Black Madonna at Castellamare del Golfo

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Tucked away near the castle that gives Castellamare del Golfo its name is the Chiesa di Maria SS del Rosario, which is believed to have been built in such a secluded corner during the Norman era, circa 1100, to hide it from invading pirates. Inside is this alter devoted to the Madonna dell’Agnuni, or Madonna of the Angle (Yes, I mean the point where two lines meet.). The statue is without doubt, a “Black Madonna” and child. As is the case with the Black Madonna of Tindari and most Black Madonnas found throughout Europe, this Black Madonna statue, I was told by the caretaker the day I visited, was “discovered mysteriously.” This particular one was found in a cave near the temple at Segesta, which is not far from Castellamare del Golfo. The symbolism of the Black Madonna is very powerful to those who are devoted to it. She represents divine, sensual feminine power. Origins of her worship are traced to the Mother Earth goddess, which could be a number of mystery cult figures ranging from Cybele, Astarte/Ishtar, Aphrodite/Venus, or Demeter and Kore, for examples. Her dark coloring is representative of the fertile earth itself.

Black Madonnas can be found throughout the Mediterranean. If you are aware of their existence, once you find one, its location and the story behind how its iconography arrived where you discovered it, more than not, it is a marvelous point of intrigue and a glimpse into the region’s ancient religious past.

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