Walking Alongside The Black Madonna Of Tindari

Last evening, in anticipation for today’s Feast of the Madonna, I made a pilgrimage to Tindari to see the procession of the Madonna Nera, the Black Madonna of Tindari. I’ve been devoted to this Madonna for many years, so to finally be able to attend the feast with other devotees was special for me. Tindari is in Messina province, high on a promontory about 938 feet above sea level. From its strategic position on the Gulf of Patti, one can control the comings and goings on the Tyrrhenian Sea from Capo Milazzo to Capo Calavà. Importantly, it faces the Eolian Islands, which since ancient times, have offered important natural resources such as obsidian and pumice to traders and merchants.

The renowned Madonna Nera statue (pictured during last evening’s procession) arrived “from the east” when during a storm in the 9th century, a boat became marooned on the beach below the ruins of an ancient Roman temple to Ceres, the mother earth goddess of fertility, grain, the harvest, and birth. Local fishermen aiming to assist the wrecked boat, started to unload its holdings to release the vessel from the rocks and sand. The boat was finally able to break free when a large box was removed. When it was revealed that the box contained a statue of the Madonna with Jesus in her lap, the villagers determined that it was a sign that the Virgin Mother wanted to stay in Tindari. Townspeople carried the statue up the mountain to the temple ruins, and they placed it in the cella of the sacred space, where before there was a Roman temple, there had been a Greek temple to Demeter for centuries.

From this hilltop, which is a natural fortress, one can see the agricultural riches of the area, where grapes, olives, wheat, and vegetables are still cultivated.

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