Montovolo Retreats

Montovolo Retreat 3 (versione in Italiano)

Montovolo’s Black Madonna and its Presumed Ancient Temple of Isis

By Graziano Baccolini

The Black Madonnas with Child are among the most sacred icons of the Catholic Church and they are found in Europian most venerated Sanctuaries and Cathedrals.a Today, there are over 450 documented Black Madonna sites in all the world (see: / Also on a mountain named Montovolo, located between Bologna and Florence, in Italy, there is a Sanctuary dedicated to a Black Madonna with Child. Previously we have reported that this site (Montovolo) was probably in origin an ancient oracular centre (see Montovolo Retreat 1) and probably already present in the Etruscan Age (VIII-I centuries BC). This statement was based on the presence, on the Sanctuary’s lunetta (reported above), of two doves and two plants which are the most used codes of the ancient oracular centres. Subsequently we have found that the serpent legend of Montovolo is very similar to an ancient ballad of Delphi, the most famous oracle centre of the Mediterranean area. In addition the local religious traditions of Montovolo are in accord with an Etruscan Sacred site dedicated to goddess Pales ( see Montovolo Retreat 2).

Another "legend", reported in some books b,c relates that at one time there was an ancient temple of Isis at Montovolo. This story probably arised or by the presence, at Montovolo, of a Black Madonna or by the fact that this Black Madonna was a reproduction of an ancient statue of Isis located in this site. It is very difficult to determine the exact correlation but there is one.

In fact, modern historiansa recognize that the statue of the Egyptian Goddess Isis holding her child Horus in her arms was the first Madonna and Child. Probably these statues were renamed Mary and Jesus when Europe was forcibly Christianized.

Very likely several Black Madonnas which are venerated in Europe have this origin. It is reported that

"..Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, had openely embraced the cause of Isis, the Egypthian goddess, and had anthropomorphized her into Mary, the mother of God…"( H.P.Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled.)

The cult of Isis spread from Alexandria to all the Mediterranean countries, especially Greece and Rome, after the fourth century BC, and reached a peak in the third century BC. The cult died out in Rome after the institution of Christianity, and the last Egyptian temples to Isis were closed around 550 AD and trasformed in a Christian temple. In the ancient Rome about one hundried of temples of Isis were adapted to Christian churchs.

  • "The cult of Isis was widespread in the Egypt of the dynastic period. From Egypt it spread northwards to Phoenicia, Syria and Palestine; to Asia Minor; to Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, Samos and other islands in the Aegean; to many parts of mainland Greece,Corinth, Argos and Thessaly amongst them; to Malta and Sicily; and, finally, to Rome. In the first century BC, Isis was perhaps the most popular goddess in the Eternal City, from which her cult spread to the furthest limits of the Roman Empire, including Britain: her only rival was Mithras.

(Barbara Watterson, The Gods of Ancient Egypt )

In the first century BC, Isis, Goddess of Egypt, was perhaps the most popular Goddess in Rome and probably its image was carried by Roman legions and was pictured as Black because of its African origin even if in ancient Egypt she was conventionally pictured as pale Yellow Virgin !

During the centuries many images of the original ancient Blak Madonnas were destroyed and sometime replaced by reproductions with pale or white skin color (or of white marble!) perhaps to cancel the "pagan" origin.

Some authors affirm that the dark color of these Blak Madonnas is due to the many candles and lamps that have burned night and day before the image !!!.

The present statue*, wood polychrome pictured, of the Black Madonna of Montovolo was done by an anonimous sculptor presumably in XV- XVI century in imitation of an earlier Black Madonna the author had seen. In fact, it is reportede that an "old and a new Madonna " were together present in Montovolo Sanctuary for severals years in the in XVI century. The definition of Sanctuary for this small church might be not appropiated but however justified if its origin was a very ancient, important Temple.

The most important religious festival of Montovolo occurs after the first week of September and , in the past, it lasted for about two weeks. But it is reported by Lattanzio (IV century A.D) that in the ancient Egypth the same period of September was dedicated to Isis rites.

It should be noted that remains of ancient sanctuaries of Isis have been found in several ancient oracle centres such as Delos, Dion, and Delphi (as reportedf by Plutarco). Then the presumed temple of Isis on the top of Montovolo and consequently its Black Madonna are in accord with a previous ancient Oracle Centre on the same site.

Or are these just other strange coincidences ?


*Now, after a recent "restoration" of the statue, its black skin color has been attenuated but the original color can be appreciated looking photos reported in some bookse or in old postcards.

a) Stefen Benko , The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology, 1996

b) Arturo Palmieri Un probabile confine dell’Esarcato di Ravenna nell’appennino Bolognese Montovolo-Vimignano, Bologna 1913.

c) Arturo Palmieri Montovolo nel Bolognese e le sue leggende. Palermo 1895.

d) Arturo Palmieri La montagna bolognese del Medio Evo, Bologna 1929.

e) Oriano Tassinari Clò, Terra e gente di Vimignano, Bologna 1987.

f) Plutarco, Isis and Osiris.


Prof. Graziano Baccolini

Dipartimento di Chimica Organica, Università di Bologna


May, 2000

Part of this page is quoted in an article of Catholic New Times (CNT) of Toronto (Jan 4, 2004)

Continuing our researches about Montovolo:

Montovolo retreat 4 (Delphi's "Castalian"Spring and Montovolo's "Cantalian" Spring:

Another Strange Coincidence or Another Ancient Correlation ?) (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 5 (The Two Etruscan Necropolis of Marzabotto and their Sacred Ties with Montovolo)

 Montovolo retreat 6 2002 (Found an Unequivocal Data Confirming Montovolo was the Sacred Mountain of the Northern Etruscan Dodecapolis (Italian Version

 Montovolo retreat 7 2002 (The Crypt of Montovolo is Actually an Intact Etruscan Temple! (Italian version)

 Montovolo retreat 8 , 2003 Montovolo : an Etruscan Geodetic Point? ( italian version )

Montovolo retreat 9 2003 The Tomb of the Bulls and its Religious Symbols: The Oval Stone and the Cross (Italian Version)

Montovolo retreat 10 (2004) The Symbolic Meaning of the Egg and of the Oval Stone in the Etruscan Religion (Italian version)

(The tomb of the Leopards,  The Tomb of the Lionesses , The Tomb of the Shields) at Tarquinia

Montovolo retreat 11(2005) An afternoon dedicated to the Art: A Meeting with Antonella Roncarolo, writer and journalist

Montovolo retreat 12 (2005) From Montovolo to the Campidoglio: the Symbolic Meaning of Michelangelo's Oval Design.( Italian version )

Montovolo retreat 13 (2005) From Montovolo to Volterra: found again all together the symbols of the Etruscan Oracular Centers (Italian version)

Montovolo retreat 14 (29 october 2005) (italian version)     A Meeting with Dr Romano Romoli , to find the ancient origin of Words and Symbols. ( photos)  See also Etymologies of Giovanni Semerano

Montovolo Retreat 15  (Maggio 2006 ) - From Australia to Montovolo: to Know the Archaic Etruscan “Navel” and its  “Temple of the Lily” (English version)


Montovolo Retreat  16   (March 2007) A Recent Study of Genetics supports Anatolian Origin of the Etruscans  (Italian Version)


Montovolo Retreat 17  (June 2008 ) Da Montovolo la vera origine dei Merovingi, del Giglio di Francia e quello di Firenze ( Italian version)

 (From Montovolo the origin of Merovingians, of the Lily of France ( fleur de lis) and

that of Florence .) (English version -)





 See also a summary of our researches about Montovolo as Sacred Etruscan Mount or the index of Montovolo Retreats

 My preferred web site about Etruscan Civilisation:

 See also my article The amazing scientific wisdom of the ancients: Plato and Proclus.


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