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Most sacred

The most sacred icons of the Catholic Church are the Black Madonna and Christ child, which are found in Europe’s most venerated shrines and cathedrals. Each year, millions of European pilgrims ritually humble themselves before the image of Black Mary and her child Jesus at Black Madonna sites throughout France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and other Catholic countries.

Many Black Madonna statues have the black paint literally kissed off of their hands and feet. In Poland, the Church encourages believers to pray to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa every morning before rising. It is reported that Pope John Paul follows this ritual. Time Magazine (June 11, 1979) reported on Pope Paul II’s visit to Czestochowa’s holiest shrine, which prominently displays “The Lady” known for centuries as the Black Madonna.

At Our Lady of Koden (Poland), there are statues of white saints carrying pictures of Black Madonnas. Pilgrims throughout the ages have visited Black Madonna sites and left inspired, confident, relieved, or healed of their afflictions. Today, there are over 300 documented Black Madonna sites in France alone!1 Sometimes they are hidden away in vaults, while the public is shown Madonnas with European features. [photo, right: The Black Madonna at the Abbey of Einsiedeln (Hermits) in Switzerland is visited by over a million people each year.

Click here to view its glorious interior. In the hard-to-find classic, Anacalypsis, historian Godfrey Higgens writes, “…in all the Romish countries of Europe, in France, Italy, Germany, &c., the God Christ, as well as his mother, are described in their old pictures and statues to be black. The infant God in the arms of his black mother, his eyes and drapery white, is himself perfectly black.

If the reader doubt my word, he may go to the cathedral at Moulins ­to the famous chapel of the Virgin at Loretto …the whiteness of the eyes and teeth, and the studied redness of the lips, are very observable… There is scarcely an old church in Italy where some remains of the worship of the BLACK VIRGIN and BLACK CHILD are not to be met with.

Very often the black figures have given way to white ones, and in these cases the black ones, as being held sacred, were put into retired places in the churches, but were not destroyed…2 The Black Madonnas originally all had Africoid features before most of them were destroyed by iconoclasts.

When they were replaced, the artists retained the dark skin color but, not being familiar with real Afrikans, gave European features to the paintings. In cases where originals have survived, you may witness Africoid features on Mary and her child Jesus, such as the Black Madonna of Nuria, Spain ­called “the Queen of the Pyrenees.” Russia’s remarkable legacy of Black Madonnas and other Christian icons of dark skin is evidenced in the book, Russian Icons by Vladimir Ivanov, including the feature story of the Spring 1994 issue of Russian Life magazine, graced with a Black Madonna on its cover. .

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