Photo Courtesy of Inside the Vatican

The hand of Luke? The Golden Legend, a medieval collection of narratives about the lives of the saints that was once enormously popular among both clerics and laity, reports that St. Gregory the Great (c. 540–604) carried this icon of the Virgin and Child through the streets of Rome in an attempt to stop the plague: “It is said that this image…was painted by Saint Luke, who was not only a physician but a distinguished painter…and lo and behold! The poisonous uncleanness of the air yielded to the image as if fleeing from it and…the passage of the picture brought about a wonderful serenity and purity in the air.” Just as early church fathers thought Luke’s writings emblematic of his skill in the “art of curing souls,” the legend of the healing power of this image creatively fuses Luke’s role as physician and artist.