Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People) is a Roman Catholic title associated with the venerated image of the Virgin Mary in Rome. This Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Christ Child holding a Gospel book is kept in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The image arrived in Rome in the year 590 AD during the reign of Pope Gregory I. Pope Gregory XVI granted the image a Canonical Coronation on 15 August 1838 through the Papal bull Cælestis Regina. Pope Pius XII crowned the image again and ordered a public religious procession during the Marian year of 1954. The image was cleaned and restored by the Vatican Museum in 2018.
The phrase Salus Populi Romani goes back to the legal system and pagan rituals of the ancient Roman Republic. After the legalisation of Christianity by Emperor Constantine the Great through the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, the phrase was sanctioned as a Marian title for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The image is one of the "Luke images" believed to have been painted from real life by Saint Luke himself. According to the legend:
After the Crucifixion, when Our Lady moved to the home of John the Apostle, she took with her a few personal belongings – among which was a table built by the Redeemer in the workshop of Saint Joseph. When pious virgins of Jerusalem prevailed upon St. Luke to paint a portrait of the Mother of God, it was on part of this table top that he memorialized her image. While applying his brush and paints, St. Luke listened carefully as the Mother of Jesus spoke of the life of her son, facts which the Evangelist later recorded in his Gospel. Legend also tells us that the painting remained in and around Jerusalem until it was discovered by Saint Helena in the 4th century. Together with other sacred relics, the painting was transported to Constantinople where her son, Emperor Constantine the Great, erected a church for its enthronement.