Stamp Errors, Part 5 – Madonna in Reverse

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For Pope John Paul II’s visit to Austria in 1983, a postcard with a printed 3 schillings stamp, the ‘Bischofsmütze’, was produced as part of the ‘Get to know Austria’ postcard series. The card depicts the wooden image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, which is in the Mariazell Basilica, in Mariazell, Austria.

It is the most important pilgrimage destination in Austria and one of the most visited shrines in Europe.

Postcard, Austria 1983

Next to the image is a portrait of Pope John Paul II. The Austrian state printing house made a mistake in portraying the image of the Madonna – all 160,000 postcards show the Madonna mirror-inverted, holding the baby Jesus in her left arm – the original statue has the baby held in the Virgin Mary’s right arm. The special stamp, issued in Mariazell on September 13, 1983 on the occasion of the Pope’s visit, shows the image correctly. The card with the special stamp perfectly documents the error – on the card you have ‘The Madonna in the Mirror’ and on the special stamp the Madonna is correctly represented.

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