African presence in Europe Black Madonna’s (Black Virgins) According to Scheer Black Madonna’s have went from majesty to mystery with the construct of race as a science toward the end of the 18th century. With this construct of race it begins to dramatically undermine the pious interpretations of the objects and images surrounding the Black Madonna. A common theme used is that the Madonna’s became black unintentional, has greatly affected the depth into which the study of the Black Madonna’s has gone.
Michael P. Duricy gives three categories in which the Madonna’s can be placed: 1) Dark brown or black Madonna’s with skin pigmentation matching that of the indigenous population. 2) Those that have turn black as a result of certain physical factors such as deterioration of lead-based paints, accumulated smoke from the use of votive candles; and the accumulation of grime over the ages. The third and final category is a residual category with no ready explanation.
Charles Rohault de Fleury and Stephen Beissel support the second category that the images were blackened by the surround elements. There are two strong theories that if the Madonna was indeed intentionally darkened it was because the Madonna was to illustrate a text from the Canticle of Canticles or Song of Songs that said “I am black but beautiful” Stephen Benko summarizes the other theory as relating the Black Madonna to the ancient earth-goddess and then converted to Christianity. The most fertile soil is black in color and the blacker it is the more suited it is for agriculture.
Scheer mentions that the ideas of pre-Christian beliefs are preserved in the folk culture of the Black Madonna’s earth centered spirituality at the helm of the hypothesis of the color choice of the Madonna’s. Scheer says that there is no mention of color of the Madonna’s only the recurrence in motifs of a miraculous find and the refused removal of the object or painting. Lastly, Scheer mentions that the votive tablets do not speak of when the images became black but when they were perceived Black.