1. Notre-Dame de Mende
In the cathedral, Mende is in the department Lozère, region Languedoc-Roussillon. 70 cm, 11th century or 1219 are
given as possible dates of creation, olive wood.
While this Black Madonna is robed in the traditional garb
that hides most of the statue, her picture on the votive candles sold
in the church shows her round belly and nipples quite clearly. It gives
her that aura of fertility goddess.
Tradition says that she was brought to Mende from the Middle East between
1212 and 1222 by the bishop and crusader Guillaume de Peyre. Her first
mention in historic documents is from 1249. Another church document from
1857 lists the relics imbedded in her back: “some hairs of the Virgin
Mary, pieces of her clothing and her tomb, fragments of the true cross,
as well as of saints Peter, Paul, Andrew, Martial, Dennis, and James.”
Fifty years later World War II was raging. A notice on the wall of the
cathedral tells this story: On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Our
Lady’s coronation, in 1944, Mende was occupied by two thousand Germans.
During the traditional August 15th procession in honor of the Queen of
Heaven, something of a political nature happened around Mende that normally
would have had tragic consequences. In desperation the guardian of Notre-Dame
put the city under her protection and promised to celebrate the 50th anniversary
of her coronation with all the pomp and circumstance it deserved as soon
as it would be safe to do so. Two days later the city was intact and not
a single German left in it. After the war, on 8/18/1946, this miracle
and her coronation were commemorated with a triumphant celebration.
1: Félix Buffière, Ce tant rude Gévaudan, volume I, p.937
2: Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin, Penguin Books, London: 1985, p. 200