Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Miraculous images: Montserrat

The Black Madonna of Montserrat is one of Spain's most venerated images of the Virgin Mary. Tradition holds that already before the year 888, a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary was placed among the rocks of Montserrat. Even in pre-Christian times the mountain was an important religious site, when there stood a temple to Venus.

The statue of the Black Virgin of Montserrat is known as 'La Moreneta', the Little Dark One. It has oriental features and was probably carved by a Byzantine sculptor in the twelfth century. Our Lady of Montserrat has a very majestic appearance and bears a close resemblance to the dark Virgins of the French Auvergne region, found along the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Like the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, most of these images depict the Mother of God as 'Sedes Sapientiae' (Seat of Wisdom). This way of depicting Mary, seated on a throne with the Child Jesus on her lap, is very typical for the Romanesque period.

Perhaps the religious significance of Montserrat and its Black Virgin is most beautifully expressed in the 'Llibre Vermell de Montserrat', a manuscript of pilgrimage songs from the Middle Ages. The song 'O virgo splendens' goes as follows:

"O Virgin resplendent here on the lofty mountain,
jagged with its shining miracles about,
which all the faithful climb.
Ah, with an eye of mercy
see those bound by the bonds of sin,
let them not be weighed down by the blows of Hell
but be called by your prayers to be with the blessed."


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