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Puy-de-Dome department, Auvergne, 11th century, 85cm high. 
Photo: Francis Debaisieux

Our Lady of Chastreix


She was painted black in 1892 when the parish priest decided that a black Madonna would attract more pilgrims to his church. Some of his parishioners complained that their Virgin had been made into a "negress." Nonetheless the pastor was right; for a time pilgrimages to her shrine supplanted those of the nearby Black Virgin of Vassivieres.

The Madonna of Chastreix was said to heal all types of disease and repel enemies, but her fame did not endure as did the people's love for Virgins that had turned black by "the hand of God." She was stolen in 1982 and later replaced by a copy in lighter wood that actually resembles the original statue.