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Atlas Obscura The Modern, Secular Virgin Mary Motif

Visitors fixing their gaze on the imposing towers of the medieval cathedral in Lund, Sweden may not realize it, but 12 little heads are closely watching their every move. Created to represent the future of mankind, they peer out from a split in the protective cloak of the Skyddsmantelmadonnan sculpture.

Cast in bronze and placed at the entrance of Lund Cathedral in September 2015 to honor its 870th anniversary, the statue is the work of Swedish sculptor Lena Lervik, who drew inspiration for the work from the Christian artistic motif of the Virgin of Mary, which dates at least as far back as the 13th century. Traditionally, works like the Skyddsmantelmadonnan, which translates to “Protective Cloak Madonna,” are a depiction of the Virgin Mary sheltering a group of people against various dangers under her outstretched cloak. These were often Christian religious figures such as the Apostles, saints, and members of religious orders or groups of people under the protection of Catholic Christianity.

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