Reprinted from the now-defunct Reticenteer, my old website, written in 2006 or 2008.
“Notre-Dame du Pouech extends her protection over the village of Oust. In the middle of the 19th century, a fearsome cholera epidemic threatened the population and the residents made a commitment to rebuild a sanctuary to Mary if she saved them from the disease. The blight stopped at the gates of the city: the [current] edifice was constructed 1854 and restored in 1969.
The origins of the chapel have become lost in the distant past and are difficult to know [although a priory is mentioned in the 13th century]. The deteriorated chapel was reconstructed with the promise of a procession in the streets of the town in honor of the Nativity of Our Lady.
The statue is still venerated. It is in polychrome wood of the 13th century, the Virgin seated and carrying the infant Jesus on her left knee. She welcomes the pilgrim with her right hand and a motherly look.
A statue of Saint Catherine and another of Saint Lucy, both also of the 13th century, surround the Virgin.
The pilgrimage to this chapel is September 8.”
(Translated from the website of the Catholic Church in Ariège)
Begg identifies Notre Dame du Pouech as a Black Virgin, adding that she “reigns over mines” and the area is known as Terra Santa (“Holy Land” in Occitan). None of the official sources, however, lists her as such, although the Terra Santa appellation is verified by signs in the area. When I visited the chapel, which sits atop a steep hill overlooking the village, it was locked and the Virgin could only be glimpsed through the front door and the side windows. She’s definitely dark in hue. According to a man who was going past on a moped as I left the place, the chapel is rarely opened.
Oddly, although some believe the name Oust comes from the Latin “Augusta,” others believe it comes from the Celtic “ustous,” meaning “inferno.” According to archeological evidence, the village was a Roman settlement; it was also home to a Christian community before the Carolingian period (640 CE). Some believe it was sacked by the Saracens. In the late 19th century it housed two important forges. In any event, given the mining history and the Roman connection, either origin is possible.
And that’s all I know.
Sea also: Black is Beautiful on why her classification as a Black Virgin is problematic.