Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal (French: Médaille miraculeuse), also known as the Medal of Our Lady of Graces, is a devotional medal, the design of which was originated by Saint Catherine Labouré following her apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary[2][3] in Rue du Bac, Paris, France, and made by goldsmith Adrien Vachette.

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal design was executed by Adrien Vachette based on Saint Catherine Labouré visions.
LocationParis, France
Date19 July 1830
27 November 1830
WitnessSaint Catherine Labouré
TypeMarian apparition
Archbishop Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen
Archdiocese of Paris
ShrineChapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Paris, France
PatronageSpecial graces, architects, miners, prisoners

According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the use of sacramentals such as this medal[4] prepares people to receive grace and disposes them to cooperate with it.[5]


Catherine Labouré stated that on 19 July 1830, the eve of the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, she woke up after hearing the voice of one child calling her to the chapel, where she heard the Virgin Mary say to her, "God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world."[6]

On 27 November 1830 Catherine reported that the Blessed Mother returned during evening meditations. She displayed herself inside an oval frame, standing upon a globe. She wore many rings set with gems[7] that shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous ("O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee"). As Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword. Asked why some of the gems did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Sister Catherine then heard the Virgin Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions, and saying "All who wear them will receive great graces."[8]

Sister Catherine did so, and after two years of investigation and observation of Catherine's ordinary daily behavior, the priest took the information to his archbishop without revealing Catherine's identity. The request was approved and medallions were designed and produced through goldsmith Adrien Vachette.[9][10]

The chapel in which Saint Catherine experienced her visions is located at the mother house of the Daughters of Charity in Rue du Bac, Paris.[11] The incorrupt bodies of Saint Catherine Labouré and Saint Louise de Marillac, a co-founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, are interred in the chapel, which continues to receive daily visits from Catholic pilgrims today.

Pope John Paul II used a slight variation of the reverse image as his coat of arms, the Marian Cross, a plain cross with an M underneath the right-hand bar (which signified the Blessed Virgin at the foot of the Cross when Jesus was being crucified).

Properties of the medal

The Front Side

• Mary stands on a globe, crushing a serpent beneath her feet. Describing the original vision, Catherine said the Blessed Mother appeared radiant as a sunrise, "in all her perfect beauty."

• Rays shoot out from Mary's hands, which she told Catherine, "... symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them."

• Words from the vision form an oval frame around Mary: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

Seen as a matrix, the elements of the front design encapsulate major Marian tenets:

Quality of Our Lady As Illustrated by the Medal

• Mother — Her open arms, the "recourse" we have in her.

• Immaculate — The words, "conceived without sin."

• Assumed into Heaven — She stands on the globe.

• Mediatrix — Rays from her hands symbolizing "graces."

• Our Protection — Crushes the serpent (Gn 3:15).

The Reverse Side

• A cross-and-bar surmounts a large, bold "M."

• 12 stars disperse around the perimeter.

• Two hearts are depicted underneath the "M," the left lapped with a crown of thorns, the right skewed by a sword. From each, a flame emanates from the top. Again, employing a grid analysis, we can see how the reverse-side design contains great symbolism reflecting major tenets of the Catholic faith.

Design Element and its Catholic Meaning

• The large letter "M" — Mary as Mother, Mediatrix.

• Cross and bar — Jesus' Cross of Redemption.

• 12 stars — 12 Apostles, who formed the first Church.

• Left Heart — The Sacred Heart, who died for our sins.

• Right Heart — The Immaculate Heart, who intercedes for us.

• Flames — The burning love Jesus and Mary have for us.

See also


  1. Dirvin, Fr. Joseph. "Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal". EWTN. Archbishop de Quelen [decided] to institute a canonical inquiry. He appointed Monseigneur Quentin, Vicar General of Paris, to conduct it. The sessions were opened on 1836 ... The findings of the Canonical Inquiry of Paris completely vindicated Catherine. The court extolled her character and virtue, and placed wholehearted credence in her visions. Two important conclusions were reached: that the Medal was of supernatural origin, and that the wonders worked through it were genuine.
  2. Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 0-87973-910-X p. 356
  3. Mark Miravalle, 1993, Introduction to Mary ISBN 978-1-882972-06-7, pp. 190-191
  4. "CCC, 1674". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  5. "CCC, 1670". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  6. Dirvin, C.M., Joseph I. (1958). Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal. Tan Books & Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-89555-242-6.
  7. " I saw rings on her fingers, three rings to each finger, the largest one near the base of the finger, one of medium size in the middle, the smallest one at the tip. Each ring was set with gems, some more beautiful than others..." Catherine Labouré, quoted in John Delaney, A Woman Clothed With The Sun, Doubleday, 1960, p. 77.
  8. Glass, Joseph. "Miraculous Medal." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 20 Dec. 2012
  9. McMenamin, M. 2010. Precisely dated early versions of the Miraculous Medal. Numismatics International Bulletin, v. 45, nos. 3/4, p. 43-48.
  10. Mack, John (2003). The museum of the mind: art and memory in world cultures. British Museum.
  11. Mauriello, Rev. Matthew R. (1996). "The Miraculous Medal". Fairfield County Catholic. Retrieved 21 December 2012.


  • Alma Power-Waters, 2000, St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal, Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-0-89870-765-6
  • Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal, by Joseph I Dirvin, CM, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1958/84. ISBN 0-89555-242-6
  • Association of the Miraculous Medal
  • Rene Laurentin, Catherine Laboure: Visionary of the Miraculous Medal, Pauline books and Media, Boston, 2006, ISBN 0-8198-1578-0.

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