The date of this article is January 2005 and you must have been living under a rock if you haven't at least heard of
Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code is a fast-paced, fictional conspiracy novel. The
plot revolves around a murder in the Louvre and several other mysteries and alternate history theories. It debuted as
#1 on the NY Times bestseller list and quickly hit the #1 position with every bestseller list in the U.S. A year after its
publication, this fictional book has sold more than 6 million hardback copies, published in more than 40 languages. .
Some see Brown's novel as a major challenge to orthodox Christian theology. One of the premises of the plot was that the
Christian church has been hiding something about the life of its savior for 2,000 years. Because of the popularity of the novel,
the sources he has drawn on have been the subject of public attention and the theories are being re-examined again by the public.
Two of Brown's source books are Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln and Richard Leigh's Holy Blood, Holy Grail and
Margaret Starbird's The Woman with the Alabaster Jar. Both books assert that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene
and that Mary Magdalene, after the crucifiction, settled in France. Margaret Starbird, in The Woman with the Alabaster
Jar, makes much of the Black Madonna statures in France. She links them to the veneration of St. Mary Magdalene as the
bride of Christ as well as the Cathar heresy in France and pre-Christian goddess worship.
Pre-eminent among her [the Madonna's] many shrines the Cathedral of Chartres, which was the site of an ancient cult to the
Black Madonna, centered around a statue known as "Our Lady Under the Earth," located in a grotto under the structure.
The veneration of St. Mary Magdalene historically has flourished alongside veneration of the Black Madonnas. The Egyptian
goddess Isis has also been linked with the Black Madonna cult as well as Mary Magdalene.
Pilgrims have sought Our Lady's shrine at Chartres since pre-Christian times. Today they continue to flock to the healing
waters of the "Well of the Strong" in the crypt where the original stature of the Madonna was enthroned. This Madonna's
statue was destroyed in the sixteenth century; however, legend holds that the shrine, sacred to the Mother Goddess so often
worshipped at a well or spring, was deemed holy by Druids long before Christians adopted it.
--Margaret Starbird, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar, p. 79
Black Madonnas are a type of Marian statues or paintings of primarily Medieval origin (12th - 15th century) of dark or black
features whose exact origins are not always easily determined. There are a number of Black Madonna statues scattered
around the Mediterannean. The Black Madonna cult flourished in Medieval Europe. As statues, they are carved either
from black wood, such as ebony, or wood that is painted black. Some images are carved in stone. Black Madonnas can
also be found in paintings, frescoes, and icons.
The Black Madonna cult centered around the allegedly miraculous character of these images. The image of the Black Madonna
was believed to be a very powerful miracle worker, especially in the areas of fertility and healing.
So--what has this got to do with the worship of Diana in Italy? Directly, not a whole lot. The statue of Diana of Ephesus in
Rome was said to be black. Diana did have a black or earth fertility aspect to her, as did Isis and Cybele, who were
also venerated in Pagan Rome. As of yet, I know of no scholar
who draws a link between Black Diana and the cult of the Black Madonnas. Nevertheless, there are several Black Madonnas
in Italy and Sicily.
In order to be on the cutting edge of scholarship, I will list the Black Madonnas in Italy and Sicily. Whatever links
these individual images have to pre-Christian worship might be revealed later.
St. Maria de Constantinopoli in Cathedral, attributed to St. Luke
Madonna de la Guardia, attributed to Luke, in the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
Black Virgin in Sanctuario di Bonaria
- Crotone Catanzaro
Madonna di Capocolonna, painting attributed to St. Luke, but probably 13th century, in Cathedral, copy in the
sanctuary of the Madonna di Capocolonna
In Benedictine Abbey, Madonna di Farfa, fragmentary 14th century copy of original painting attributed to
St. Luke, brought to Italy in 7th century by St. Thomas of Morienna, all that remains are four heads of the
Virgin, Child, and two angels
- Loreto Ancona
"Strange statue of a lady" discovered in a house near a laurel grove (Loreto) after 1294; house said to be
the Holy House of Mary transported from Nazareth by angels to Italy in 1294, statue accidentally destroyed by
fire and replaced in 1921 by a new standing figure, three feet high, carved from wood of a cedar grown in the
In Cathedral of St. Lorenzo/Pope John XXLLL, la Sipontina or the Madonna dagli Occhi Sbarrati (staring eyes),
wood, 11th century, almost life-sized, enthroned, both figures have brown faces. In upper church painting of
Madonna of Siponto, before 13th century, probably early Bizantine, painted on cedarwood.
- Casale Montferrato Alesandria
In Santuario di Crea, Nostra Signora di Crea, cedarwood, long olive brown face of oriental type and proportions,
attributed to St. Luke, one of three Black Virgins brought back to Italy by St. Eusebis from the Holy Land circa
In shrine, Black Virgin, I'Lincoronata dei Povere (of the poor) appeared in an oak tree 1001 in the forest of
Black Virgin in church of San Lazaro and St. Stefano
In church of St. Maria di Constantinopolli, Black Virgin la Madonna Bruna
- Montevergine Avellino
In Santuario di Montevergine, Madonna di Montevergine, di Constantinopolli, Madonna Bruna or
Mamma Schiavona (Slav), very large painting on pinewood, circa 1290
In Basilica-Santuario del Carmine Maggiore, La Madonna Bruna, 12th century, wood.
- 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. See More Black Madonnas
In Basilica del Santo (Anthony of Padua) in chapel of La Madonna Mora, La Madonna Mora (Moorish brunette),
1396, skin soft beige-brown. On high altar, bronze Madonna and Child by Donatello, 1445/50.
Black Virgin in church of San Francesco
In church of St. Maria, painting of Black Virgin in gold frame.
In Santa Maria Maggiore, Salus Popeulli Romani, painting attributed to St. Luke from 7th or 9th century, possibly
copy from 13th century. St. Maria Nova, miraculous Madonna said to be the oldest in Rome. St. Maria in Ara-Coeli,
on the Roman capitol, Black Virgin attributed to St. Luke, probably 10th century. St. Maria in Trastevere,
St. Maria in Cosmedin, painted image attributed to St. Luke. St. Maria del Popolo, painted image attributed to
St. Luke, 13th century. SS Domenicoesisto-attributed to St. Luke. St. Maria di Loreto, Madonna of Loreto on high
altar. Maria di Montserrato in church of same name.
In the Duomo, Black Virgin, Maria Santissima dei Poveri, found in a bush by a poor peasant, very black.
In St. Maria della Salute, La Madonna dela Salute, 12th century icon.
In church of Sant'agostino, Maria Santissima dei Maracoli, also called Madonna del
Acqua; Christ is black, Madonna less dark, more like a mulatta, considered black,
discovered in a fig tree in 1546 by an artisan.
In sanctuary, Maria Santissima di Custonaci, landed in a storm-beleagered ship,
crowned in 1752 by the Vatican for her many miracles, also known as Madonna of the
Water; painted on wood, probably Flemmish school.
In the church, painting of Madonna della Strada.
Madonna di Montalto, in church on hill of La Capperrina, arrived by sea, covered
in silver, except for the faces.
In church, Madonna della Melicia, legend that it is a 7th century painting placed
in the church in 1077 by Norman conqueror; experts say it is in 15th century
- Piazza Aermerina
In the Duomo, Black Virgin, Our Ldy of Victories, attributed to St. Luke,
painted on a rectangle of raw silk.
On North portico of church, Madonna del Pileri, 10th century Byzantine fresco.
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. See
More Black Madonnas
In church, Maria Santissima della Vena, Black Virgin painted in tempura on very
ancient table of cedar of Lebannon, believed to date from the first centuries of
Michael P. Durcy, Black Madonnas,
More Black Madonnas
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