More About Italian and Sicilian Black Madonnas

In 2005, I posted an article on this website briefly discussing the Black Madonnas of Italy and Sicily.

As of this date in 2007, I have not stumbled across any direct historical link between the black image of Diana and any of the Black Madonnas which I have listed.

I have found out some interesting things about two of the Black Madonnas on the list.

Oropa Biella
In sanctuary, Black Virgin la Madonna di Oropa carved in resinous wood (cedar) faces and hands colored Black, attributed to St. Luke, statue ancient, but shows no signs of age, maybe 13th century, traditionally brought from Holy Land by St. Eusebius of Vercelli circa 345.
La Madonna di Oropa, or Our Lady of Oropa, is a very black image. This image is credited with many miracles.

This standing Madonna with child is carved of cedar. She is dressed in a traditional blue mantle. Her underdress is gold. She is adorned in a three tiered tripel crown, which is encircled around by 12 stars. Her son resembles her and is dressed in a whitish garment. It is said that dust does not stick to the image of Madonna di Oropa.

According to tradition, St. Eusebius of Vercelli brought this three foot tall statue from the Holy Land, circa 345. Guided by divine inspiration, he transported the image to Italy, whereupon he installed the Madonna in a cave. This cave was part of a pre-Christian holy site. The woods were sacred to Apollo, and some large rocks were consecrated to various Goddesses.

It seems to be a pattern that Black Madonnas are often enshrined in sites that were allegedly once sites sacred to Pagan deities.

There is another tradition that some Christian monks attempted to remove the statue to a new location in about the 13th century. However, the Madonna di Oropa didn't want to leave. Supposedly about a half mile from the cave, the image became too heavy and none of the brothers could move it any further.

However, when they decided it would be better to return the three foot statue to the cave, the monks were able to easily transport it back.

The Madonna di Oropa is especially invoked for deliverance from plague. The numerous miracles credited to her caused four different Popes to crown her. Hence, this Madonna has the three tiered crowns plus a halo of diamond studded stars.

In Sactuario Maria Santissima del Tindari, La Madonna Nera, attributed to St. Luke, Black Virgin washed ashore in casket, wooden statue. This statue is one of the more famous Black Madonna images.
La Madonna del Tindari, or Our Lady of Tindari, is one of the famous Black Madonna images. However, her skin is dark brown rather than coal black.

She is a seated Madonna, representing the "Seat of Wisdom" or "Majesty." Her throne, shoes, and cape are red. Her underdress is dark brown. The statue is adorned with gelt trim. She is crowned by a cylinder hat. Her son, who resembles her, is wearing red.

This Madonna is seated upon a throne with a low back. She holds a toddler upon her knees. As such, this Madonna is Theotokos, the Seat of Wisdom, the Throne of God. From her lap, spring power and wisdom.

Below is a prayer to Our Lady of Tindari.

Holy Mary of Tindari
Gift of the Father
You gave light of day
to Our Lord Jesus Christ
by the work of the Spirit.
In your heart as Mother
we trustfully put
our joys and pains, our concerns and promises
all ourselves and our families

Santa Maria del Tindari
Tu dono del Padre
per opera dello Spirito,
hai dato alla luce
il nostro Signore Gesł Cristo
Nel tuo cuore di Madre
poniamo fiduciosi
gioie, pene, voti,
noi stessi e la nostra famiglia.

There is an interesting story told about the Madonna del Tindari, which relates to this Sicilian Madonna being called "the Ethiopian." The sanctuary of this Black Madonna attracts many pilgrims yearly and is credited with many healings. Once a woman prayed to Madonna del Tindari, requesting her daughter be healed. When her child was restored to health, this mother made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary in order to thank the Madonna for her petition being granted. Apparently this woman was unaware that Our Lady of Tindari was a Madonna Bruna or Black Madonna.

When this woman spied the swarthy skinned Madonna, she snorted in contempt that this statue was an "Ethiopian."

In Italy, fair or white skin with a blush of red cheeks is a sign of health and great beauty. Several Italian folktalkes involve beauties who are described as "being white and red." On the other hand, dark or swarthy skinned characters are described as being ugly.

Nevertheless, any practitioner of Italian folk magic will state that it is very bad luck to insult some power that has assisted you.

Shortly thereafter, the woman's child fell off a cliff. The woman sorrowfully repented of her irreverence to the Madonna, whereupon the daughter was saved by a divine intervention. The woman was most grateful to the Madonna whose images are both dark and light.

This story continues to be recounted as a cautionary tale against racism.

Interestingly, the title, "Seat of Wisdom," is also one of the titles of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, who was sometimes known as "Black Isis." (Numerous art historians and comparative religion scholars have noticed the similarity between images of seated Isis nursing the infant Horus and the seated Madonnas holding the Christ child. Comparative religion scholars have likewise noted that the Madonna has acquired a number of titles once belonging to sundry Goddesses.)

--Myth Woodling, 2007

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