Our Lady of Good Counsel

Alternate titles: Mother of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Shkodra, Our Lady of Good Services and St. Mary of Paradise

M. Jean Frisk


The painting of Our Mother of Good Counsel is an Eleousa, (the Mother of Tenderness). The Christ Child nestles close to his mother. The image is a half figure. The Christ Child rests on Mary's left arm, her head bends toward him, their cheeks touch tenderly. The left hand of the child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of nursing.

The image as it is known in the West is traced to the year 1467 to Genazzano, Italy, a small town ca. thirty miles southeast of Rome. It is presently located in a side chapel, built between 1621 and 1629, in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, whence the image derives its name. Measuring approximately 15-1/2 inches by 17-1/2 inches, the painting is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster or porcelain not much thicker than paper. One writer describes it as a fresco painted on a material resembling egg shell. It appears suspended in mid-air in its frame, with approximately an inch of space between it and the wall behind it. The only support is on the lower edge where it "rests on a small base on one of its sides, i.e. from the center to the extreme right." (Joao S. Cla Dias, p. 42) The work itself probably originates as a fourteenth century Umbrian work.

[Our The Origin

There are two strands to the story of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Most sources refer to the ancient intertwined holy legends of an Albanian image, Our Lady of Shkodra (Good Counsel) and the Italian image in Genazzano. The Albanian Catholic Bulletin Vol. 9, 1988, pp. 12-14 gives a beautiful brief account of the legend:

The story continues: "One day during the siege of Shkodra two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray to Zoja e Bekueme for their safe journey. While praying fervently, they suddenly noticed the painting moving away from the wall.... The two Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis,"followed the painting, as if it were a bright star, all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. They heard rumors that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Zoja e Bekueme." The two "settled down and made Genazzano their home."

It is here that the second strand of the story begins.

Miraculous Character

The provincial of the Augustinian order, Ambrogio da Cori, recorded that:

In a thorough, detailed study, Joao S. Cla Dias writes, "...the fresco has unexplainably remained suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel for over five hundred years." Cla Dias' work contains several documents about the miraculous character of the image itself, including the amazing fact that the painting is not mounted or attached at the back. There are also indications that the image appears to bear different expressions according to particular situations.

There is a vast registry of miraculous happenings related to the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel and to its copies. Conversions, healings, and specially requested graces are among the numerous accounts of extraordinary occurances related in connection with the image.


There is more to the story and its possible translation from Albania. The Christian population of Albania have kept the memory of Our Lady of Good Counsel alive for centuries. The Catholic population of the country celebrates not one, but two feastdays in honor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, April 26 for all Albania and the third Sunday of October for the Scutari area. The people come from all over the country to gather by the thousands before the cathedral where Our Lady of Good Counsel once was. There is an ancient hymn with the refrain:

Copies of the image are found in homes throughout Albania. During the time under Communist rule in this century, the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel was nevertheless to be found in the majority of Catholic homes.

It is the Augustinian Order which has contributed to the worldwide spread of devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Karl Kolb writes,


The Jesuits also have spread devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Two images indicate how the picture and devotion were adapted elsewhere. The image at left with the painted frame shows missionaries and a small sailing vessel. The painting was taken to Brazil by Fr. Jose de Campos Lara in 1785. It received its place of honor in the Saint Louis Jesuit High School in Itu, and later in Sao Paulo.


The statue in the photograph at right was also venerated under the title Mother of Good Counsel and is located in the Imperial School of the Society of Jesus in Madrid, Spain. The picture we see is taken from an old photograph of the original wooden carving which was lost during bombing and sacking in the 1930s.

The image received its papal coronation on November 17, 1682. A canon of Saint Peter's chapter was sent to represent Pope Innocent XI. A report was written five days later describing the image as touching the wall only at the upper edge and not supported by other means. It is from this date on that the existence of the painting as such was considered miraculous, not only because of its arrival at Genazzano, but because it is for the most part suspended in the air. Eyewitnesses also testify to extraordinary phenomena regarding changing features of the image. Since that time, there have been many privileges granted to the shrine, papal visits and honors.

An undated prayer card in our Marian Library tells us, "As can be seen from the register at the shrine [in Genazzano, Italy], Benedict XIV, Pius VIII, Pius IX, and Leo XIII are enrolled as members" of the organization then known as the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel. "It was Leo XIII who chose the motto for its members: Children, follow her counsels. Pope Pius XII placed his pontificate under the maternal care of Our Lady of Good Counsel."

In 1777 the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved a Proper Office commemorating the history of the shrine. The Augustinians were granted the privilege of this office. In the newly revised Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (1988) there is also a special votive Mass in honor of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Good Counsel. In the United States, there is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Our Lady of Good Counsel soon became a symbol of lay involvement and responsibility in Counter-reformation times. It was the woman, Petruccia, who saw the need for the restoration of a church fallen to ruins. She gave her utmost for the restoration and beautification of the church, and according to the story, she also prayed for the church. Today, there are women's groups, such as the Christian Mothers here in America, who turn to the patronage of Our Lady of Good Counsel.


Over the centuries, there are many prayers written in the spirit of the respective age, seeking advice from Mary on how to live a Christ-centered life. For our meditation, we have selected one of these prayers and include here the official prayers of the church for the votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Good Counsel. We encourage you to savor these prayers as we pray with the universal church for good counsel.

A "Short Prayer to Mary Most Holy of Good Counsel to Implore Her Protection" from 1796:

From the liturgy:


For further information on Our Lady of Good Counsel, see: The Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano, by Joao S. Cla Dias, Sunbury, Penn: Western Hemisphere Cultural Society, Inc., 1992; "Our Lady of Good Counsel," In: A Dictionary of Mary, by Donald Attwater, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956; "Guter Rat," In: Marienlexikon, Vol. 3, p. 64.

See Also:Our Lady of Good Counsel – A Reflection

Return to the Miraculous Image Introduction

Return to the Marian Meditations


This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by M.Jean Frisk , was last modified Thursday, 07/30/2009 15:21:41 EDT by Ramya Jairam . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.

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