More than thirty are said to have been created by Luke the Evangelist, others were presented to humans by angels or the Virgin Mary herself; many were found when simple people or even cattle, guided by divine forces, uncovered statues hidden in the earth, in springs, or in trees. More research must be done to establish how the process of giving a dark statue the official title of "Black Madonna" worked over the centuries, but it seems to be a grass roots kind of movement.
Why did this block occur?
I think, just as in the Catholic Church the faithful usually acclaim a holy person as a saint long before the Church gives its official stamp of approval, so also certain, usually miraculous, dark Madonnas are hailed as Black, first by the simple people and then by the entire church. Once a community has been given the divine privilege of a Black Madonna, they don't usually let go of her.
If she is destroyed, they replace her, giving the new statue the same name and title and attributing to her the same miraculous powers. Even if she is whitened in a misguided effort to restore her to a former state of beauty, the people often continue to call her Black. The only way for a community to come by a Black Madonna when Heaven has not bestowed that gift, is to make a so called "copy" of one of the famous Dark Mothers. Often these works are variations on a theme rather than copies. They seem to be labeled as copies because they need the original to grant spiritual power and a justification for creating a Black Madonna.
Sometimes they are even sent to spend some time with the original statue, in order to be imbued with its spiritual power.
Other copies, like the Black Madonna of Riegelsberg , are touched three times to the original, clothed in her mantle and regalia, and have relics assosiated with the original inserted into them. The big question is, why do the people want a Black Mother figure?
Madonna & Child / Mary & Jesus
Before answering it, let's look at some of the characteristics of Black Madonnas. French scholars tend to define only one type of dark Madonna as "authentically black": the first Black Virgins as the French call them in Western Europe, who were conceived as pitch black from the beginning. According to Jacques Huynen they share thirteen characteristics. As far as we know no French Black Madonnas were sculpted until the 's and none were mentioned in literature until the 's.
That is to say, Mary sits on a throne with a low back; she holds a toddler Jesus on her knees; both look straight ahead - no demurely down cast eyes. In the language of medieval symbolism this means that Mary is the throne of Jesus, the Seat of Wisdom.
From her lap spring wisdom and power. She is represented as the Christian embodiment of Lady Wisdom, a personage described in the Hebrew Bible the Old Testament as the first companion or the feminine face of God, through whom he draws people to himself.
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Here are some excerpts from the Book of Wisdom, chapters For in her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique " all-powerful, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits. For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things. And passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets.
Indeed she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well. Seat of Wisdom was also one of the titles of the Egyptian goddess Isis, like Mary, often portrayed with her son Horus on her lap. One of her most interesting titles, reminiscent of her identification with Lady Wisdom, the feminine face of God, is Adonai, which is Hebrew for Lord God. They portray a heavenly majesty far beyond our human realm of suffering.
I disagree. These colors were important in alchemy, an ancient discipline practiced in all the great civilizations. It sought transforming knowledge. The goal was to transform lead into gold, disease into perfect health, ignorance into wisdom, and humans into God. Remember that the Catechism of the Catholic Church still lists the "divinization of man as Jesus' goal". See, subject index and paragraph The Blackening, or the Black Sun nigredo, sol niger. This is where all the impurities of the primal matter the ordinary human are burned and it turns black.
This blackness stands for the death and rotting of the old false self. On Black Madonnas it is represented not only by her black skin, but also by the dark blue of her robes - dark blue as the night sky. The Whitening albedo is the phase where the soul becomes spiritualized and enlightened. The Reddening rubedo is the color of the "secret fire" that unites human and divine, the limited with the unlimited.
Having passed through these three stages, lead would turn into gold and a human into God. Mother Mary, as the prime human soul to have undergone this transformation, is adorned with golden fringes and jewelry. Hence a Black Madonna dressed in dark blue, red, and white, and decorated with gold, portrays the whole process of spiritual evolution. This proportion echoes sacred numerology that goes back to pre-Christian times.
In the Christian context it speaks of the union of God the 3 persons of the trinity and his creation made in 7 days. No other Christian statues shared such a rule concerning their dimensions.
Romanesque depictions of Christ and other saints came in all different sizes. Hence the Queen of Heaven with her ratio may embody the divine and its creation. A prime example is Our Lady of Oropa. Tradition recounts that St. Eusebius martyred in A. He brought her to Italy and installed her in a cave that was a pre-Christian holy site, in order to end the local, pagan practices. The woods around it were consecrated to Apollo and the large rocks to various goddesses. Apparently Our Lady became quite attached to this sacred place.
When a group of monks tried to move her to a new location, more than a thousand years later, she refused to go. She allowed them to move her half a mile and then the three foot tall wooden statue became so heavy that no one could budge her until they decided to return her to her cave. It is believed that Luke the Evangelist carved this statue.
Madonna & Child
She has worked so many miracles and became so important to the Italians that four Popes crowned her. Hence the 3 crowns and the halo with diamond studded stars. Many are said to have been sculpted or painted by Luke or else been brought to Western Europe by a crusader, preferably of royal descent.
Most of these claims seem to have been invented as a way to legitimize and protect the images from the recurring attempts to enforce the commandment: "Thou shall not make any image or any likeness of anything The feeling was that if these statues and icons came from the cradle of Christianity and if some had a direct link to the disciples of Jesus even if they called to mind Pagan images , then surely God must have revoked his Old Testament prohibition against images. Our Lady of Czestochowa , Poland, said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist. Many were famous stopping points on the way to Santiago de Compostella or else they constituted alternative destinations for those who could not make it as far as Spain.
All three of these orders were strongly influenced by St. Bernard , the man who was instrumental in establishing a widespread and fervent popular cult of Mary. He had a very special relationship to his own Black Madonna. Where these have been destroyed related clues hide in the legends describing how they came to France. Once the soul was purified to where it could see God, this supreme enlightenment would make it able to grasp all kinds of knowledge and handle it in a responsible way.
Medieval consciousness did not separate mystical, scientific, philosophical, and artistic knowledge. It all came from God and was to lead back to him.
BLACK MADONNAS: The Virgin Mary and her alter ego, The Black Madonna
There are less than 50 of these early Black Madonnas. American scholars don't have clear criteria for what constitues a Black Madonna. They simply acknowledge all who are claimed as such, at least world wide, still counting. I think there are many more. He lists in Spain alone.
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