In the Abbaye de Saint Michel de Cuxa in the French Catalan area of the department Pyrénées-Oriental, 2 km from Prades, in the crypt of what remains of the 10th century Abbey church. This Black Madonna is first mentioned in 1040 A.D. though the present statue is from the 14th century, 70cm high, painted wood.
photo: Ella Rozett
Cuxa: Our Lady of the Manger
(Notre-Dame de la Crèche in French, Nostra Senyora de Pesebre in Catalan),
the dear Dark One
(La Maureneta in Catalan)
Here is another whitened Madonna that must have been black once, since according to Ean Begg and many websites that seem to rely largely on his book she was once called Maureneta, i.e. Dear Dark One in the local dialect of Catalan.(*1)
Her title stems from the fact that she spent many centuries in the crypt which was dedicated to the nativity of Christ and was said to hold the relic of Jesus’ swaddling cloths.(*2)
Though this Madonna no longer enjoys what Begg would call a ‘living cult’ she may be worth a visit if you’ve never seen a 10th – 12th century abbey before. Be prepared to share this experience with bus loads of tourists and school children.
The original Benedictine monastery was built in the 9th Century. What remains of it is a 10th century church and a 12th century cloister. The monks were forced to abandon their monastery around 1790, at the time of the French Revolution, when a pious woman saved the Black Madonna. The place remained empty until a new Benedictine community moved onto the site in 1950. Unfortunately they don't use the old church for their services.
*1:Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin, Penguin Books, London: 1985, p. 184
*2: An English article on Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa