& I visited Spain in 2006. The coincidence led me to going over the shots from our visit/pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Black Madonna of Montserrat in Catalonia, about 50 km northeast of Barcelona.
Several thoughts occurred to me. One was that you should always keep all the photos you’ve made on a trip, even if at the time you don’t think they came out as well as you would have wanted. Second, time will give you a better perspective on the shots you might have thought marginal. This one, of Our Lady actually isn’t bad considering the circumstances: standing in line with approximately 1500 to 2000 pilgrims, who blessedly took only 5 to 10 sec each in their adorations, and then not wanting to take any more time myself; I was able to pay homage and take this shot.
The other thought was: What symbols do you see in the statue and the surrounding altar (which is gold, not brass by the way) that are not non-christian or pre-christian in origin. It helps to look at the large image on the Flickr site.
Black Madonnas: Our Lady of Montserrat
Michael P. Duricy
On the mountain named Montserrat, near Barcelona, in the Catalonia region of Spain, a church now contains a ‘miracle- working’ statue of the Madonna and Child known as La Moreneta, that is: the dark little one.
Legend relates that the miraculous image was first known as La Jerosolimitana (the native of Jerusalem), since it is believed to have been carved in that city during the early days of the church.
Another account, seemingly well-attested, indicates that the image was moved to Montserrat in 718, to avoid the danger posed by invading Saracens. The image disappears from the historical record at this point, to reappear in a legend holding that shepherds found the lost statue under supernatural guidance in 890:
While tending their flocks that night the shepherds were amazed to see lights and to hear singing coming from the mountain. When this was repeated, the shepherds reported the situation to their priest, who investigated. When the priest also heard the singing and saw the mysterious lights, he informed the Bishop, and he also witnessed the phenomenon. The statue of Our Lady was discovered in a cave and was brought out and placed in a small church that was soon erected.
However, the statue presently kept at the Montserrat shrine … appears to have been introduced in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Its Romanesque style is consistent with this estimate. Beyond generalstyle, the genre of the statue is certainly that of an ‘enthroned virgin’, typical of the earliest icons of Mary. On behalf of Madonna and Child representations, Stephen Benko notes:
“It is well known that the iconography of Isis and [her son] Horus was basically adopted by Christians when they started to portray Mary and Jesus as Mother and Child.”
(Emphasis is mine)