The image attached depicts Our Lady of Montserrat, a so-called Black Madonna. Like many statues of the Black Madonna scattered across the world, the Montserrat mother & child are of uncertain provenance. She is known as La Moreneta, which translates as the small brown woman, or La Jerosolimitana meaning a native of Jerusalem. Further, the word morena from which the name La Moreneta is derived implies an Arabic or moorish appearance. La Moreneta is housed at a mountain-top Shrine in Northern Spain, the slopes of the mountain are dotted with ancient hermitages.
Other Black Madonnas reside in Chartres Cathedral in France, and the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City, both are sited on hill-tops.
Black Madonna statues are thought to have originally represented either the Egyptian Goddess Isis – and therefore are Christianised pagan icons, or Mary Magdalene – and so are heretical Marian figures.
The 19th Century church of Our Lady & The English Martyrs on Hills Road,Cambridge also has a Black Madonna. She is known as the Emmanuel Madonna, because she was excavated from the grounds of Emmanuel College during the 1860s. She is carved from unadorned wood in a breast-feeding pose, and beyond the college connection her provenance is unknown, her age disputed.
Black Madonnas are often attributed with miraculous healing powers, and many become shrines of pilgrimage.
Jean Dark November 2004
printed in Lite Works pamphlet