Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Black Virgins of the Pyrénées

Reprinted from the Reticenteer, written in 2007 or so.

Notre-Dame de Meijo-Costo or Miège-Coste, Aspet (Haute-Garonne)

This Black Virgin can be found in the chapel of Notre-Dame de Miège-Coste (pictured on the left), so named because it sits "à mi-côte" or halfway up a hill which overlooks Aspet. The statue itself dates from about 1680, replacing a Black Virgin of the 4th century. This copy was itself documented as a Black Virgin in 1682. Apparently the chapel was already a pilgrimage destination for the surrounding area by the mid-15th century.

I was unable to visit the inside of the chapel as it was locked. I was unable to locate the home of the caretaker named on a sign affixed to the chapel door and anyway, the key is no longer lent out due to a series of "regrettable incidents." Some people, it goes without saying, are swine.

According to the ubiquitous Mr. Begg, only the heads of the Virgin and Child are sculpted, and the are hands sewn onto the sleeves of their clothing. The sculpture is apparently similar to Notre Dame de la Daurade. She survived the Revolution in hiding.

The statue is made of wood and is about 160 cm high. (Patrimoine de France)

Begg states that Notre-Dame de Miège-Coste has been invoked against war, plague and famine. Healing miracles (including one for blindness in 1753) have also been attributed to her. Aspet has never been ravaged by war, but a large white statue of the Virgin on the chapel roof was destroyed by lightning in 1945.

The fact that the chapel overlooks the village from a prominent elevated position is a testament to the special veneration accorded the Virgin; the chapel is not the village church. This also struck me as interesting because the chapels of both Notre Dame du Pouech (Oust, 51k) and Notre Dame de l'Espérance (St. Béat, 31k) are thus situated.

* * * * * * * * 

Romain Sourrieu was born in Aspet in 1825. After a missionary stint in Toulouse, he became a chaplain at Rocamadour [the site of an especially revered Black Virgin]. Bishop of Châlons-en-Champagne en 1882, he was named Archbishop of Rouen in 1894. Made a Cardinal by Léon XIII en 1897, he died soon after in 1899.

Very attached to his birthplace, he was the principal force behind the restoration of the Chapel of Miègecoste.

(I translated this biographical sketch of Cardinal Sourrieu from this page)

Notre-Dame de l'Espérance, St. Béat (Haute-Garonne)

Like Notre-Dame de Miège-Coste, Notre-Dame de l'Espérance is of blackened polychrome wood and can be found in a special chapel overlooking the town (pictured on the right). In this case the village church, containing the ossuary of St. Béat, is located just at the foot of this hill. The chapel is adjacent to a small fort: St. Béat, known as "the key to France" was an important frontier citadel.

The statue is 53 cm high and 21 cm wide (Patrimoine de France). Begg gives the 13th century as its origin but it may in fact be from the16th. Information on this one is rather scarce.

According to Catholic Online, St Beatus of Lungern was "monk and hermit....earlier designated as the Apostle of Switzerland. Baptized in England by St. Barnabas and ordained by St. Peter, Beatus went to Switzerland. He lived and died on Mount Beatenburg above Lake Thun. The cave became a popular pilgrim's destination, the famed site of Beatus' fight with a dragon."

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