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, Vilnius

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 due to age, soot, incense smoke and paint coating of an image.[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]


  • On 23 July 1816 twelve Marist aspirants, priests and seminarians, climbed the hill to the shrine of Our Lady of Fourviere in Lyon, France and placed their promise to found the Society of Mary (Marists) under the corporal on the altar while Jean-Claude Courveille celebrated Mass.[2]

Other Black Madonnas[edit]


  • Algeria, Algiers: "Our Lady of Africa"[3]
  • Senegal, Popenguine: "Notre-Dame de la Délivrance",[4]
  • South Africa, Soweto: "The Black Madonna",[5]
Our Lady of Guidance, Manila


The Philippines[edit]



  • Brugge, "Our Lady of Regla"[9]
  • Brussels : "De Zwerte Lieve Vrouwo", St. Catherine Church
  • Halle (Flemish Brabant) : Sint-Martinusbasiliek
  • Liège: La Vierge Noire d'Outremeuse,
  • Lier: Onze lieve vrouw ter Gratien
  • Scherpenheuvel-Zichem: Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel
  • Tournai: Our Lady of Flanders in Tournai Cathedral
  • Verviers: "Black Virgin of the Recollects", Notre-Dame des Récollets Church,
  • Walcourt: (Notre-Dames de Walcourt)
Marija Bistrica


  • Marija Bistrica: Our Lady of Bistrica, Queen of Croatia

Czech Republic[edit]


  • Aix-en-Provence, (Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame des Graces, Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d'Aix[12]
  • Arconsat: (Notre-Dame des Champs)
  • Aurillac, (Cantal): Notre-Dame des Neiges[13]
  • Beaune: Our Lady of Beaune
  • Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise,(Puy-de-Dôme): Saint-André Church, Notre-Dame de Vassivière
  • Bourg-en-Bresse,(Ain): 13th century
  • Chartres,(Eure-et-Loir): crypt of the Cathedral of Chartres, Notre-Dame-de-Sous-Terre
  • Clermont-Ferrand, (Puy-de-Dôme) [14]
  • Cusset: the Black Virgin of Cusset
  • Dijon, (Côte-d'Or)
  • Douvres-la-Délivrande, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Délivrande, "Notre-Dame de la Délivrande"[15]
  • Dunkerque, (Nord) : Chapelle des Dunes
  • Guingamp, (Côtes-d'Armor): Basilica of Notre Dame de Bon Secours.
  • La Chapelle-Geneste, (Haute-Loire: Notre Dame de La Chapelle Geneste[16]
  • Laon,(Aisne): Notre-Dame Cathedral, statue of 1848
Vierge noire de Graville (Le Havre).
  • Le Havre,(Seine-Maritime): statue near the Graville Abbey (Abbaye de Graville)
  • Le Puy-en-Velay: In 1254 when passing through on his return from the Holy Land Saint Louis IX of France gave the cathedral an ebony image of the Blessed Virgin clothed in gold brocade (Notre-Dame du Puy). It was destroyed during the Revolution, but replaced at the Restoration with a copy that continues to be venerated.[17]
  • Liesse-Notre-Dame, (Aisne): Notre-Dame de Liesse, statue destroyed in 1793, copy of 1857
  • Marseille,(Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame-de-Confession,[18] Abbey of St. Victor ; Notre-Dame d'Huveaune, Saint-Giniez Church
  • Mauriac, Cantal: Notre Dame des Miracles[19]
  • Mende, (Lozère) : Cathedral (Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Privat de Mende)
  • Menton, (Alpes-Maritimes): St. Michel Church
  • Meymac Abbey, (Corrèze)[20]
  • Molompize: Notre-Dame de Vauclair
  • Mont-Saint-Michel: Notre-Dame du Mont-Tombe
  • Myans, (Savoie)
  • Quimper,(Finistère): Eglise de Guéodet, nommée encore Notre-Dame-de-la-Cité
  • Riom,(Puy-de-Dôme): Notre-Dame du Marthuret[21]
  • Rocamadour, (Lot): Our Lady of Rocamadour [22]
  • Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Camarque) Avignon: Annual Gypsy festival [23] Celebrating Sara, the patron saint of Gypsys [24]
  • Soissons (Aisne): statue of the 12th century
  • Tarascon, (Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame du Château[25]
  • Thuret,(Puy-de-Dôme)[26]
Black Madonna of Toulouse
  • Toulouse: The basilica Notre-Dame de la Daurade in Toulouse, France had housed the shrine of a Black Madonna. The original icon was stolen in the fifteenth century, and its first replacement was burned by Revolutionaries in 1799 on the Place du Capitole. The icon presented today is an 1807 copy of the fifteenth century Madonna. Blackened by the hosts of candles, the second Madonna was known from the sixteenth century as Our Lady La Noire.[27]
  • Tournemire, Château d'Anjony, Our Lady of Anjony
  • Vaison-la-Romaine, (Vaucluse): statue on a hill
  • Vichy, (Allier): Saint-Blaise Church




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.


  • Vitina-Letnica: Church of the Black Madonna, where Mother Teresa is believed to have heard her calling.




  • Kališta, Monastery: Madonna icon in the Nativity of Our Most Holy Mother of God church
  • Ohrid, Church: Madonna with the child


  • Ħamrun: a medieval painting of a Black Madonna rests in a small church, with the church being possibly the oldest one in the area, originally built in honor of St. Nicholas. Brought to Malta by a merchant in the year 1630, the painting is of a statue found in Atocha, a parish in Madrid, Spain, and is widely known as Il-Madonna tas-Samra. (This can mean 'tanned Madonna', 'brown Madonna', or 'Madonna of Samaria'). She may also be called Madonna ta' Atoċja, corresponding to the Spanish Nuestra Señora de Atocha. There were celebrations in 2005, the painting's 375th year in Malta.




Our Lady of Wladimir X11 century. Russia






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]



  • Andacollo,(Elqui Province): La Virgen Morena (Spanish for The Brunette Virgin)

Costa Rica[edit]

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

  • Siparia : La Divina Pastora[28]


The fourth section of James Rollins' sixth Sigma Force novel, The Doomsday Key (2009), is titled "The Dark Madonna"", and throughout the book the characters piece together Egyptian, pagan, and Christian myths, theology, and facts about a Black Madonna, dark princess, black saint, or dark-skinned sorceress to find the Doomsday Key and Saint Malachy's original and complete book of Doomsday Prophecies. In addition to the figures noted by Benko (above), the team discusses that of the Fomorians. They ultimately find the key in a canopic jar, in a casket bearing the inscription: "Here lies Meritaten, daughter of King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. She who crossed the seas and brought the sun god Ra to these cold lands".[29] Among the sources Rollins cites are Kingdom of the Ark by Lorraine Evans, How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, and The Quest for the Celtic Key by Karen Ralls-MacLeod and Ian Robertson.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Duricy, Michael P., "Black Madonnas", Marian Library, Univ of Dayton
  2. ^ "Fourviere", the Marist Places
  3. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Our Lady of Africa", Algiers
  4. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Notre-Dame de la Délivrance", Popenguine, Senegal
  5. ^ Rozett, Ella., "The Black Madonna", Soweto, South Africa
  6. ^ Baybay, Felicito S., "Patron Ng Kapayapaan At Mga Manlalakbay"
  7. ^ "The Fiesta Celebration of the Virgen de la Regla"
  8. ^ Darang, Josephine. "Special Mass for Our Lady of Piat held July 9 at Sto. Domingo Church", Philippine Daily Enquirer, June 26, 2011
  9. ^ "Our Lady of Regla", The Marian Library, University of Dayton
  10. ^ Brno - The Black Madonna
  11. ^ "Church of Our Lady Below the Chain in Prague",
  12. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Graces", Aix-en-Provence
  13. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Neiges", Aurillac
  14. ^ "Notre Dame de Clermont". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  15. ^ Rozett, Ella. "Notre-Dame de la Délivrande", Douvres-la-Délivrande
  16. ^ Channell, J., "Notre Dame de La Chapelle Geneste", Haute-Loire
  17. ^ "Notre Dame du Puy, Cathedrale...: Photo by Photographer Dennis Aubrey". 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  18. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame-de-Confession"
  19. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Miracles", Mauriac
  20. ^ Rozett, Ella. "The Black Virgin of Meymac
  21. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame du Marthuret", Riom
  22. ^ "Rocamadour", Vallee de la Dordogne
  23. ^ "Annual Gypsy Festival in the Camarque"
  24. ^
  25. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame du Château", Tarascon
  26. ^ "Vierge des Croisades". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  27. ^ Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Norman Davies
  28. ^ Dhalai, Richard, "La Divina Pastora", Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, March 19, 2007
  29. ^ Rollins, James (2009). The Doomsday Prophecy. p. Chapter 31. 
  30. ^ Rollins, James (2009). The Doomsday Prophecy. p. Fact or Fiction. 


External links[edit]