The mosaic in St Peter’s Square | Mary, Mother of the Church

The mosaic in St Peter’s Square | Mary, Mother of the Church

By Br Francesco Lorenzon, O.P. | In the top right hand corner of St Peter’s Square, almost higher than the basilica and keeping careful watch over the visiting pilgrims, is a mosaic of Our Lady, the ‘Mater Ecclesiae’. The story behind the mosaic is a beautiful testimony to the feast we celebrate today.



On 13 May 1981 Mehmet Ali Ağca attempted to kill Pope St John Paul II in St Peter’s Square.

The professional assassin was later astonished that he did not succeed at killing the Pope from such a short distance.

The Pope decided to place a mosaic of the Madonna in St Peter’s Square, since he attributed his survival to her protection.

The image has two captions. The first is Totus Tuus (all yours), John Paul II’s motto, from a book of St Louis Grignon de Montfort.

The second is  “Mother of the Church”. The title was established by Saint Paul VI in 1964, during the Second Vatican Council.

But why should Mary be mother of the Church? Doesn’t this distance us from Christ?

The Church’s birth is truly founded in the first place on the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. But Christ himself, in addressing the words “Woman, behold your son” to Mary, proclaims her motherhood not only for the Apostle John but also to every disciple. 

And her protection can be testified during the Church’s history by thousands and thousands of faithful and by… popes,  as the latest miraculous survival of St John Paul II in 1981 can attest.


Mater Ecclesiae Mosica – St Peter’s Square


Hymnus Gaude Mater Ecclésia
Schola der Dominikaner


See more videos in the Sacred Art Series.

Br Francesco Lorenzon was born and grew up in Treviso, a small city near Venice. Having had an interest in computers since Middle school, he went to the Ca’ Foscari University to study Computer Science. After reading a biography of saint Dominic, he strongly desired to become one of his sons. He made his solemn profession in 2019, and he is currently in his fifth year of study. Apart from theology, his main interests are related to communication and everything visual: photography, graphic design, typography and video editing. He enjoys reading comic strips (Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts), Doestoevsky, and some science fiction.