National Geographic : 2015 Dec
Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief FROM THE EDITOR PHOTO: DIANA MARKOSIAN In Puebla, Mexico, a family’s statue returns home after an annual parade honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe. A Global Icon The genesis of this month’s cover story dates to a year ago, when an exhi- bition opened at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea” brought together 74 artworks from the 14th through the 19th centuries, lent by galleries including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and the Vatican Museums. The exhibition drew the largest crowd ever for the Washington, D.C., museum. That got us wondering: What is it about Mary? She is the world’s most depicted woman, yet among the most mysteri- ous, with more written about her in the Koran than in the Bible. Her powers are invoked for anything and every- thing: by the sick in search of a cure and quarterbacks hoping for a Hail Mary pass to win the game; by mothers who feel a special kinship with her, and truckers—dashboards adorned with plastic Mary statuettes—seeking safe travels. We wanted to understand why people from dis- parate cultures and places—Poland, Mexico, France, Rwanda, Egypt—share little but a belief that Mary stands up for them, approves of them, and watches out for them. So we sent writer Maureen Orth and photographer Diana Markosian to travel the globe in search of explanations and insights. What is it that makes Mary, as this month’s cover story declares, “the most powerful woman in the world”? “ You see yourself and your concerns reflected,” says Melissa R. Katz, an art history professor at Wesleyan University and author of a book on Marian imagery. “That’s what Mary has always done, that Jesus could not. She’s more accessible, less threatening, always on people’s side.” Father Bertrand Buby, a Marianist scholar and author at the University of Dayton, answers the question with fewer words but more mysticism. “She is,” he says, “the universal.” There’s a unifying power in the faith that Mary inspires in so many. And that, it could be argued, is in itself something of a miracle. Thank you for reading National Geographic. Hail Mar y Why do humans long to connect with a divine mother figure? National Geographic’s Explorer series visits a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina where visions of Mary have been reported. The episode, The Cult of Mary, airs December 13 on the National Geographic Channel.