The Madonna and her Sanctuary

The statue of the Madonna and Child is the heart of the sanctuary

The image of Mary

The statue of the Madonna and Child is the heart of the sanctuary. It was built around the mid-1400s. It is made of painted limestone and weighs over four quintals. Some clear details remind the faithful of the mystery she represents: the crown, the mantle and the throne on which she is sitting recall her regal character; her breast uncovered to breastfeed her baby that she carries in her womb reminds us that she is the mother of God and mother of the Church; her posture recalls the image of other figures where Mary carries the body of her dead Son ("the Pietà") in her arms, but in this case the same mystery of communion with God reminds us that in her we celebrate her life. For her youthful and attractive face, she was called "Madonna bella" and for her lively and maternal attitude, still today, she is called "Madonna alive". Why is the Madonna 'black'? The motif of Maria's dark complexion leads art historians to think of various possibilities without being able to give a precise answer. The dark face may be a reference to the Song of Songs in which the young bride says of herself: "Nigra sum, sed formosa" (Song 1:4); perhaps it is a personal choice of the artist who, in fact, is not found in other images of Mary of the same 'soft style' to which the author has remade himself; or, it represents an attempt to recall the image of the ancient Marian icons, of oriental tradition, which appeared dark because they were blackened by time with the smoke of the candles; perhaps it is only a question of the various retouching and restorations to which the statue has been subjected over the centuries.
There are no precise answers in this sense. Certainly it fits into the tradition of black madonnas already present in various European sanctuaries (Loreto, Altötting).

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