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3 February 2013


Drawing by Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond

The Golden Legend of James of Voragine, Englished by William Granger Ryan:
Opaque creatures manifested the Nativity, for example by the destruction of the temple in Rome, as above described, and also by the collapse of other statues that fell in a great many other places. For instance, we read in the Scholastic History that the prophet Jeremiah, going down to Egypt after the death of Godolias, indicated to the Egyptian kings that their idols would fall to pieces when a virgin bore a son. For that reason the priests of the idols made a statue of a virgin holding a male child in her lap, set it up in a secret place in the temple, and there worshipped it. When King Ptolemy asked them the meaning of this, they told him that it was a mystery handed down by the fathers, who had received it from a holy man, a prophet, and they believed that what was foretold would really happen.
The story of the statue's creation was inlcuded in the Speculum Humane Salvationis as a prefigurement of the Flight into Egypt, along with Moses breaking the Pharaoh's crown and Nebuchadnezzar's dream.


Sarah Jane Boss:
At Le Puy, it is not only the site that is enveloped in sacred mythology, but also the statue of the Virgin and Child. According to tradition, this too is a pre-Christian image prophetic of Christianity. The original statue is said to have been carved by the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, while he remained in Egypt after fleeing there following the fall of Jerusalem. The statue is thus a visual prophecy of the Incarnation. One tradition recounts that King St. Louis IX of France, on his way to Palestine to join a crusade, was captured by the Sultan of Egypt. Whilst he was there awaiting his ransom, the sultan showed him many of the treasures of his country, amongst which, in the temple, was a black statue of a mother and child.

King Louis immediately recognized the image as a statue of the Virgin and Christ. When the king's ransom arrived, the sultan told him that he could choose a gift, from everything he had seen in Egypt, to take back with him to his native land, and the gift that Louis chose was the statue of the mother and child. The sultan was most reluctant to let it go, but, having given his word, he could not go back on it, and so the statue was taken by Louis to France, where it was given to the shrine of Le Puy.
The Black Virgin of Le Puy was guillotined and burned by the revolutionaries on 9 June 1794. As the statue burned, a secret door opened in its back, out of which a small parchment scroll fell. It was consumed by the fire before anyone could read what was written on it.

Shortly before the statue was destroyed, it was sketched and described by the Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond. The statue currently venerated in the Cathedral of Le Puy is a replica based on this description.

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