows her great satisfaction in having her Child in her arms. She is thinking only of Him. But she is not looking at Him directly, she is also looking at you. She receives our prayers and transmits them to God. This is the Catholic doctrine of the mediation of graces. The left hand of the child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of nursing. He has this great intimacy with her, but His eyes do not look straight at her, they are turned upward. While her eyes look downward, His eyes are raised, up toward the Father. We look to her; she looks to Him; and He looks to the two other Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

Mary is shown wearing a veil typical of Jewish women of the period, revealing her humility and piety. Mary wears a blue robe, symbol of tranquility, understanding, and patience. Blue is the color of the Mother of God and is usually used in the religious icon paintings to show her heavenly state. The Child Jesus wears a red robe,  the color of humanity, representing life-giving energy, love, passion, sensitivity and an anticipation of his sacrifice.  The background is set in gold, symbolizing divine light and heaven. Icons often have gold backgrounds because the viewer is gazing at someone in heaven.

Many Popes had special devotion to the Madonna. Pope Saint Pius V credited victory in the Battle of Lepanto to Her intercession.  In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII granted the clergy of Genazzano an Office and Mass of Our Lady for 25 April, the anniversary of the apparition, elsewhere the feast being kept a day later so as not to conflict with that of Saint Mark the Evangelist. On 2 July 1753 Pope Benedict XIV approved the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful at large, and himself enrolled therein as its pioneer member; Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII were both later members. On 18 December 1779, Pope Pius VI, while re-approving devotion to Our Lady, granted all Augustinians an Office with hymns, lessons, prayer and Mass proper of double-major rite; with a plenary indulgence also for the faithful, to which Pope Pius VIII added another for visitors to the shrine. On 18 December 1884, Pope Leo XIII approved of a new Office and Mass of second-class rite for all Augustinians, while on 17 March 1903, he elevated the church of Santa Maria to the rank of minor basilica. On 22 April 1903, he authorized the insertion in the Litany of Loreto of the invocation Mater Boni Consillii to follow that of Mater Admirabilis. The same pontiff on 21 December 1893 had approved the use of the White Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful. Pope Pius XII dedicated his entire pontificate to the Madonna of Good Counsel. Pope St John XXIII came to pray at the shrine for guidance before he announced the calling of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Pope St John Paul II kept her icon in his private chapel. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI installed the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel at the Vatican gardens and prayed the rosary before her icon. Pope Francis invoked the assistance of Our Lady during his Good Shepherd Sunday Regina Caeli Message in 2020.

Saints who had special devotion to her include Aloysius Gonzaga, Alphonsus Liguori, Paul of the Cross, Benedict Giuseppe Labre, Blessed Pius IX, Luigi Orione and Teresa of Calcutta. St John Bosco travelled from Rome to Genazzano to ask Our Lady’s assistance as he founded the new religious congregation of the Salesians. Former Genazzano parish priest Blessed Stefano Bellesini’s body has him holding the frame of our patroness. Many institutions worldwide have been named in honor of Mary under the title of Lady of Good Counsel.


In the Philippines, the very first institution under her patronage was the Colegio del Buen Consejo in Pasig established by the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation in 1909. The Mother of Good Counsel Seminary was established by the Most Rev. César María Guerrero in Pampanga in 1950. In 1975, the parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel was established in the Diocese of Malaybalay. Four years after, in 1979, the second parish under her patronage was established in Marcelo Green Village, Paranaque by Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. In 1983, the third parish was renamed in her honor in the Diocese of San Pablo. On her feastday in 1998, the Monastery of Mother of Good Counsel of the contemplative Augustinian sisters was inaugurated in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Our Lady’s miraculous intercession reminds us that her love is perfect, her virtue knows no bounds, and her constant heavenly intercession for us is a gift not to be taken for granted. If we have the courage to pray and act with confidence for great things, great things will be given us. God never refuses confident prayers, and bestows his gifts accordingly.

Church bell that mysteriously rang during the apparition in 1467

Mater Boni Consilii, ora pro nobis Jesum Filium Tuum.

555 Years of the Holy Icon
of our Mother of Good Counsel