Our Lady of the Oak
Department Aube, region Champagne-Ardenne, just outside
the town in her chapel in the forest La Garenne des Comtes, 12th century,
about 6 inches. Chapel open from Pentecost Sunday to the end of September,
all photos: Johanna Klapper
Although Our Lady of the Oak is not actually called a Black Madonna, I include
her in this index for two reasons: 1) because she perfectly matches so many
characteristics of Black Madonnas. 2) in gratitude to people like Johanna
Klapper, who brought this exquisite shrine to my attention and provided
all the photos and most of the information. I definitely want to encourage
This is a Pieta type Madonna, i.e. the sorrowing mother with her dead son
draped across her lap, like the Black Madonna of Telgte.
The legend recounts that a young shepherd
found this Madonna in the hollow of an Oak and took her home. But,
like so many Black Madonnas, she wanted to be venerated in nature,
at the exact spot where she had chosen to appear.(*1)
So she kept returning miraculously to her tree, next to which there
is a healing spring. Having thus asserted her will, her fame spread
quickly and the faithful began gathering at her shrine in nature.
That's the Christian story at least. Robert Régor, author
of the website le
blog vivrevouivre claims that the combination of sacred tree
and sacred well, plus a Madonna insisting on being honored there,
point to a pre-existing Celtic holy place.
He is probably right. Both the sacred tree and sacred spring are
typical nature companions of Black Madonnas that point to the function
of the Dark Mothers of baptizing pre-Christian nature shrines. Other
Black Madonna tree shrines listed in this index are: Neuerburg,
formerly Telgte, Neukirchen-beim-heiligen-Blut,
While many assume this constitutes a 'hostile takeover' on the
part of the Catholic Church of Pagan holy sites, I would suggest
a slightly different take, further elucidated in the introduction:
A pilar in the chapel:
the woman and the tree are one.
the Madonna and what's left of her tree
What if the spirit of Mother Earth and of the Sacred Feminine did actually
decide on their part that they wanted in on this new religion that was
spreading into every corner of the land? What if God knew better than
some of the clergymen that we need a connection to the earth and the Sacred
Feminine? In her apparitions in Medjugorje
Mother Mary often calls us into nature because it is imbued with the Holy
Spirit. E.g. on October 25, 1995 she said: "Dear Children! Today
I invite you to go into nature because there you will meet God the Creator."(*2)
Yes, Pagan holy sites in nature were Christianized, and not only by means
of Black Madonnas. The sacred feminine as a whole was connected
to the earth. Other French Madonnas with the title Our Lady of
the Oak are found in Le Mans, Scey-en-Varais in the diocese of Besançon,
Sablé-sur-Sarthe, and Goersdorf.(*3) Other
sacred Mary-trees not necessarily of Black Madonnas, are found in Germany
and Poland.(*4) What if this sanctification of nature
really was the will of the earth who is the mother of all of us?
Notice that the pool of healing water forms a spiral, an ancient
symbol of the Goddess. Next to it a small basin is hewn out of
the rock, probably for drinking and blessing oneself.
What probably further contributed to the fame of this Madonna is
that Bar-sur-Seine lies on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostella
and near the Knights Templar commanderie of Avalleur. It is said
that both St. Bernard of Clairveaux (1090-1153) and King Louis XI
(1423-1483) came to the sacred Oak-Madonna on pilgrimage.
She remained in just her tree until 1669. By then the tree had
died and the dry trunk was encased by the first chapel. It has been
replaced twice by newer, bigger buildings. The current chapel was
consecrated in 1867. The shepherd who found her is buried in the
crypt. To this day, organized pilgrimages take place on the first
Sunday following Christmas.(*4)
The gate to the pool of healing water.
The inscription above says in Latin:
"Go to the pool at Siloam.
Your faith has saved you." (John 9:7)
*1: For similar stories see: Vassivière,
Costa Rica, Dorres,
Nuria, Lord, Kursk.
*2: There is a concordance
where you can search the Medjugorje messages for key words. Here are 2
more quotes: August 25, 1999: "Dear children! Also
today I call you to give glory to God the Creator in the colors of nature.
He speaks to you also through the smallest flower about His beauty and
the depth of love with which He has created you. Little children, may
prayer flow from your hearts like fresh water from a spring. May the wheat
fields speak to you about the mercy of God towards every creature."
Message of July 25, 2001: "Find peace in nature and you will discover
God the Creator whom you will be able to give thanks to for all creatures;
then you will find joy in your heart."
*3: 06 /27/2008 blog article on Notre-Dame-du-Chene
*4: E.g. a Polish church is dedicated to a Mary-linden-tree in Swieta
Lipka near Reszel on the road to Ketrzyn.