22 Powerful Images Of Holy Women Breastfeeding

With no cover-up in sight.
08/02/2017 06:04pm ET

Given how much trouble some women experience when they breastfeed in public, it’s important to remember that lactating mothers have been honored and even deified throughout human history.

A number of religious traditions have artwork that depicts goddesses or holy figures nursing children.

For example, during the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance in Europe, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was at times portrayed as breastfeeding her child. In Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna Litta,the mother is seen gazing adoringly at Jesus, who is almost a toddler. He grasps her breast in his right hand ― with no cover-up in sight.

PHAS via Getty Images
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Italian polymath. High Renaissance. Florentine School. Madonna and the Child (The Litta Madonna), middle of the 1490s. Tempera on canvas transferred from panel. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Pope Francis himself is a supporter of breastfeeding moms. While baptizing children in the Sistine Chapel, the pope repeated his support for women who need to breastfeed in public ― and encouraged moms present at the service to breastfeed right then and there.

“The ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry. That’s the way it is,” the pope said during the service in January, according to Agence France-Presse.

“You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus,” he added.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, HuffPost has collected 22 images of goddesses or religious figures breastfeeding. This religious art is a reminder that the image of a woman nursing is not something that should be sexualized or censored. Instead, it’s a powerful reminder of the ability of mothers to nourish their children.

Werner Forman via Getty Images
Unas is suckled by an unknown goddess. A detail of a relief from the temple of King Unas at Saqqara, Egypt. 5th dynasty c 2494 - 2345 B.C.
Werner Forman via Getty Images
Seated on a throne, Isis suckles the infant Horus. Egypt, 18th dynasty, circa 1400 B.C.A fine example of sculpture in Egyptian blue, a material closely allied to glass.
De Agostini / W. Buss via Getty Images
Gilded wood statuette of Isis breastfeeding infant Horus. From the Treasure of Tutankhamun. New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty.
Universal History Archive via Getty Images
Blue Faience Statuettes of the God Ra, the Goddess Isis and the Goddess Taweret 1260 B.C.
DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI via Getty Images
Statue of a breast-feeding goddess from the Temple of Megara Hyblaea, Sicily, Italy, circa 550 B.C.
De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images
Relief, Temple of Hathor, 88-51 B.C., Dendera, Egypt. Ptolemaic Period, 1st century B.C.The Roman emperor Trajan depicted as pharaoh offers flowers, a symbol of beauty, and a sistrum, a symbol of music, to the goddess Hathor breastfeeding a young Ihi.
UniversalImagesGroup via Getty Images
Relief depicting Tellus nursing Romulus and Remus, Dated 13 B.C., Champ de Mars, Rome.
Print Collector via Getty Images
Ceramic figurine of a Mother Goddess, sitting in a chair and nursing a baby, Romano-British, 2nd century.This piece is mould-made from pipeclay and was found in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England.
Heritage Images via Getty Images
Sculpture of four mother-goddesses, Roman, 200 A.D. - 299 A.D. Two hold fruit, one has a dog in her lap, and a fourth nurses a baby.
DEA / ARCHIVIO J. LANGE via Getty Images
Nursing Madonna, fresco, apse of the underground Church of Sotterra, Gaudimare, Paola, Calabria. Italy, 8th century.
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI via Getty Images
Madonna breastfeeding, 13th century, fresco by an unknown artist of the Verona School
Heritage Images via Getty Images
Maria lactans on a Crescent Moon, by Master of the Magdalen Legend, (Workshop). circa 1485.
DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI via Getty Images
Virgin suckling the Child, by Hans Memling (ca 1430-1494).
PHAS via Getty Images
Madonna and the Child (The Litta Madonna), middle of the 1490s, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Tempera on canvas transferred from panel.
sedmak via Getty Images
The Nursing Madonna in Duomo by Defendente Ferrari (1511 - 1535). Turin, Italy.
The Virgin Nursing the Child, tempera and oil on panel, by Bernardino Luini, 1520-1529.
PHAS via Getty Images
Holy Family with Saint Anne, by El Greco (1541-1614).
De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images
Venus nursing Love, painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as il Guercino (1591-1666).
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Virgo Lactans (Virgin Breast Feeding), by Unknown Lombard Artist, second half of the 16th Century, oil on board.Mary and baby Jesus tenderly look at each other, while the baby is drinking his milk. Our Lady wears simple clothes of the time and plays with one little foot of her baby.
Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Mary breastfeeding the baby Jesus. Engraving based on the 1614 painting 'Maria Lactans' by Peter Paul Rubens.
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Hercules breastfed by his mother Alcmene, while Athena stands attending, Gaddi Pepoli Palace, 18th century.
DEA / C. SAPPA via Getty Images
Nursing Madonna, fresco, Church of Narga Selassie, 18th century, Lake Tana, Amhara Region, Ethiopia.
13 Women Mystics Who Helped Shape Christianity