Many ‘Black Virgin’ statues are found in central France, round the Auvergne: one of the finest is found just north of Clermont-Ferrand, in the village of Marsat (1: Puy-de-Dôme), a place of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.

A very similar late twelfth-century example, Notre-Dame de la Bonne-Mort, stood forgotten for many years in the funerary chapel of the bishops of Clermont. Rediscovered in 1974, today this statue occupies an honoured place in the chapel of St Austremoine, behind the high altar of the cathedral in Clermont-Ferrand (2: Puy-de-Dôme).

Further south, near the Luberon range of mountains, the sanctuary of Goult-Lumières (Vaucluse) is a more recent foundation. A man had a vison of the Holy Child, covered in light, at an ancient chapel of Our Lady there

in 1661, and the shrine – dedicated in 1699 by the Bishop of Cavaillon – commemorates this. The modern image of our Lady of Light (3) is at the centre of the chapel, but many pilgrims head for the altar on the south side of the crypt chapel, a place of fervent intercession. Though the ancient statue of La Santo Vierge Negro was stolen in 1978, it was rapidly replaced by a copy, and devotion continues (4). ND