Black Madonna

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La Vierge Noire d'Outremeuse Procession
La Vierge noire de Guingamp
Madonna at House of the Black Madonna, Prague
The icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, Vilna

A Black Madonna or Black Virgin is a statue or painting of Mary in which she is depicted with dark skin, especially those created in Europe in the medieval period or earlier. The Black Madonnas are generally found in Catholic countries. The term refers to a type of Marian statue or painting of mainly medieval origin (12th to 15th centuries), with dark or black features whose exact origins are not always easy to determine.[1] The statues are mostly wooden but occasionally stone, often painted and up to 75 cm (30 in) tall. They fall into two main groups: free-standing upright figures or seated figures on a throne. The pictures are usually icons which are Byzantine in style, often made in 13th- or 14th-century Italy. There are about 450–500 Black Madonnas in Europe, depending on how they are classified. There are at least 180 Vierges Noires in France, and there are hundreds of non-medieval copies as well. Some are in museums, but most are in churches or shrines and are venerated by devotees. A few are associated with miracles and attract substantial numbers of pilgrims.

Studies and Research[edit]

Important early studies of dark images in France were done by Marie Durand-Lefebvre (1937), Emile Saillens (1945), and Jacques Huynen (1972). The first notable study of the origin and meaning of the so-called Black Madonnas in English appears to have been presented by Leonard Moss at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on December 28, 1952. Moss broke the images into three categories: 1) dark brown or black Madonnas with physiognomy and skin pigmentation matching that of the indigenous population; 2) various art forms that have turned black as a result of certain physical factors such as deterioration of lead-based pigments, accumulated smoke from the use of votive candles, and accumulation of grime over the ages, and 3) residual category with no ready explanation.[1]



Other Black Madonnas[edit]


Our Lady of Guidance, Manila


The Philippines[edit]



Marija Bistrica


Czech Republic[edit]


Vierge noire de Graville (Le Havre).




Tindari Madonna Bruna: restoration work in the 1990s found a medieval statue with later additions. Nigra sum sed formosa, meaning "I am black but beautiful" (from the Song of Songs, 1:5), is inscribed round a newer base.














One of three of Turkey's surviving icons of the Theotokos on the island of Heybeliada at the Theological School of Halki


Three icons portraying the Theotokos with black skin survived in Turkey to the present-day, one of which is housed in the church of Halki theological seminary.

United Kingdom[edit]

The Americas[edit]

Nossa Senhora Aparecida



Costa Rica[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

The Madonna as reflecting ancient cults[edit]

According to Stephen Benko, "the Black Madonna is the ancient earth-goddess converted to Christianity." His argument begins by noting that many goddesses were pictured as black, among them Artemis of Ephesus, Isis, Ceres, and others. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agricultural fertility, is particularly important. Her Greek equivalent is Demeter, Earth Mother. The best fertile soil is black in color and the blacker it is, the more suited it is for agriculture.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Duricy, Michael P., "Black Madonnas", Marian Library, Univ of Dayton
  2. ^ "Fourviere", the Marist Places
  3. ^ Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Norman Davies
  4. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Our Lady of Africa", Algiers
  5. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Notre-Dame de la Délivrance", Popenguine, Senegal
  6. ^ Rozett, Ella., "The Black Madonna", Soweto, South Africa
  7. ^ Baybay, Felicito S., "Patron Ng Kapayapaan At Mga Manlalakbay"
  8. ^ "The Fiesta Celebration of the Virgen de la Regla"
  9. ^ Darang, Josephine. "Special Mass for Our Lady of Piat held July 9 at Sto. Domingo Church", Philippine Daily Enquirer, June 26, 2011
  10. ^ "Our Lady of Regla", The Marian Library, Univerity of Dayton
  11. ^ Brno - The Black Madonna
  12. ^ "Church of Our Lady Below the Chain in Prague",
  13. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Graces", Aix-en-Provence
  14. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Neiges", Aurillac
  15. ^ "Notre Dame de Clermont". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  16. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Notre-Dame de la Délivrande", Douvres-la-Délivrande
  17. ^ Channell, J., "Notre Dame de La Chapelle Geneste", Haute-Loire
  18. ^ "Notre Dame du Puy, Cathedrale...: Photo by Photographer Dennis Aubrey". 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  19. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame-de-Confession"
  20. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Miracles", Mauriac
  21. ^ Rozett, Ella. "The Black Virgin of Meymac
  22. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame du Marthuret", Riom
  23. ^ "Rocamadour", Vallee de la Dordogne
  24. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame du Château", Tarascon
  25. ^ "Vierge des Croisades". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  26. ^ Dhalai, Richard, "La Divina Pastora", Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, March 19, 2007


External links[edit]