The Black Madonnas of Southwest France

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Location: Racamadour, Aubas, and Limeuil, Perigord & Quercy regins, Southwest France

Who Considers it Sacred? Roman Catholics

Significance: The Black Madonnas are thought to relate to the fertility goddesses that were worshiped in France from Paleolithic times. The siting of Black Madonnas at significant landscape points, such as river confluences, supports this idea because pagan people honored such outstanding natural features. They are dark-skinned representations of the Virgin Mary, and have been revered for centuries by local Christians. They are usually housed in a town or village church, and are sometimes removed for holiday processionals.

The Threat: Weathering

Preservation Status: The Black Madonnas of France are often tourist sites in their own right; they are usually physically handled only in ceremonial processionals, and are objects of reverence for the local people, so the remaining Black Madonnas are usually isolated from human touch, though not from the inevitable wearing of time.

For More Information: Site Saver Newsletter, Volume V, Number 2, Winter 1995; Black Madonnas

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