Madonna is a medieval Italian term for a noble or otherwise important woman, and has long been used commonly in reference to images of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The word has also been adopted by the English and other European languages. "Madonna", translates as "My Lady". While stressing the personal, if reverent relationship between the Virgin and the devout Christian who addresses her in prayer, it is comparable to the French, "Notre Dame", or "Our Lady". These names signal both the increased importance of the Cult of the Virgin and the prominence of art in service to Marian devotion during the late medieval period. During the thirteenth century, especially, with the increasing influence of chivalry and aristocratic culture on poetry, song and the visual arts, the Madonna is represented as the Queen of Heaven, often enthroned. Strictly speaking, the term "Madonna" should be used exclusively for Italian works of sacred art, but this is often not followed. Images where she is depicted with the Christ Child, her infant son, are technically of the Madonna and child, but are often loosely referred to as just a "Madonna".
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