The Mystery of Statues and Icons

Richard Salbato – Feast of St. Joseph


The first commandment of God given to Moses says in part: “You shall not make yourself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.  You shall not adore them, nor serve them. …”


In the seventh century, Mohammad interpreted the above commandment to mean that we could not make any statue or paint any painting.  For the first time in history this was falsely interpreted, but because the Moslems were sweeping the Middle East and killing many who did not believe, even Christians in that part of the world began to compromise on this issue.  In time, what is now the Orthodox Church began the Icon wars and smashed statues, burned paintings and stripped Churches of all beauty. This is now known as the Iconoclasm wars.  Between the sixth and seventh centuries thousands of very rare Icons and Statues were smuggled out of the Middle East and brought into Eastern and Western Europe for protection.  Some time later these Icons and Statues had to be hidden again when the Moors invaded Europe.  In some cases, they were hidden so well that they were not found again for hundreds of years.  I will detail these findings at the end of this article.

Meaning of the First Commandment

It is easy to see how someone can misunderstand the first commandment if you do not read the entire book of Exodus, but when you read later on that God commanded Moses to build an Ark and place two statues of Cherub Angels on the two sides of the Oracle - the hole in the top.   (Exodus 25:17-25)  Now it becomes evident that Mohammad’s interpretation of this commandment was wrong.  What God is saying is that we may not Worship anything made or not made by man, but only God.  This does not mean that we cannot paint pictures or carve statues but only that we cannot worship them. 

There was good reason for God to be explicit in this first commandment because He was about to give this Ark of the Covenant great power, and He wanted to be sure that we Worshiped the author of this power and not the thing He gave the power to.

Continuing down through the ages, the Jews continued to paint Icons and carve statues for their churches, including two giant 40 foot tall Cherub Angels on both sides of the high alter where they placed the Ark of the Covenant.  

God gave power to the Ark of the Covenant – power to lead His army and defeat enemies, power to destroy the Pagan’s idols, power to lead the Israelites through the desert, and protect the 12 tribes. They worshiped the source of this power but not the Ark, itself.

Later we learn that Moses’ staff had this power, Samuel’s blessing had this power, Samson’s hair had this power, Elias’ robe had this power and even the bones of Eliseus had this power from God to raise the dead. It is God’s way to use His power through things, just like He uses the externals of the Sacraments to poor out grace and even salvation.  But it is expedient for us to remember that the thing has no power without God, the one we worship and adore and not the thing.  

If I were to touch something that touched God, like I did with a peace of the true cross, I would give it honor and reverence but not worship. I believe (and I know this is not politically acceptable) that Satan inspired Mohammed to smash these Icons and statues because Satan knew the power they had over him.  Satan knew this from the power given to the bones of the martyrs in the First Century, when they caused the Roman Idols to fall down, if the bones were buried too close to a shrine.  

My Romance with Icons

Fifty years ago, when I first came back to the Church, I came into contact with two well known Relics: the official statue of Fatima, and the Crucifix that gave Padre Pio his stigmata.  First I read about the many miracles of the official statue of Fatima: the cures, the three doves that followed it from Fatima to Lisbon, and later from Portugal to America.  Later I went to San Giovanni Retundo and prayed before the famous Crucifix that gave Padre Pio, his famous stigmata. 

Later I became interested in the power of sacramentals, like the Rosary and the Scapular and relics like the true cross, the bones of saints, the shroud and the veil of Veronica. But what was most interesting is these statues and Icons that were taken to Europe to escape the mass destruction of the Iconoclasm wars of the Moslems and Orthodox Christians, even later the Iconoclasm of the Protestants, especially in England. 

After traveling to 34 countries it even amazes me how many of these famous statues and Icons I have seen.  It also interests me that two very famous relics have not been found yet but will be: the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. 

Icons from the first four centuries

The most famous of the Icons smuggled out of the holy land during the Icon wars of Mohammad is the famous Icon of Kazan, probably painted by Saint Luke in the first century.  It was miraculously found and many miracles attributed to it.  During the Communist take over of Russia it was again smuggled out of Russia to Fatima and now back to Russia. 

Another Icon found and probably painted by Saint Luke is the Black Madonna of Poland, so loved by Pope John Paul II.  The famous original Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rome was also probably painted by Saint Luke. 

It is worth digressing here to point out that sometimes paintings and sculpture can teach lessens that are not learned in books.  For example, the painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help points out that Our Lord and Our Lady both knew that someday He would die on a cross, even from the time He was a little boy.

Icons are famous because of the subject matter and because of the artist.  Proof of an Icon comes from its power from God.  For this reason, maybe the most famous Icon of all time is the statue of Our Lady and the Christ Child in Nazare, Portugal. The original is only about 12 inches tall, and only found in a cave in the last hundred years.  Tradition is that it was carved by Saint Joseph in Nazareth.

The first of the great finds in Western Europe of the smuggled Relics of the Holy Lands came in 722 AD when Dom Pelayo was about to die at the hands of the Moors in Covadonga.  Just as the Moors were about to come up the mountain to attack his small band of Knights, a statue of Our Lady appeared in the back of the cave pointing to the other side of the valley where Pelayo saw an army of Angels ready to fight with him.  These Angels destroyed the Moor army and led to Dom Pelayo becoming the first king of Portugal, after he drove the Moors out.

I went to this cave where the statue of Our Lady still stands. The art work and scientific study points to its carving coming from the first three centuries but the artist is not known. 

The largest peace of the true cross is also near by in these same Cantabrian Mountains at the Reliquia do la Santa Cruz, where it was brought for safety from the persecution of the Persians.

Another Statue that was found in Portugal that came from the Holy Land is now called Our Lady of Ortiga, only two miles from Fatima, and the site of many miracles.

Less than ten miles from there a small statue of Our Lady was found that saved the entire village of Fetal from starvation. 

Our Lady of the Pillar in Spain is another famous and miraculous statue that was found from this time but there is many more that I cannot go into now.

The Icon of Soufanieh, only 4 inches tall, is the source of hundreds of miracles, many of these I have seen with my own eyes: pouring out pure olive oil and curing the sick including raising the dead.  This icon is a Western rendition of the Icon of Kazan, an Eastern style Icon. Not to wonder that its massage is the unity of East and West.

Made in Heaven

Another very famous Icon is Our Lady of Guadalupe which miraculously appeared on Juan Diego’s Toga and many miracles followed including razing a man from the dead and restoring feet to a boy born without feet. 

Ordered to be made by Heaven

The great Icon of Divine Mercy was ordered to be made by Our Lord to Sister Faustina. He showed her a vision of Himself with rays coming from His Sacred Heart and told her to have a picture made exactly like what she was seeing.  Copies of this painting hang in most Catholic Churches and homes throughout the world today.


Most people know of the many fake relics that have deluged the world for the past thousand years. But there are many false apparitions that claim miraculous Icons and statues, so how do we know the true from the false.  The quick answer is in the power, but even true Icons do not show their power every day.  Most important is that it is approved by the Church and blessed by the Church.  This is most important but also important is that everything is done exactly the way God wants it done.  An example of this is the Ark of the Covenant, which God not only showed Mosses in a vision, but described exactly hot to built it and hand picked the two artists to do the work. 

I wonder also how many requests from God have gone unanswered and never accomplished.  Although I was personally involved in Our Lady of Soufanieh and wrote the first and only approved book on the story,  I believe the promoters of this apparition have totally failed.  They have failed for two reasons: the first is the too many of them wanted to be leaders instead of followers, and almost all of them were more interested in the miracles instead of the messages, that the miracles bore witness to in the first place.  No one promotes the messages but all talk about the miracles.  The end results are total failure to do God’s will.

I know of another apparition in Spain that is over 70 years old.  Our Lady asked some very young children to have a statue made and placed on a small hill and in return Our Lady promised many miracles and help for Spain.  Seventy years later this statue has never been made and we do not know if the miracles and help would have happened or not.  Today, seventy years later, there is a small group of people trying to get this accomplished but cannot generate the money needed to buy the property and get the statue made.  

Our Lady of America Statue

This brings me to the statue that I often write about. According to Sister Mary Ephrem, Our Lady appeared to her and thanked America for dedicating America to Her Immaculate Conception and building the Washington DC Basilica in Her name.

She showed Sister Ephrem a vision and told her to have a statue made exactly like the vision and have it placed in the Basilica.  She promised that when this was done, “the United States would lead to world into peace, the peace of Christ, the peace that He brought with Him from heaven.”

She also said that if this was not done “there will come upon it and all nations a great havoc of war and incredible suffering.”

The fact is that 50 years later this statue has never been made, there is no money to make it, and no artist doing the work as of today, the Feast of Saint Joseph.  This saddens me a great deal because I do not see this done for many years.

The so-called Statue that made by Langsenkamp and McCarthy and promoted on their fake web site, is not made according to Our Lady’s request and will never fulfill this request of Our Lady. Sister Ephrem drew two very good drawings of Our Lady and what she asked for.  The Langsenkamp statue does not look anything like these two drawings.  Our Lady demanded that the statue be made by an America artist but Langsenkamp’s statue was made in South America.

Even if he was able to get the statue into the Basilica, it would not fulfill the request of Our Lady, because he disregarded Our Lady and went about all these things in greed, lies and theft.

Will we lead the world into Christ’s peace or will there come upon us a great havoc of war in suffering?  It is up to us, and we are failing.

Rick Salbato