medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

A website that appears reputable has this to say:

"If it is true that a large proportion of the ancient miraculous Madonnas of 
the world are black, why is this phenomenon generally so little known today? 
A poetic verse from 1629 catalogues some of the national shrines of Europe, 
all of which, at the heart, seem to represent an ancient tradition of 
devotion to a statue of the Black Virgin. Many such Black Virgins exist, 
often having survived centuries of war, some in large basilicas, others in 
village churches, yet others in museums and libraries. Many more are also in 
private hands, for a variety of reasons. Some are painted statues, others 
are murals or paintings, and some are statues carved from ebony.

Some of the most famous Black Virgin shrines are Chartes, Loreto, Zaragoza, 
Rocamadour, Montserrat, and Guadalupe. Early textual references describing 
images of Black Virgins are few, although Peter Comestor (12th c. biblical 
scholar of Troyes and Paris), St. Bernard of Clairvaux (an early leader of 
the medieval Knights Templar) and Nicephorus Callixtus (1256-1335), the 
Byzantine church historian, all have had something to say on this subject.

Many Christians, both clergy and laity, simply accept that these shrines to 
the Black Virgin, and the loyal, fervent devotion they foster, are 
ultimately inexplicable, a mystery of the divine feminine. Some writers 
believe they represent a Christian form of Isis, as a mother with child. 
These shrines are believed to have special healing powers, among other 
things, and to be places where newly married brides can go for fertility 
blessings. There is also a strong religious folk tradition connecting the 
Black Virgins to the medieval Knights Templar and also with Mary Magdelene. 
A famous Black Virgin - la Madone des Fenestres (the Madonna of the 
Windows), near St-Martin-de-Vesubie (one site where many Templars were 
massacred) was believed by folk tradition in the area to have originally 
been brought to southern France by Mary Magdelene. Whether such legends 
spring from a kernel of truth, or are purely legendary, it is still 
intriguing to examine the sheer number of such place-names, legends, and 
beliefs about these subjects and their interconnections, at least in the 
popular mind. And that in itself says something."

I don't believe that the "black" in question has anything to do with 
Benedictines, traditionally called "black monks," because of the color of 
their habits. My question was spurred by what is mentioned above: "folk 
tradition" and "sheer number."


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