Our Lady of Perpetual Help, ora pro nobis!
The original wooden icon suspended on the altar measures 17" × 21" inches and is painted on hard nut wood with a gold leaf background. The image depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing a dress of dark red, representing the Passion of Jesus, with a blue mantle, representing her perpetual virginity, and cloaked veil, which represents her pure modesty. The icon shows Mary looking towards the faithful, while pointing at her son, Jesus Christ who is frightened by the instruments of crucifixion and is depicted with a fallen sandal. On the left side is the Saint Archangel Michael, carrying the lance and sponge of the crucifixion of Jesus. On the right is the Saint Archangel Gabriel carrying a 3-bar cross used by Popes at the time and nails. The Virgin Mary has a star on her forehead, signifying her role as Star of the Sea while the cross on the side has been claimed as referring to the school which produced the icon. The Byzantine depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in art have three stars, one star each on the shoulder and one on the forehead. This type of icon is called Hodegetria, where Saint Mary is also pointing to her Son, known as a Theotokos of the Passion.
Mary's long slender nose, thin lips, and smoothly arched eyebrows also show that a Greek artist had painted her. The halo and the crown in the picture were added later. In those days, a halo was not commonly painted around the head. Instead, as in this painting of Mary, the veil and her face itself were rounded, practically circular, to indicate her holiness. The size of the mother seems out of proportion to her son; this is deliberate. The artist wished to emphasize Mary in this story, so he painted her larger than life.
The Greek inscriptions read MP-ΘΥ (Μήτηρ Θεοῦ, Mother of God), OAM (Ὁ Ἀρχάγγελος Μιχαήλ, Michael the Archangel), OAΓ (Ὁ Ἀρχάγγελος Γαβριήλ, Gabriel the Archangel) and IC-XC ( Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Jesus Christ ), respectively. The icon is painted with a gold background on a walnut panel which was probably painted in the islands of Crete, which at the time was then ruled by the Republic of Venice. The Cretan School was the source of the many icons imported into Europe from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance. The icon was cleaned and restored once in 1866 and again in the year 1940.
Some Roman Catholics believe the icon to be a true copy of the painting that according to legend was painted from the life by Saint Luke using the meal table of the Holy Family in Nazareth, and in Eastern Orthodox tradition was often identified with the Hodegetria icon, and consider it to be a miraculous imprint of the Virgin Mary both in the Latins and Orthodox communities.