We’re back in Sicily today, dear readers, to visit Tindari (Tyndaris), an ancient Greek settlement in the comune of Patti.
I’ll tell you more about the history of this once vibrant city overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea another day when we tour the ruins of Tindari, but today’s feature is the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna (Santuario della Madonna Nera).
The original church, which had been built on top of the old city’s ruins, was destroyed by Algerian pirates in 1544, then reconstructed between 1552 and 1598; the sanctuary was expanded in 1979 when a new, larger church was built on the site.
The whole grounds are just lovely; indeed, here is a fabulous mosaic that you’ll see on the walk up to the church doors. I don’t know who he is, but he sure looks peaceful and content, doesn’t he?
I should mention that the phenomenon of Black Madonnas around the world is interesting in and of itself, and you can read more about it here.
The Black Madonna in Tindari, carved of cedar, has a few legends attached to her, some of which include how she got there in the first place.
One legend says that sailors, having sought refuge from a storm in the bay of Tindari, found themselves unable to ship back out to sea.
They began unloading their cargo little by little until they realized that it was the Black Madonna herself that needed to stay in Tindari, so they carried her up to the small church on the hill, and she has remained there ever since.
Another legend says that the statue was brought from the Middle East (its likely origin regardless of how it ended up in Tindari) to protect Sicily during the Iconoclastic Wars in the 8th century.
And these aren’t the only legends surrounding the Black Madonna. See this lagoon?
It is said to have been created when a mother coming to visit the sanctuary refused to pray to the Madonna because she was black. When the woman’s baby slipped from her grasp into the sea below, the Madonna made parts of the land rise to save the baby and the lagoon was born.
Another interesting feature of the Madonna Nera is the inscription “Nigra sum sed formosa” at the base of the statue. It means “I am black but beautiful” and comes from the Old Testament’s Song of Songs, although the precise relationship between the biblical phrase and the Black Madonna is widely debated.
Some of you from the New York/New Jersey area may have already heard of the Black Madonna of Tindari as Sicilian immigrants have honored her since the early 20th century–for more information on this connection, check out a great article by Joseph Sciorra discussing the history of The Black Madonna of East Thirteenth Street as well as a short piece from The New York Times.
And, before we go, another gorgeous view looking down from the Sanctuary:
Pure tranquility and beauty in Tindari.
I highly recommend a visit.