Black Madonna

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Black Madonna of Outremeuse, Liège, in a procession
Black Madonna of Guingamp
Madonna at House of the Black Madonna, Prague

The term Black Madonna or Black Virgin refers to statues or paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she, and often the infant Jesus, are depicted with black or dark skin. The Black Madonna can be generally found in Catholic and Orthodox countries.

The statues or paintings 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 400–500 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.

Black Madonnas come in different forms, and the speculations behind the reason for the dark skin of each individual piece vary greatly and are not without controversy. Though some Madonnas were originally black or brown when they were made, others have simply turned darker due to factors like aging or candle smoke.[1] Another cause for the dark-skinned depiction is due to pre-Christian deities being re-envisioned as the Madonna and child.[2]

Studies and research[edit]

Overall, the research into the Black Madonna phenomena is limited due to a wide consensus among scholars that the dark-skinned aspect was unintentional. Recently, however, interest in this subject has gathered more traction.

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 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.[3]

In the cathedral at Chartres, there were two Black Madonnas: Notre Dame de Pilar, a 1508 dark walnut copy of a 13th-century silver Madonna, standing atop a high pillar, surrounded by candles; and Notre Dame de Sous-Terre, a replica of an original destroyed during the French Revolution. Restoration work on the cathedral resulted in the painting of Notre Dame de Pilar, to reflect an earlier 19th century painted style, rendering the statue no longer a "Black Madonna".[4][5]

Some scholars chose to investigate the significance of the dark-skinned complexion to pilgrims and worshipers rather than focus on whether or not this depiction was intentional. This is an important subject because Black Madonnas house many of the most revered pilgrimage sites by virtue of their presence. Monique Scheer, one of these scholars, contributes the importance of the dark-skinned depiction to its connection with authenticity. The reason for this connection is the perceived age of the figures and the idea that these depictions are more accurate to historical Mary, since many of the works are eastern in origin and since Mary herself likely had dark skin.[6]

List of Black Madonnas[edit]


  • Algeria, Algiers: "Our Lady of Africa"[7]
  • Senegal, Popenguine: "Notre-Dame de la Délivrance"[8]
  • South Africa, Soweto: "The Black Madonna"[9]
Our Lady of Guidance, Manila



  • Tsuruoka city, Yamagata prefecture: Tsuruoka Tenshudô Catholic Church features a black Madonna statue given by France during Meiji period[10]

The Philippines[edit]



  • Brugge, "Our Lady of Regla"[14]
  • 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


Hidden church of the Black Madonna, Vamos, Crete


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

Czech Republic[edit]

  • Brno: Assumption of Virgin Mary Minor Basilica, St Thomas's Abbey, Brno[15]
  • Prague: The Madonna of Breznice; The Black Madonna in the Church Our Lady Under the Chain[16] The Black Madonna on the House of the Black Madonna.


  • Aix-en-Provence, (Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame des Graces, Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d'Aix[17]
  • Arconsat: (Notre-Dame des Champs)
  • Aurillac, (Cantal): Notre-Dame des Neiges[18]
  • Beaune: Our Lady of Beaune
  • Besançon: Our Lady de Gray
  • 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[19]
  • Clermont-Ferrand, (Puy-de-Dôme)[20]
  • Cusset: the Black Virgin of Cusset
  • Dijon, (Côte-d'Or)
  • Douvres-la-Délivrande, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Délivrande, "Notre-Dame de la Délivrande"[21]
  • 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[22]
  • Laon,(Aisne): Notre-Dame Cathedral, statue of 1848
Vierge noire de Graville (Le Havre)
The statue of the Black Virgin at Rocamadour
  • 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.[23]
  • Liesse-Notre-Dame, (Aisne): Notre-Dame de Liesse, statue destroyed in 1793, copy of 1857
  • Marseille,(Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame-de-Confession,[24] Abbey of St. Victor ; Notre-Dame d'Huveaune, Saint-Giniez Church
  • Mauriac, Cantal: Notre Dame des Miracles[25]
  • Mende, (Lozère) : Cathedral (Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Privat de Mende)
  • Menton, (Alpes-Maritimes): St. Michel Church
  • Meymac Abbey, (Corrèze)[26]
  • Molompize: Notre-Dame de Vauclair
  • Mont-Saint-Michel: Notre-Dame du Mont-Tombe
  • Myans, (Savoie)
  • Paris, (Neuilly-sur-Seine): Notre-Dame de Bonne Délivrance, in the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Thomas of Villanova[27]
  • Quimper,(Finistère): Eglise de Guéodet, nommée encore Notre-Dame-de-la-Cité
  • Riom,(Puy-de-Dôme): Notre-Dame du Marthuret[28]
  • Rocamadour, (Lot): Our Lady of Rocamadour [29]
  • Sainte Marie (Réunion) : Black Virgin River Rains [fr]
  • Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Camarque) Avignon: Annual Gypsy festival[30] celebrating Sara, the patron saint of Gypsies[31]
  • Soissons (Aisne): statue of the 12th century
  • Tarascon, (Bouches-du-Rhône): Notre-Dame du Château[32]
  • Thuret,(Puy-de-Dôme)[33]
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[34]
  • Tournemire, Château d'Anjony, Our Lady of Anjony
  • Vaison-la-Romaine, (Vaucluse): statue on a hill
  • Vichy, (Allier): Saint-Blaise Church



Mathias Church (some call St. Matthew’s, but he was never canonized)



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: Our Lady of Atoċja, a medieval painting brought to Malta by a merchant in the year 1630, depicting a statue found in Atocha, a parish in Madrid, Spain, and widely known as Il-Madonna tas-Samra. (This can mean 'tanned Madonna', 'brown Madonna', or 'Madonna of Samaria'.)


Icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, covered in a decorative silver shield, at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland




  • Ghighiu: Maica Domnului Siriaca – Manastirea Ghighiu
  • Cacica: Madona Neagra – Biserica Cacica
  • Bucuresti: Madona Neagra – Biserica Dichiu







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.


  • Tsarytsya Karpat (Hoshiv Monastery): The Queen of the Carpathian Land

United Kingdom[edit]

The Americas[edit]


Nossa Senhora Aparecida


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

Costa Rica[edit]


  • Regla, Havana Province: Nuestra Señora de Regla (Spanish for Our Lady of Regla)

Trinidad and Tobago[edit]

  • Siparia: La Divina Pastora[41]
  • Gran Couva: Our Lady of Montserrat[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Begg, Ean (2017). The Cult of the Black Virgin. Chiron Publications. ISBN 978-1630514419.
  2. ^ Moss, Leonard W.; Cappannari, Stephen C. (1953). "The Black Madonna: An Example of Culture Borrowing". The Scientific Monthly. 76 (6): 319–324. Bibcode:1953SciMo..76..319M. ISSN 0096-3771. JSTOR 20482.
  3. ^ "Black Madonnas: Origin, History, Controversy". udayton.edu.
  4. ^ Filler, Martin "A Scandalous Makeover at Chartres", The New York Review of Books, December 14, 2014
  5. ^ Ramm, Benjamin. "A Controversial Restoration That Wipes Away the Past", The New York Times, September 1, 2017
  6. ^ Scheer, Monique (2002). "From Majesty to Mystery: Change in the Meanings of Black Madonnas from the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries". The American Historical Review. 107 (5): 1412–1440. doi:10.1086/532852. JSTOR 10.1086/532852.
  7. ^ "Algiers". interfaithmary.net.
  8. ^ "Senegal". interfaithmary.net.
  9. ^ "Soweto". interfaithmary.net.
  10. ^ "Experiencetsuruoka.com". Archived from the original on 2017-09-03. Retrieved 2017-09-03.
  11. ^ Baybay, Felicito S., "Patron Ng Kapayapaan At Mga Manlalakbay" Archived 2014-08-08 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ KD. "Our Lady Of The Rule National Shrine – Quirks of Life". quirksoflife.com.
  13. ^ Darang, Josephine. "Special Mass for Our Lady of Piat held July 9 at Sto. Domingo Church", Philippine Daily Enquirer, June 26, 2011
  14. ^ "Your Question". udayton.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  15. ^ "Brno – The Black Madonna". brno.cz. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  16. ^ "Church of Our Lady Below the Chain in Prague", Prague.cz Archived November 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Channell, J., "Notre-Dame des Graces", Aix-en-Provence
  18. ^ "Black Virgin of Aurillac". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
  19. ^ The New York Times
  20. ^ "Notre Dame de Clermont". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  21. ^ "Douvres". interfaithmary.net.
  22. ^ "Notre Dame de La Chapelle Geneste". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  23. ^ "Notre Dame du Puy, Cathedrale...: Photo by Photographer Dennis Aubrey". photo.net. 2007-11-09. Archived from the original on 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  24. ^ "Black Virgin of Marseilles". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008.
  25. ^ "Black Virgin of Mauriac". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  26. ^ "Meymac". interfaithmary.net.
  27. ^ Mariancalendar.org
  28. ^ "Black Virgin of Riom". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  29. ^ "The Sanctuaries". visit-dordogne-valley.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2014-07-05. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  30. ^ Garth Cartwright (2011-03-26). "Partying with the Gypsies in the Camargue". the Guardian.
  31. ^ "Gypsy's Pilgrimage – Les Saintes Maries de la Mer – Camargue – France". avignon-et-provence.com.
  32. ^ "Notre Dame du Château". amigo.net. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  33. ^ "Vierge des Croisades". 2007-12-19. Archived from the original on 2007-12-19. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  34. ^ Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Norman Davies
  35. ^ Maria Farneti and Bruno Bartoletti, “Gubbio: The Italian Rennes-le-Chateau”, 'Hera', issue 43, September 2005
  36. ^ Gubbio e il mysterious del “NIGER REGIN”
  37. ^ “IL MONTE TEMPIO E LA PIRAMIDE DI GUBBIO” by Mario Farneti & Bruno Bartoletti
  38. ^ Woman arrested in Poland over posters of Virgin Mary with rainbow halo, Christian Davies, Guardian, 6 May 2019
  39. ^ Poland: Furor over 'rainbow madonna' LGBT activist arrest, Deutsche Welle, Monika Sieradzka, 10 May 2019
  40. ^ The American Episcopal Church sells T-shirts with the Holy Mother of God, Queer.pl, 19 June 2019
  41. ^ Dhalai, Richard, "La Divina Pastora", Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, March 19, 2007
  42. ^ Nationaltrust.tt


External links[edit]