On June 24th, 1905, Thomas B. Hayward was enjoying the sights of the Narrows of St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada when he pointed his camera at an unusual iceberg and snapped a photo. After getting the photo developed, it was clear there was something very unique about it: it appeared to contain the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
It’s not clear if the figure was a giant statue, an apparition, or just a lucky ice formation. But he wasn’t the only person who spotted the mysterious figure: crowds along the shore saw it, and Archbishop Michael Francis Howley even caught a glimpse of it from the steps of his cathedral in St. John’s.
The figure appeared on a particularly meaningful day: June 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the saint for whom St. John’s is named and to whose patronage the archdiocese is dedicated. It was also the anniversary of English explorer John Cabot “discovering” North America by landing near St. John’s.
The Archbishop took all of this as a miraculous sign from heaven and did everything he could to promote it. He approved the sale of postcards and other memorabilia with the image and he wrote an article for Boston’s diocesan newspaper naming the figure “the Crystal Lady.”
He even wrote a sonnet about the figure!
Our Lady of the Fjords, by Archbishop Michael Francis Howley
Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen fjords
Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen
O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene
Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords
Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes
Of spotless glistning bergs thou reignest Queen
In all the glory of thy opal sheen
A Shimmering Shrine; Our bright Atlantic Lourdes.
We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim,
Thou standest guardian o er our Island home.
To-day, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.
First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:
To-day we clothe with Pallium from Rome.
The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!
Since it was taken in 1905, the photo may be the oldest photograph of a supernatural Christian apparition.