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In the chapelle de Vauclair, department Cantal in the Auvergne region. If you go from the Black Madonna of Murat to the Black Madonna of Le Puy, you drive right through this village. Otherwise it would hardly be worth visiting these whitened ladies. 11/12th century, 73 cm, painted wood. photo: Ella Rozett

Notre-Dame de Vauclair



Here is another whitened Black Madonna. She was restored in 1954. (For more on the issue of restoring Black Madonnas to their original colors see Ronziere and Saint Guiraud.) At least here we can see why so many formerly Black Madonnas have those silly red cheeks: it’s because that’s how they were indeed originally painted. See the red coming out from under later layers of dark color?

Tradition says that this Black Madonna was brought to France from Antioch by a crusader and that she grants miracles, especially the healing of blindness. 

The original is in the nearby church of Sainte Foy, which is closed to visits, due to it being in disrepair. This resin copy lives where the original was venerated for centuries. Through the crystal on her chest one can see the relic hidden inside her. All statues of that period had relics inside in order to pass as reliquaries and avoid being defamed as idols. Hers is a red piece of fabric with the Greek letter alpha inscribed on it. Nothing more is known about it.

Her feast day is celebrated on September 8th, the day tradition claims to be the birthday of Mary.

Old potcards are sold in the church that show the madonna when she was still black, crowned, and robed.

Old potcards are sold in the church that show the madonna when she was still black, crowned, and robed.

Madame Dulac claims that Vauclair comes from the French vois clair! i.e. see clearly! - with bodily and spiritual eyes. No wonder this Madonna, who draws us into her wide open, staring eyes, is associated with the ability to see.

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Notre-Dame de Molompize

There is a second Madonna in the church of Molompize. She once was black and is listed on the University of Dayton, Ohio web page on Black Madonnas. Their photo is a reversed image of the same Madonna I photographed after she was whitened. Ean Begg also lists this Madonna and says that she stems from the 15/16th century.

I have found no French website that bothers to mention her anymore since she was whitened. Notre-Dame de Vauclair definitely takes center stage in Molompize.

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