An article at The Catholic Herald caught my eye: Did angels really carry the Holy House of Mary to Loreto, Italy? So did the photo accompanying it:
As you might expect, that's not the house itself, but an excessively ornate, um, housing for a house.
Inside, the "real thing" looks like this:
which, I dunno, looks a little more solid than I expected from a 2,000 something year old house from Israel.
The bright looking figure in the first interior is the Our Lady of Loreto statue, which is a bit more famous than I knew. You can watch this rather pious video about the house, and the statue, here:
As to the matter of how the house got there, the Catholic Herald article (and the video) indicate that the house might have been by boat, not by Angel Air, by a family with an a name which contributed to the legend:
In 1900, the pope’s physician, Joseph Lapponi, discovered documents in the Vatican archive, stating that in the 13th century a noble Byzantine family, the Angeli family, rescued “materials” from “Our Lady’s House” from Muslim invaders and then had them transported to Italy for the building of a shrine.I am suspicious: it sounds too much like a late rationalisation.
The name Angeli means “angels” in both Greek and Latin.
As for the air borne house tradition, it has been depicted variously as looking like this:
I don't know the artists behind either depiction, but the second one puts me in mind of Dorothy's house crushing the Wicked Witch, because at first glance I assumed the guy underneath was a devil. But on second thoughts, he looks like he's just helping out, except for some reason he's nude. If he is an angel, I didn't realise Heaven was "clothing optional" for them.
Anyhow, this is the second time this week that I have been contemplating the rather idiosyncratic fervour European Catholics can hold towards Mary and statues representing her. The first example was Mary Beard talking on Civilisations about the annual ceremony around a statue in Seville:
I'm interested in the matter of why some European countries, particularly those with the Romance languages, seemed to develop centres of intense Marian devotion, and often around statues which are treated as holy. (It's also interesting to contemplate why it also spread readily to countries like Mexico and the Philippines, too. Remember the photos of the crazily dangerous looking procession I posted earlier this year? It was centred on a statue of Jesus, admittedly, but still a case of statue centred fervour.) I always get the feeling there are sociological reasons for it which I don't know about. My general impression is that England and Germany, pre-Reformation, were just not into it in that big a way. Or was an uptick in Marian worship something of a reaction to the Reformation?
Anyway, the first video above says that the flying house story is the reason why Our Lady of Loreto is the patron saint of aviation:
Yes, she is the patron saint of pilots, airmen and flight attendants as per declaration of Pope Benedict XV on March 24, 1920. The pontiff approved a special blessing: "O merciful God, You have consecrated the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the mystery of the Word Incarnate and placed it in the midst of your children. Pour forth your blessing on this vehicle so that those who take an aerial trip in it may happily reach their destination and return safely home under Mary's protection."That seems a pretty weak reason to get a "patron" job, if you ask me. By now, hasn't there been any pilot or flight attendant who has attained sainthood after a career in, you know, actual flying?
I've no handy way to end this post, except to note that, in English speaking countries, this type of worship seems increasingly odd and hard to understand, especially given the rapid decline in the importance of Marian worship in our version of Catholicism over the last 60 odd years.