Notre-Dame de Vauclair
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
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
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,
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.
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.
info taken from: Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin,
Penguin Books, London: 1985, pp. 232 and 201
and from Madame Dulac's article on "Molompize
et la vierge noire de Vauclair"