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
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.