50 minutes S of Bonn in the forest near Langenfeld, Eifel, about 50 cm, 1954.photos: Ella Rozett
Black Mother of God
Although this is a very young Black Madonna she stands on old holy ground, along the Jodokusweg (Jodok path), a 12 km long pilgrimage way that circles Langenfeld, the Black Madonna, an ancient holy well and a 15th century chapel in the woods. In Christian times the well was dedicated to St. Jodok but it is likely much older. Jodok was a 7th century prince of Brittany, France, who renounced his kingdom to become a pilgrim, hermit, and founder of a small monastic community. He is considered a patron saint of pilgrims, travelers, the sick and blind. His well is reputed to cure diseases of the eyes.
One may wonder if this modern Madonna really qualifies as a Black Madonna. I would say she shares many of the common charachteristics: besides being dark, she is also close to Mother Earth, near a sacred well, organized pilgrimages to her shrine still draw thousands of faithful every fall, and she emerged independent of Church authorities. When the Madonna was first discovered it was rumored that she appeared in this niche miraculously in the Marian year of 1954. Later it was established that she was offered to the world by the local artist Jakob Klein (1914-1971). He must not have asked permission, but simply built this little shrine to his Heavenly Mother and placed her there unobserved.
This Mother of God also proves that the desire for a dark Mother has not died out but is well and alive not only among New Age feminists but also among conservative Catholics, and her connection to nature endures.
Langenfeld is an interesting village. It houses a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center. A friend of mine told me that the resident Lama Sönam (a Tibetan priest) likes to visit the shrine of the Black Madonna and the sacred Jodokus well because he experiences both as holy places. The nearby chapel of St. Jost, named after Jodok and considered part of Langenfeld, in turn seems to appreciate the Buddhist spirit. A 1994 relief at the entrance portrays St. Jodok as a pilgrim on the way to Santiago de Compostella, but the inscription comes straight out of the Buddhist world: "The path is the goal" (Der Weg ist das Ziel).
Directions: If you want to walk for about 3 hours through the woods and four villages, take the Jodok path. It starts at St. Quirinus church in Langenfeld and follows the letters "J". If you want to drive closer, take the L10 from Langenfeld towards Mayen, turn right following the signs to St. Jost. Park above the chapel. Leave the chapel on your left, below. At the first T intersection of the path turn right. It's about 10 minutes to the well and another 10 along a beautiful creek to the Black Madonna.
For more info in German see: www.acht-eifel.de