History of Leith, Edinburgh

November 4, 2007

The Coat of Arms of Leith,Magdalene and the Black Madonnas

When I wrote “Leith and the Holy Grail” I didn’t realise I would cause so much controversy. However please see some of the sources that I used below.

templar_ship_crest.jpg
Templar Ship Crest
St. Mary’s Church, Fortingall (does it look Familiar?)
acknowledged-Ani Williams (c)

The point is there is no doubt according to historic records that the Knights of St John came to Leith in 1327. That part of the Order were The Hospitaller Sisters of St. John of Jerusalem, and they were based orginally at the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, Jerusalem, and they probaly came into Leith at the same time bringing the image of Mary Magalene which would have been what is called the “Black Madonna”. This is compounded by the fact that Leith traded with Northern Europe and France during the same period and that the images of Mary Magdalene in France and Europe are shown as Black Madonnas and in every one she is holding a child. These can be seen by clicking onto the relevant links below.

It is also a fact that Leith was Church Property during the Middle Ages and the representation of Mary Magdalene was used to show what property was owned by the church and this in time came to represent Leith.

In fact what we have on the Coat of Arms of Leith is a form of Black Madonna. That is the possible reason why the Coat of Arms of Leith weren’t changed at the Reformation for the simple fact it didn’t represent the Virgin Mary at all but St Mary Magdalene

John Arthur

For Images of the “Black Madonna” click here

“Like pearls from an ancient lover’s gift, Magdalene sites and legends lie cast across a vast expanse, reaching from Ethiopia, Palestine, Egypt, France and north to the highlands and isles of Scotland. Crumbling chapel ruins, great Gothic cathedrals, caves, symbols carved in stone, and stories of her coming and going remain like fragments of an old story necklace, waiting and waiting and still waiting to be found.”for more click here

“There are almost five hundred so-called “Black” Madonnas scattered over Europe, the highest concentrations appearing in France and Italy. Many are believed to have miraculous powers of healing and protection”.for more click here

“… Mary Magdalene was a Head Sister of the Nazarite Order (the equivalent of a senior bishop) and was entitled to wear black. In parallel with the early reverence for Mary Magdalene, a cult known as that of the Black Madonna emanated from Ferrieres in AD 44. Note: Ean C. M. Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin, Introduction, p.20. Among the many Black Madonna representations that still exist, one of the finest statues is displayed at Verviers, Liege; she is totally black with a golden sceptre and crown, summoned by Sophia’s halo of stars. Her infant child also wears a crown of royalty.”for more click here

Black Madonnas express a feminine power not fully conveyed by a pale-skinned Mary, who seems to symbolise gentler qualities like obedience and purity. This idea can be discussed in Jungian terms. It may be linked to Mary Magdalene and female sexuality repressed by the medieval Church. In France especially, there are strong traditions that some statues are of Mary Magdalene and not of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The feminine power may be linked with the earth goddesses and attributed to the archetypal “great mother” who presides not only over fertility, but over life and death. These ideas overlap with “feminist spirituality” or “women’s spirituality”. (Chiavola Birnbaum) Black Madonnas express a feminine power not fully conveyed by a pale-skinned Mary, who seems to symbolise gentler qualities like obedience and purity. This idea can be discussed in Jungian terms. It may be linked to Mary Magdalene and female sexuality repressed by the medieval Church. In France especially, there are strong traditions that some statues are of Mary Magdalene and not of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The feminine power may be linked with the earth goddesses and attributed to the archetypal “great mother” who presides not only over fertility, but over life and death. These ideas overlap with “feminist spirituality” or “women’s spirituality”. (Chiavola Birnbaum) for more click here

“The year AD 1099 is nowadays commonly agreed upon to be the year of the foundation of the Order of St. John. I’ll tell you later on in detail about it. There are many legendary stories and reports about the origin, because there are only few written sources of evidence which could proof what the historical facts really are. The spectrum of traditions stretches from dating back the origins into times before Christ, in order to show off with a history as long as possible, to the hypothesis of a totally independent spontaneous foundation in AD 1099.”for more click here

“In the year 1099 the Crusaders were victorious. In the years following the Knights Templar were formed and cathedrals were built under the patronage of ‘Notre Dame’, ‘Our Lady’ known by many to refer to Mary Magdalene and NOT, as so many believed, Mary, the mother of Jesus.”for more click here

(Throughout the middle ages pilgrims from Leith went to the Tomb of St James at Compostela, in Galicia,Spain)
“Founded in the twelfth century, owes its name to the national patron of Spain, St. James the Greater, under whose banner the Christians of Galicia began in the ninth century to combat and drive back the Mussulmans of Spain.” for more click here

“The Hospitaller Sisters of St. John of Jerusalem, early in the twelfth century, were established in the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, Jerusalem, for the care of pilgrims. The year after the fall of Jerusalem (1188) a community was established at Sixena, Spain, by Sancha, wife of Alfonso II of Aragon, for the care of poor ladies of noble families, and the rule was confirmed by Celestine III in 1193. Except from 1470 to 1569, when they were under the immediate jurisdiction of the pope, the sisters were subject to the Grand Master of the Hospitallers. Other communities were soon founded throughout Spain, Italy, Portugal, and England. A reform was instituted in the hospital of Beaulieu in the first years of the seventeenth century; new constitutions were drawn up in 1636, and approved in 1644. After the fall of Rhodes the original habit of red, with a black mantle, embroidered with the cross of St. John of Jerusalem, was exchanged for one of black. On the suppression of the Templars, the few houses of sisters of that order were united with those of St. John of Jerusalem.” for more click here

“Mary Magdalen was so called either from Magdala near Tiberias, on the west shore of Galilee, or possibly from a Talmudic expression meaning “curling women’s hair,” which the Talmud explains as of an adulteress. for more click here

(St Ninian Church was originally the chapel of the St Nicholas hospice, now offices)
“Saint Ninian (c. 360 – 432) is the earliest known bishop to have visited Scotland. Neither his place and date of birth, nor his early life are known with any certainty.” for more click here

(St Nicholas Hospice for seamen now removed)
“Saint Nicholas is the common name for Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in 4th century Byzantine Lycia (modern day Antalya, Turkey), who had a reputation for secret gift-giving. This is as much as is generally known about him in the West.” for more click here

For more on the history of hospitals and hospices click here

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