Departement Allier, region Auvergne, near Black Madonnas of Cusset and Vichy, in the Chapel of the Black Virgin inside the Cathedral Our Lady of the Annunciation (Notre-Dame de l’Annontiation) , 11th century, 80 cm, very dark wood painted black in the 15th century.
Notre-Dame de Moulins,
Patron of the Diocese of Moulins
Legend states that the original Black Madonna was brought to France from the Holy Land by a Lord of Bourbon. Somehow she came into the possession of King Louis IX, a.k.a. St. Louis, who gave her to the city of Moulins. St. Joan of Arc prayed before this Madonna in 1429.(*1)
The municipal archives of Moulins preserve the memory of a great miracle, which the Virgin Mary performed on November 21st 1655. As a terrible fire threatened to devour the whole town, a believer took the mantel of the Black Madonna and threw it onto the flames in a bold gesture of faith. Immediately the great fire extinguished.
It was also the custom in Moulins, as in Marsat and other towns, to burn a wheel of wax before the Black Madonna. Some tie this tradition to various miracles where the Madonna saved a town from a great fire. Others say this was an ancient solar symbol of regeneration.
Our Lady of Moulins used to hold a lily (fleur de lys) in her left hand, but it was broken off. The flower is not only a symbol of the Blessed Virgin’s purity; it also became a symbol of Christendom in general and French Christian royalty in particular. Jesus holds a closed book of the gospels against his chest and blesses the world. The statue was crowned on May 22nd 1910.
On December 8th 1946, the future Pope John XXIII, then the papal nuncio in Paris, blessed an ex voto in the cathedral of Moulins in recognition of the protection the Black Madonna granted her town during the years of German occupation.
Ean Begg tells this legend related to the site: In Yzeure, likely the first home of the Black Madonna in the area and only one km to the East, there is an ancient Gallo-Roman spa. An underground passage reputedly led from it to the castle of the Bourbons at Moulins, next to the cathedral. In that underground passage a dragon grew unnoticed until it was slain by a hero.(*2) For more on dragons and Black Madonnas see Ronzières.
*1:Photos and info from French Wikipedia article on Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation de Moulins
*2: Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin, Penguin Books, London: 1985, pp. 204-5