Since nothing is related of her origin
and she shares the geometric pattern of the robes of the much more
famous Black Madonna of Le-Puy, she may well have been created as
a copy of the latter. The hand postures of mother and child differ
slightly from those of Le-Puy, but coincide exactly with Our Lady
of the Snows in Aurillac, who is definitely considered a copy of
Our Lady of Le-Puy.
Though she is a humble Madonna with no miracle stories to her name,
I love her Negroid features and simple, exotic look.
This Lady is a perfect example of the 'Seat of Wisdom' or 'Majesty'
type of Madonna. These are characterized by the mother seated on
an ancient throne without a back or with a low back, holding the
child squarely on her lap, and both looking straight ahead. You
won't find demurely down cast eyes in these images, but a powerful
straight stare. In the language of medieval symbolism this means
that Mary is the throne of Jesus, the Seat of Wisdom. From her lap
spring wisdom and power. She is represented as the Christian embodiment
of Lady Wisdom, a personage described in the Hebrew Bible (the Old
Testament) as the first companion or the feminine face of God, through
whom he draws people to himself. Much of what the Old Testament
says about Wisdom is later attributed to the Holy Spirit and to
Christ but also to his mother. Here are some excerpts from the Book
of Wisdom, chapters 7-9:
7:21-27: "Such things as are hidden I learned and such as are
plain; for Wisdom, the artificer of all, taught me. For in her is
a spirit intelligent, holy, unique … all-powerful, all-seeing, and
pervading all spirits. … she penetrates and pervades all things
by reason of her purity. For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; … she is the refulgence
of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image
of his goodness. And she, who is one, can do all things. … And passing
into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and
prophets. 8:1: "Indeed she reaches from end to end mightily and
governs all things well." 9:9: "Now with you [God] is Wisdom, who
knows your works and was present when you made the world;"
Mary inherited the title 'Seat of Wisdom' from the Egyptian goddess
Isis, who, like Mary, was often portrayed with her son Horus on
her lap. In Egypt it was clear, who ever sat on the lap of the Great
Goddess received his power from her. Hence pharaohs would frequently
portray themselves seated on this divine throne of wisdom as a justification
of their power.
Christian thinking is often uncomfortable thinking of Jesus' power
as coming from his mother and so prefers to interpret Jesus as the
embodiment of Wisdom and Mary as the mere seat on which his wisdom
is presented. Nonetheless the devotees of Mary have no trouble seeing
her as the primordial face of Lady Wisdom and her son as an expression
and manifestation of that same face.
the Black Madonna in her niche (on the right) in the chapel