December 8, 2015

The Madonna Of 115th Street, Harlem Gets A Long-Awaited Makeover

madonnaJacki Lyden, NPR | Photo by Danielle Oteri

After 131 years, Madonna of 115th Street needed a makeover — a makeover worthy of a Catholic icon parishioners say is responsible for miracles. And last week, the refurbished life-sized statue and her new gown were unveiled last week in East Harlem.

From high above the altar, the Blessed Mother at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has watched over her flock for more than a century. This Virgin Mary statue came over from Polla, Italy, in 1884. And according to her followers, she has healed the sick and given hope to the hopeless.

Pam Pisacano loves her. “Because she’s so real, when you look at her, she’s real. Her hair, her face, she looks at you as you’re talking. And when you’re talking, you talk to her from your heart … And she really does grant things.”

She’s credited with so many miracles that Pope Pius X gave her a rare Catholic honor: He coronated her in 1904. At that time East Harlem was solidly Italian, but the Irish controlled the jobs — and the parishes.

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