As most of you know, PJ and I are enthralled with the Romanesque Vierges Romanes, the Throne of Wisdom madonnas. We have a previous post which discussed them and featured photos. This year we had the opportunity to several shoot more of them.
This photo is the famous Notre-Dame de Bon-Espoir in Dijon, one of the most famous of the Black Madonnas. She is in poor shape – the Christ figure is missing, for example – but is highly venerated in the region. On the day that we were there, a steady stream of visitors lit candles at her altar. The statue was carved in either the late 11th or early 12th century and was originally polychrome. In the 17th century she was painted black but a 1945 restoration brought her back to the original polychrome.
The next shot is of Notre Dame de Châteauneuf in the village of Châteauneuf-les-Bains in the Auvergne. She is a typical Auvergnat madonna but the dove in the right hand is unique, as far as I know.
One of the most famous, and perhaps most enigmatic, of these Vierges is Notre Dame de Vauclair. Created in the 12th Century, one legend tells that village women found their “Holy Virgin” in the woods. There is a second legend of the origin – the cabochon rock crystal pinned to her neck contains a piece of cloth on which is written the Greek “alpha”. There supposedly represents “Antioch” and that gives rise to the story that Notre Dame de Vauclair was brought to France from Turkey during the Crusades. Modern scholarship disputes this and has assigned the sculpture to an Auvergnat craftsman.
And finally, one of our favorite is Notre Dame des Croisades (Our Lady of the Crusades) in the town of Thuret. The statue dated from the middle of the 14th Century, but the current version was sculpted in the 17th Century from the deteriorating original. A true black madonna, she is highly venerated in the region.
We’ve shot about fifty of these works in the last five years and will continue to post more pictures and descriptions in the future.