The mysterious statue may have come from a lost church on the Camino de Santiago.
A man fishing for trout on the Sar River in Spain has discovered a medieval statue depicting the Blessed Mother sitting upon a throne with the infant Jesus on her lap.
Smithsonian Magazine reports that Fernando Brey nearly walked right past the moss-covered stone figure as it jutted out of the water. Realizing it was no river rock, he snapped a few pictures and got in contact with a member of the local heritage association, who suggested that it could be as much as 700 years old.
In an interview with La Voz de Galicia, a local Spanish newspaper, Brey explained:
“I noticed the stone was square, which is odd in a river, and then I looked at its lines, at the cape and at the shape of the head. And I said to myself, ‘There’s something here.’”
The artwork also depicts an angel on either side of the Blessed Mother, drawing a cloak or similar garment around Mary’s shoulders. Decorative leaves and flowers are carved in weaving patterns around the base.
The carving has been damaged by time and water, but there has also been extensive damage to the faces of Madonna and Child. An official from Galicia suggested, in a statement provided by The Guardian, that these damages may not have been from erosion. He said:
“The face of the Virgin is gone, as is the head of the child,” the statement added. “This is probably due to an old impact inflicted in an attempt to desanctify the piece.”
It is unclear from where the statue originated, but its proximity to the final stop on the Camino de Santiago suggests that it may have belonged to a lost pilgrimage church.
The statue has been removed from the river and taken to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago for cleaning and study.