NIGRA SUM SED FORMOSA
I AM BLACK BUT BEAUTIFUL
Do you think that “Black But Beautiful” is an American slogan? Well, not really. The town of Tindari in Sicily has honored these words for centuries.
Each year on September 8, the ancient town of Tindari celebrates the feast of the Black Madonna del Tindari. Pilgrims from near and far places come to worship and celebrate the day. The statue that represents the Madonna is sculpted from wood in the Byzantine style. The words Nigra Sum Sed Formosa are incised at the base of the statue. Some believe that the words are taken from the Book in the Old Testament, Song of Songs. It is believed that the statue was brought from Syria or Egypt during the iconoclastic epoch or during the Crusades. The statue is housed in a beautiful Sanctuary located on a promontory above the Tyrrenean Sea, and can be seen from miles around. Tindari is only a few miles from Librizzi and the Sanctuary is easily seen from this town.
There are several legends attributed to the Madonna. The first one is about the arrival of the statue to Tindari. Apparently the ship that was carrying the statue ran aground near Tindari during a storm. After the storm the sailors tried to get the ship back into the sea but were unable to do so until they put ashore the statue. The statue was left behind and the ship continued its trip to her destination.
Another legend is about the mother who came to Tindari to worship the Madonna but when she saw the statue she blurted out that the Madonna was ugly. Later that day her child accidentally fell off the cliff of Tindari into the sea below. It would have been certain death for the child but the Madonna took pity and a soft sandbar appeared and saved the child.
Tyndaris was one of the last Greek Colonies in Sicily and is historically interesting, later the town flourished under the rule of the Roman Empire. Both cultures left their architectural imprint on this town. When I have time I will write more about this town which was named for Tyndareus, father of the Dioscuri.