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Finestret:
The Black Madonna
(La Vierge Noire)

 

In the Pyrénées-Oriental, near Codalet, in the church of St. Columba (or Colombe in French) at the top of the village.
photos: Ella Rozett

This Madonna may be worth a visit if you are on the way to the famous 10th century Abbey of Saint Michel de Cuxa, which sports its own “Black Madonna”.(*1) Finestret is a quaint village only a few kilometers off the main highway leading to Codalet where the abbey lays.

The church St. Colombe is usually locked but someone in the house behind it has the key and if that person is home, she will gladly let you in. It doesn’t make for privacy or time to meditate, but for conversation, if you speak French. When I asked the two villagers in attendance whether they considered this a Black Madonna, one said yes, the other no. I would go with the no, because while she is darkened, she lacks any special stories of origin or miracles or what Ean Begg calls 'a living cult'. She is simply another meaningful part of the church decoration
Perhaps more interesting than this Dark Mother is the lady with the bear, St. Columba. For details on her and other local traditions on the theme of ‘Black Madonna, sacred woman and bear’ see Prats-de-Mollo.

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*1: While the Madonna of Cuxa, whom Ean Begg calls black, is very old, she has also been restored to a very white color. She does not enjoy what Begg calls ‘a living cult’, but sits rather like in a museum. However, the 10th and 12th century remains of the Abbey of St. Michel de Cuxa are impressive.