© 2018 by REINHARD REITZENSTEIN
 

Phone: 716-289-2757  Email: rr33@buffalo.edu

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ICONOPHILIA

Iconophilia (the love of pictures and images)

The origins of the shrine to the Black Madonna on Pond Lane in the town of Duntara (earlier called Broad Cove) is uncertain at best and shrouded in all manner of assumptions at worst.

The version I am prepared to deliver about the mysterious shrine is perhaps the most digestible. It was never made clear whether the builder of the original house was responsible for the shrine or whether it was a member of the family.  In any case, I was told this version over a few pints at Linda’s pub in Catalina. 

 

Two men lived in the house around the time of the First World War.  One was a young ambitious fisherman and the other his elderly uncle.  The younger man was eager to volunteer for the British navy and soon went overseas to help in the fight against the Germans.  Since he was a skilled seaman he was appropriately trained and served as a navigator on a British, Ceres-class light cruiser called the Cardiff.  The Cardiff was deployed in the Mediterranean as well as the North and Baltic seas.  One night during a period in the Mediterranean the young man had a very intense and memorable dream.  In his dream the Cardiff was about to be fired upon and effectively incapacitated by a German battle cruiser when the Black Madonna appeared to him and gave him careful instructions that would allow him to lead his ship and crew out of danger.   When he awoke he proceeded with the duties of the day, forgetting the dream until the same sequence of events began to take shape.  The young man recalled the careful instructions given in his dream and led his ship and crew to safety.  Deeply moved by this experience he began obsessively collecting images and icons of the Black Madonna throughout the rest of his tour of duty in Europe.  When he eventually returned home to Duntara he quietly created a shrine to the Black Madonna, hidden away in the closet under the stairs of his house. 

 

As the years passed he would spend summers on his fishing boat and work in lumber camps or at sealing on the ice flows in winter, until one winter between the wars he didn’t return from the ice flows.  His uncle, now unable to care for himself, was moved from the house into the care of other family members.  At times the house was occupied by various relatives, or left abandoned, until Catherine Beaudette purchased it.  While renovating the exterior siding Catherine discovered a narrow door that led to the space under the stairs where she found the shrine to the Black Madonna.  For Catherine there were suddenly more questions than answers:

When during the lengthy history of the house had this been created? 

Who was so determined to make a shrine? 

Why the Black Madonna? 

What was the motivation?