Refugium Peccatorum
Refuge of Sinners

This illustration of the second of four advocations extolling Mary’s role as advocate for spiritual and corporeal works of mercy is of intricate composition. The cameo with mother and child is delimited by four anchors, symbols of hope, security, and stability.  This central image is surrounded by five biblical scenes.  Each one of them depicts in miniature size a situation of danger, temptation or fault with subsequent conversion and/or mercy:

  1. In the lower half center, we see the rendering of Saint Peter’s vision of the large sheet filled with all animals of earth and sky (Acts 10:11-12).  Peter will have to change his opinion about what is clean and unclean in order to comply with God’s will.

  2. The miniature to the left of Peter portrays a safe harbor (Psalm 108:30).  Those who went off to sea experienced distress, but God brought them to the harbor they longed for.

  3. To the right of Peter’s vision is a town-like agglomeration of houses, churches and castles.  They are a symbol of refuge for the needy, possibly reflecting 1 Maccabees 10:13,14 and the stronghold of Beth-zur.

  4. The upper left miniature tells about the rescue of Nabal, the evil rich.  His wife Abigail implores David to refrain from vengeance.  David relents and praises her saying: “Blessed be your good judgment and yourself, who … have prevented me from shedding blood” (1 Samuel 25:33).   

  5. The fifth miniature, in the upper right corner, tells the story of Adonijah, who in an attempt to become king turned against David, his father.  Abandoned by his followers, he “went and seized the horns of the altar” in search of refuge against Solomon’s vengeance. Solomon acted mercifully, and said to Adonijah: “Go to your home” (1 Kings 2:49ff).

The lemma reminds us that God loves all people (Psalm 87:4f.). It is Mary’s role to bring God’s love into the world, to be the intercessor for all, and to give hope and help to sinners.

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