A Fisherman Found a Moss-Covered Statue of the Virgin Mary in a Spanish River. It May Be a 700-Year-Old Religious Icon

The 330-pound granite sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary feeding the baby Jesus.

Courtesy of the Association for the Defense of Galician Cultural Heritage.
Courtesy of the Association for the Defense of Galician Cultural Heritage.

Earlier this month, a fisherman was casting for trout in the Sar River outside of Santiago de Compostela in Spain when he tripped over a mossy object. It turned out to be a 330-pound granite sculpture of the Virgin Mary. And it might be over 700 years old. 

“I noticed the stone was square—which is odd in a river,” the fisherman, Fernando Brey, told local newspaper La Voz de Galicia. “And then I looked at its lines, at the cape and at the shape of the head. And I said to myself: ‘There’s something here.’”

Courtesy of the Association for the Defense of Galician Cultural Heritage.

Courtesy of the Association for the Defense of Galician Cultural Heritage.

Brey returned the next day to photograph the sculpture, which is carved on four of its five sides and depicts Mary with child and two angels suspended above her head. He sent the images to a member of the Association for the Defense of the Galician Cultural Heritage, who brought the statue to the attention of the Ministry of Culture. The sculpture was removed this Monday and brought to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago in Santiago de Compostela for analysis. 

Early evidence suggests that the statue was carved in a Galician gothic style, which would date it back to the 14th century.

The visages of both the Virgin Mary and her child are missing, suggesting that the statue may have been attacked in an effort to desanctify it, a statement issued by the Galician government said. Researchers believe that it once adorned a wall, given that its base features a four-petaled flower.

“Studies should tell us whether this is a very valuable gothic statue,” said Román Rodríguez, the minister for culture and tourism in Galicia, according to the Guardian.

“But beyond its cultural and historic value, we’ll also need to try to put together the story of this statue: what happened, and how could it remain undiscovered so close to the city for so many centuries? It must be quite a story.”


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