The Heart of the Black Madonna

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Black Madonna and the Modern Pilgrim

Cloister Garden Walk at the Shrine of Le Puy, France a beginning point for the Camino Pilgrimage

One of the many correspondences shared between a large number of Black Madonnas in Europe is the fact that their shrines are quite prolific along the ancient pilgrim route of Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The title means the road of St. James along the field of stars. Santiago Means "Saint James", derived from Spanish santo "saint" combined with Yago, an old Spanish form of "James," the patron saint of Spain. The legend goes that St. James a disciple of Christ Jesus, the brother of the Apostle John, was the first to bring Christianity to the area of Iberia, the land now known as Spain. As he was preaching in Iberia, the Virgin appeared to him in a vision. He returned to Palestine, where he was subsequently martyred. The disciples decided to have his body buried in Iberia in what is now known as Santiago, the final destination of the pilgrimage.

The route, which drapes most of Europe, is an ancient one. It was said during Roman times, that when one looked up to the stars at night, the Milky Way pointed the way along the route. When Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of Rome, he dispatched his mother Helena to seek out relics and works of art. He also gave the Imperial blessing and title of the Camino to be re-established as a pilgrim journey for Christians in his empire. It was considered to be of equal value to go along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela as it was to visit the Holy Land. The route was very popular in the Middle Ages but fell out of favor during the Reformation. There has been an upsurge of interest and participation in the last 20 years, prompting everything from facebook chat groups, twitter feeds, organized tour companies and documentaries. It seems there is a desire from Christians and non religious alike to walk this beautiful road to connect to the soul, the inner voice that seems to get lost in the hectic nature of modern life.

St. Helena of the Cross, who is Constantine’s mother, is credited with bringing many Black Madonnas to the European continent from her travels to the Holy Land. Two of her more famous discoveries are considered to be the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and the Black Madonna of Montserrat. 

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland

Our Lady of Montserrat, Catalonia Spain

The former is in Poland on the Eastern European aspect of the Camino, and the latter is on the Spanish leg of the journey.  The Black Madonnas brought by the Templars from the Holy Land are often found in the shrines built by this mysterious order of warrior priests along many aspects of the Camino.  There is a copy of the Black Virgin of Montserrat in the cathedral of Santiago, the final destination of the pilgrims, and also at many shrines of embarkation along the route.

High Altar at the Cathedral of Santiago, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Why are so many Black Madonnas on this ancient Christian pilgrim route? Why did the Knights Templar bring so many of these Black Madonnas to Europe and place them in shrines along the Camino? What mystical message was being conveyed, and why is there an upsurge in interest of the Camino during our very secular materialistic age?

Walkway from Le Puy Shrine leading to the Camino

I explore these questions and more in the soon to be released, in September of 2015 to be exact, book The Black Madonna; Cosmic Companion for the Journey of the Human Heart.

Stay tuned for updates on podcasts, author discussions and contests on how to win posters and free audio book copies of the book!

The Camino near Montserrat, Catalonia Spain

In the meantime, know that the placement of the Black Madonnas along the Camino is the purposeful message to Humanity that we are loved and admired by the Spiritual World.

Blessings on your Journey!

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