History of Maria Bambina
The Italian words “Maria Bambina” mean “Baby Mary.” Although the Holy Childhood of the Blessed Virgin, under the image of Our Lady as an infant, is honored in Mexico, Poland and Italy, relatively few Catholics in the United States know of this devotion. Several saints, including St. John Eudes, St. Joseph Cupertino and St. Padre Pio loved to contemplate the Blessed Mother as a baby. Reflecting on Our Blessed Mother as an infant and child will enrich your love and devotion to her as it did for these saints. As the perfect disciple of Jesus Christ, Our blessed Mother imitated Our Lord in all of His virtues. She imitated, in advance, the virtues of Our Lord’s Holy Childhood.
The simulacrum (image) was modeled in wax in 1735 by Sister Isabella Chiara Fornari (1697-1744), superior of the Poor Clare Sisters in Todi, Italy. Life size waxen images of both the Infant Jesus and the Infant Mary were widely venerated during the counter-reformation (16th century).
Bishop Alberico Simonetta brought the waxen image of Maria Bambina to Milan on his return to his native town in 1738. A year or so after his death the Capuchin sisters of the Monastery of St. Maria degli Angeli obtained from his brother the original Maria Bambina. These sisters were entrusted with the image because they were dedicated to the education of the youth and to the teaching of Catholic doctrine. The Capuchin Sisters soon became fervent devotees of the mystery of the Nativity of Mary.
On January 16, 1885, the Sisters started noticing an amazing transformation in the image of Maria Bambina which changed from the former dull yellow and gray color to warm flesh hues while its features were becoming so lovely as to make it look like the face of a living baby. From the preface of a booklet published, one comes to know that the “Santa Madonnina [Madonnina – an affectionate diminutive meaning little Madonna] was famous in the city” and that “whole crowds hastened to the simulacrum to venerate the childhood of the Blessed Virgin Mother and obtain from her extraordinary graces.” This same image of Maria Bambina is the one venerated today at the Motherhouse in Milan.