Da Vinci’s original commission for Madonna of the Rocks had come from an organization known as the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, which needed a painting for the centerpiece of an altar triptych in their church of San Francesco in Milan.
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Roman Catholics celebrate The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th each year.
When Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception a century ago, the Age of Enlightenment had proclaimed sin to be a word with which to frighten children, scientific progress was god, and man was widely regarded as merely a higher animal. The Marian dogma challenged this non credo of the age—an assertion that man is sinful but touched by God, that the greatest mysteries are beyond science, that the supernatural and the spiritual are real.
Time, 1953 -- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,806801-2,00.html(retrieved 11/06/09)