Why Did the Madonna Statue Glow? Belgium’s Miracle That Isn’t

This could have been a prank. Or a hoax. Whatever it was, Belgium’s glowing Virgin Mary statue, which began setting Catholic passions ablaze in January, isn’t a miracle.

Police had to control crowds in the village of Jalhay, near Liege who were eager to touch the figure. The statue reportedly began to glow in the kitchen of an elderly couple’s home.

Over 500 people visited the house in one day, eager to pay homage to it.

Then scientists took a look and found that the statue had been painted with luminescent paint.

“This chemical has a luminous effect and is the reason for the strange light. It’s no miracle,” Dr. Rudi Cloots, who led the university team said.

Cloots could not explain why it took 15 years before the glow appeared. The paint was applied to the figure at an unknown date.

So the couple could have done it, or someone with access to their home might have. Another possibility is that the statue was only recently exposed to more light than had reached it before — and the phosphorescent paint I’m familiar with only begins to glow after it’s been charged by another light source.

Despite the somewhat pedestrian nature of the glow,

Four visitors to the statue claimed that they had been cured of physical disabilities after being in the presence of the Madonna.

Local Catholic authorities, while acknowledging the absence of anything miraculous in this case, still think there’s something special about the statue; the glowing Madonna will be moved to a church, so true believers can continue their pilgrimages to the plaster lady.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.