In the Abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul, in the small city of Pescasseroli, province of L'Aquila in Abruzzo.
Maria Santíssima l'Incoronata
(The Crowned Most Holy Mary)
Most Holy Mary of the Carmel
Dear Black Madonna
Stories as to where Our Lady came from vary greatly. Some say she was brought by a monk, others by a shepherd. Yet another legend says she came from the Orient. Her maker sculpted seven Black Madonnas referred to as the Seven Sisters, who were distributed by divine intervention around the world. One ended up here in Pescasseroli, the other on the Tranquil Mountain in Foggia, and the whereabouts of the rest are unknown.
Since 1283 an annual festival and fair in honor of the Crowned Virgin is celebrated on September 8th, the feast of the birthday of the Virgin Mary. Since 1778 the festival begins the night before with the Vigil of Vestments. That night the Dear Black Madonna is brought to the main altar, dressed in royal robes and crowned with a golden crown, while Marian litanies are sung. The next morning, after mass, she is carried through the streets in a great procession with marching bands and bells ringing. After the procession she is undressed again, still to the accompaniment of litanies.
An Eternal Lamp burns before the image. Its Oil is said to have miraculous healing properties and is administered to humans and animals alike. During her undressing a priest distributes this oil to those who need it to take home.
By 1752, Most Holy Mary had proven her power by enough miracles to deserve an official coronation. Twice the city was threatened by a great fire, which only receded when the priests brought the Madonna out of the church to face the flames. The Vatican offered her a crown of pure gold, which the local bishop was glad to bestow upon her.(*1)
A beautiful copy of the Dear Black Madonna is to be found among her devoted children in St. Lawrence Parish, Buffalo, New York. While some non-Christians think the sphere in Mary's hand is an egg, the New York statue clearly shows it to be a globe, the symbol of her rule over the earth.
Left: The Crowned Virgin before renovations, when she was darker, but also quite worm eaten. Baby Jesus was missing a big part of his nose, his mother two fingers, his dress and her crown were corroding. She had been burnt in a couple of fires. The statue is made of soft poplar wood and is hollowed out, probably so as to accommodate relics. Unfortunately, it was decided to restore her skin color to the natural color of the wood, not to the previous blackness honored in her title.
*1: All information on this page was gleaned from www.stLawrenceBuffalo.org/devotion.shtml