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The great cathedral of Chartres is rewned the world over as a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture and for its remarkable stained glass, considered alchemical glass, and its mystical labyrinth. But the sacred foundations of this sanctuary go back to a long time before Christianity when this site was a clearing where the Druids worshipped a Virgo Paritura: a virgin about to give birth. This ancient meeting place, where all the Druids in Gaul gathered once a year, w houses the magnificent Chartres cathedral dedicated both to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and to one of the most venerated Black Madonnas in Europe: Our Lady of the Pillar. Coincidence? Hardly, says Jean Markale, whose exhaustive examination of the site traces Chartres' roots back to prehistoric times and the appeal of the Black Madonna back to the ancient widespread worship of Mother Goddesses such as Cybele and Isis. Markale contends that the mother and child depicted by the Black Madonna are descended from the image worshipped by the druids of the Virgin forever giving birth. This image is t merely a representation of maternal love - albeit of a spiritual nature. It is a theological tion of great refinement: the Virgin gives birth ceaselessly to a world, a God and a humanity in perpetual becoming.
Poet, philosopher, historian and storyteller Jean Markale has spent a lifetime researching pre-Christian and medieval culture and spirituality. He lives in Brittany.