The Shrine Madonna
In the Middle Ages, a revival of the Great Mother found its expression in the troubadours (kings calling themselves "troubadours of the Celestial Queen", exactly the same terminology the kings of Babylon used to use), courtly love, the appearance of the "Black Virgins", the mystical women's movement, the interest in Mary, especially through the influence of Bernard of Clairveaux, and last but not least in the occurrence of intriguing statues: the Shrine Madonna's ("Vierges Ouvrantes"). The astonishing thing about them is, that Mary is portrayed with the Trinity inside of Her body, containing God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Since the occurrence of the Shrine Madonna's paralleled widespread and intense discussions about the "Trinity", scholars * have interpreted them as "the action of the Trinity in Mary". However, this appears only one side of the coin. At the same time namely, Mary was worshipped in hymns, litanies and songs as the "Temple or Shrine of the Trinity". It coincides with the (secret) revival of the cult of the Mother (Isis) in its various manifestations. H.Seuse (Suso) for instance, expresses his devotion to "Eternal Wisdom", which is just a "disguise" for the Mother.
* Gudrun Radler, see below.
The Shrine Madonna first appeared around 1200 in Central France in the monastery of Boubon, a nunnery founded by Robert d'Abrissel. The latter transferred his power so totally, that even a nearby men's convent had to obey the abbess. This wasn't a coincidence. A powerful vision - that of a feminine supremacy - had infiltrated the culture. Furthermore, the Shrine Madonna's were often kept at secret or remote places. Sometimes they were given by kings to local churches. For instance Louis IX (The Holy 1214-1270) gave his copy to the church in Maubuisson, while the wife of Alfonso X gave hers to the church of Allariz. Hence, the Shrine Madonna's moved from Gnostic-esoteric circles to the public space, where they soon became objects of great devotion. Shrine Madonna's could be found from Spain to Poland and from France to Switzerland and Germany.*
* There are about 50 Vierges Ouvrantes left. Famous ones are the one in Musée de Cluny in Paris (copy) and the one in the Germanisches Museum in Nürnberg.
The esoteric meaning of the Shrine Madonna was that of the Great Mother. Long before Isis had been called the "Shrine of the universe", containing all and everything. Hence, Hermes Trismegistos is speaking of ..."by you, Mother", or Valentinus talking about "Mother/Womb of All". In Russian theology "Wisdom" (Sophia, replacement for the Great Mother) is considered to be the All-embracing Divine Foundation of life, giving birth to the Trinity" (...). Not surprisingly thus, that Gerson, an influential theologian of the time of the Shrine Madonna's started preaching against the devotion of the Shrine Madonna. In a statement he warned that "simple people"! (note: this was the time of Margarete Porete's book "Mirroir des Simples Âmes, first a book for highly developed religious people, which subsequently may have found its way to "common" people...) might interpret it in such a way, that the entire Trinity is incarnated in the body of Mary. Huizinga adds to it, that the real fear was, that "the Trinity would indeed be considered the fruit of Mary's lap".
To Mother Worship, the image of the Shrine Madonna is the most complete reflection of the Truth, in which the Great Mother-Magna Mater is indeed giving birth to "God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost". Hence, She is the patroness of our Worship.
* Gudrun Radler "Die
Schreinmadonna/"Vierge Ouvrante", 1990
* Dionysios Areopagita "Von den Namen zum Unnennbaren", 1981 Johannes Verlag
* H.Suso "The Life of the Servant", 1982 James Clark & Co