Catholics in Rome, like in many other cities around the world, have a special image of Mary they pray before in times of trouble, big or small. The love and affection Romans have for the icon “Salus Populi Romani” (Our Lady, Health of the Roman People) is on display daily in a special chapel at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, but it reaches its height each year on the 24th January feast of its installation in a side chapel of the Basilica. As is customary, the Roman city government donated to the Basilica a silver chalice as a sign of thanksgiving for the historical intercession of the “Salus Populi Romani” for the well-being of the people of Rome. The Byzantine-style icon, which is 5 feet high and more than 3 feet wide, is painted on thick cedar planks. It depicts Mary dressed in a gold-trimmed, dark blue mantle over a red tunic and holding the Christ child on her lap. It is thought to have been painted in the 13th century, or possibly earlier, and is housed in the Basilica’s Pauline Chapel.
It was before this image of the Salus Populi Romani in September 1721 that St. Paul of the Cross “made a vow to promote the memory of the Passion of Jesus and to work together to gather companions for this purpose”.
(As A Seal Upon Your Heart, The Life of St. Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists by Fr Paul Francis Spencer, C.P., p. 61)