Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn (Lithuanian: Aušros Vartų Dievo Motina, Polish: Matka Boska Ostrobramska, Belarusian: Маці Божая Вастрабрамская) is the prominent painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy venerated by the faithful in the Chapel of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The original painting is 163 x 200 cm and was painted by an unknown artist on 8 oak planks around 1630 in Vilnius. The effigy was covered with silver and golden face around 1671 and on July 2, 1927 it was crowned with a double crown and entitled the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy. The painting is a visual copy of the similar painting by contemporary Flemish mannerist painter Marten de Vos.
Today this holy image is venerated by Roman Catholic and Orthodox faithful of many countries whose origins lie in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and their diasporas worldwide. In Lithuania itself there are 15 churches devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Gate of Dawn as well as Lithuanian parishes in Montreal and Buenos Aires. On February 26, 2007 Our Lady of Vilnius parish (Aušros Vartų Parapija) was closed by the Archdiocese of New York. The sanctuary had featured an icon of Our Lady painted by the artist Tadas Sviderskis, which was commissioned in the 1980s. There is no longer a church devoted to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in the New York metropolitan area.
In Poland the biggest of the churches devoted to Our Lady of Ostra Brama is the Marian Basilica in Gdańsk. Other shrines of the holy icon are found in Białystok, Drogosze, Kętrzyn, Olsztyn, Skarżysko-Kamienna and Wrocław. There are also several Polish churches devoted to Our Lady of Ostra Brama in the United Kingdom (Kidderminster), USA (South River, NJ), Australia.
The history of this well-known miraculous image from Lithuania started with the construction of the wall around the town of Vilnius. The rampart built to defend the city had nine doors and the one on the south-east side was named the “Dawn Gate”. King Alexander set the first stone in 1498 and in 1503 the gate was decorated with a very beautiful image of the Virgin Mary. 150 years later, Carmelite nuns restored the image, covering it with inlaid silver, and deposited it in a new chapel. At this very time, the chroniclers mention several accounts of miracles, in particular the recovery of an unconscious child on the verge of death, who had fallen from a balcony and was given to his mother in this state.
When the Muscovites attacked the city in 1655, a fire devastated Vilnius for a period of 17 days, but the painting of the Virgin was saved and remained intact. Several other fires were also put out in astonishing ways, in particular one in 1706 and another in 1715. In the year 1812, the chapel of the Dawn Gate, given the power of indulgence by the Pope and filled of ex-votos, was miraculously protected whereas all the other churches of Vilnius were destroyed or damaged.
The permanent pilgrimage continues and processions are held in the streets, with believers kneeling down in prayer. During these manifestations, automobiles drive by the gate at a slow speed and people walk slowly, the women even bow their heads, as they pass by, no matter what religion they belong to.