I had done an Internet search before we left to see if there were any Black Madonna statues in Paris, being familiar with the Black Madonnas that can be found around France and Northern Spain. There was one, in Notre Dame de Bonne Délivrance, in a wealthy suburb just northwest of Paris proper. I made my intentions to visit the Black Madonna in Paris, on this honeymoon trip to Europe. And so it was.
After two full days of walking our legs off visiting museums, catacombs and basillicas, I was to take the last morning to myself, for long Metro ride to Neuilly-sur-Siene to visit the Black Madonna of de Bonne Délivrance.
The morning was dark—from black thunder clouds that boomed and crashed outside the large French window of our postage-stamp-sized room, facing an inner courtyard. Thunder, lightening, and then tropical-style pouring rain.
I could have bagged it, but I donned my dark pink rain jacket, armed with my husband’s iPhone (with address bookmarked in Google Maps), and to his dismay, marched out into the pouring rain.
I only had to go half a block, to the Metro station.
A quick 20 minutes later, I was at my stop. Emerging from the Metro, I followed the iPhone blinking blue dot along the streets of a very nice, well-kept and friendly-feeling neighborhood.
The storm had cleared and the sun was shining.
With ease, I found my destination — the Chateau de Neuilly, behind whose gates the chapel was housed. The large, black iron gate was open. I followed the signs for the Chapel de Bonne Délivrance, around the corner, along a well-kept gravel path. And there it was.
Inside the small chapel, it was cool and quiet. A nun, black as night, was gently moving around the alter, putting away accoutrements from the 11:00 am Monday morning mass, which I apparently had just missed. Two women were sitting silently in the pews.
And behind the alter was the Black Madonna, graceful in her flowing robes, with the child Jesus on her flung out hip.
I walked reverently up the side isle, standing behind a pillar, and took a couple of photos. Then sat in a middle pew and felt inside myself—what kind of feeling did I have here in this place?
Actually, immediately upon entering the space, I felt a very quiet gentleness. Walking near her, I was struck very strongly with the energy of utter and complete purity and innocence. The gentle sweetness of a young girl child.
I was quite taken off guard. My idea of the Black Madonna was a strong and mysterious energy, something powerful yet hidden.
I sat on a pew in front of her and wondered at how long it had been since I had felt that unscathed sweetness in myself, that untainted purity of heart.
A long time.
I soaked it in and soaked it in, intending to have my bones remember it.
An elderly white nun, hunched over but walking briskly, motored to the back of the chapel and I could hear her carrying on a conversation with a patron, in musical and hushed French tones that echoed and reverberated soothingly throughout the space.
Within a half hour or so, the chapel was closing, as the sweet black nun told me in accented English, with the kindest of smiles.
I retraced the steps of my journey with a great peace in my heart. Here was an aspect of the Feminine that I had completely forgotten about, that perhaps I did not take seriously, because it wasn’t ‘strong.’ Yet in truth, there was an incredible strength, I discovered, in the purity of Her innocence.
You may notice that the photo I took of this Black Madonna is NOT the same statue as the Black Madonna in the blog where I’d found her first. Similar, but not the same. Another mystery never to be solved.