Weeping Statues and Icons
Weeping Statues and Icons(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
While accounts of statues and other representations of holy figures oozing blood or dripping tears have been reported throughout history, the number of cases has increased markedly since the twentieth century. These occur almost exclusively within Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox contexts in which believers value the importance of statues (Roman Catholic) and Icons (Eastern Orthodox).
One traditional account relates to the Icon of the Holy Virgin located at the Orthodox monastery at Nicula, Romania. Painted in 1681, it was given to the church in Nicula a few years later. Then, in February of 1694, a few visiting soldiers from Austria noticed the icon weeping tears that seemed to originate from the icon’s eyes. They called attention to the phenomenon, and as the faithful gathered the icon continued to weep for 26 days. Accompanying the weeping was the healing of some sick people who came to the church and touched the icon. Eventually, the icon was placed in a new church built by the Austrian emperor in a nearby monastery. The icon remained on display there until 1948, when the suppression of religion by the Romanian Communist government led to its being hidden. It was finally located by authorities who kept it until after the Romanian Revolution. Returned to the monastery in 1992, the icon has not wept in recent years, but it is the subject of an annual special veneration every August 15.
More recent is the report of a bleeding picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus owned by a Hispanic family in Austin, Texas. The picture they owned initially bled from the area around the heart in 1991. With the cooperation of their priest, copies of the picture were reproduced and circulated. Several days before the fifth anniversary of the blood’s first appearance, a local visionary predicted that it would bleed again and that those who displayed copies of the picture in their homes would be protected and blessed.
In January 2003 reports surfaced of a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Caracas, Venezuela, that began to weep blood. The statue depicted Mary as she had appeared in apparitions at Montichiari-Fontanelle, Italy. A few weeks later, another statue of the Virgin at the same church (depicting Mary as she had appeared to the chief of the Coromoto people) began exuding delightful-smelling oils. This latter event was associated with the death of a woman who had been baptized a few days before. The statue has made the church a pilgrimage site where people may take away a piece of cloth that has been dipped in the oil from the statue.
In the modern world, such incidents cry out for scientific analysis of the substances that appear to come from these statues and pictures. Not only are the blood and tears subject to analysis, but the circumstances under which the weeping or bleeding began deserve investigation. In the cases of those pictures and statues that have been critically observed and tested, a significant number have been debunked. Substances other than blood and tears have been found to produce the phenomena, and mundane causes for the substances have been located.
Most cases have been ascribed to pious frauds. One relatively well-known case concerned the Abbé Vachère, a French Roman Catholic priest who resided at Mirebeau-en-Poitou early in the twentieth century. After he reported that blood had appeared on a picture he owned, as well as on a statue that sweated blood and on Eucharist wafers he had distributed, psychic researcher Everard Fielding investigated the situation. Fielding first had the “blood” analyzed and discovered that it was not blood at all. Several years later, after an investigation by the local bishop, the priest was excommunicated. Fielding conducted one further investigation of the bleeding picture, placing it in a sealed box. The next day he found that the box had been tampered with. In spite of repeated questioning of the “miracles” claimed by the priest, he continued to report additional phenomena throughout his life.
In recent years, church authorities have tended to withhold official recognition of bleeding statues, weeping icons, and the like because too many have proven to be either fraudulent or mundane. One exception concerns the bleeding statue in the convent at Akita, Japan. Here, in 1973, the Virgin Mary gave messages to Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa. The wooden statue of Mary associated with the miracle was noted to have wept some 100 times over the next few years. It also perspired sweet-smelling substance, and its right palm dripped blood. A medical professor analyzed the substances exuded by the statue and found them to be real blood, sweat, and tears. After several rather spectacular healing miracles occurred, the local bishop investigated, and in 1984 he concluded the occurrences were, indeed, supernatural. That opinion was seconded four years later by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.