Twenty five years ago a medieval Madonna caught my eye and captured my heart.
Notre Dame de la Brune is a restored Romanesque image of the Blessed Mother. It is in the North aisle of the Abbey church of St Philibert in Tournus, France. This church is a fantastic example of Burgundian Romanesque. You can find a picture gallery of the church here.
My discovery of this church and this image happened like this: In the summer of 1987 I went on a hitch hiking pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem. I traveled across France, staying in monasteries and religious houses as I traveled. One day I was making my way through the French countryside and I stopped in the town of Tournus for lunch. It is a delightful, medieval city, but access to the old abbey church is down a side street. I had never heard of Tournus, the abbey church of St Philibert or the image of ND de la Brune.
So after lunch I moseyed along to the church and stuck my head inside. Nothing I liked more when living in Europe than snooping around old churches. I was amazed. Here stuck down a side street was this most amazingly unspoiled Romanesque church. Then as I wandered back out of the church down the North Aisle I came across her. Notre Dame de la Brune.
The whole image is one of simple, but powerful craftsmanship, her face is dignified, regal, yet natural and down to earth. Something transcendent and holy was there in that image as it was in the Blessed Virgin. She too was simple and natural and free–and yet for those who had eyes to see she was already the Queen of Heaven.