Our Lady of the Underworld at Chartres Cathedral

Our Lady of the Underworld celebrates her feast day Oct. 17. The many incarnations of Mary have fascinated me since I was a child, but none more than this form.

I first discovered her through writings from Abbey of the Arts and have since found a deep connection.

Our Lady of the Underworld, or Notre Dame de Sous-Terre, is home in Chartres Cathedral in France.

There, you can experience three profound mothers (a trinity):

In the crypt, the Black Madonna Our Lady from Under the Earth, guardian of the underworld.

In the cathedral, the Black Madonna Our Lady of the Pillar, guardian of this world.

In the most famous window of Chartres, Our Lady of the Beautiful Window, crowned and wrapped in her blue mantel as the Queen of Heaven.

Chartres also is home to an incredible labyrinth, an ancient Druidic sanctuary, and a miraculous well. There is evidence, as well, that a temple to Persephone (Goddess of the Underworld) once stood on the site.

Notre Dame de Sous-Terre comes to mind often when I am writing.

Abbess Christine Valters Paintner shares that the dark night of the soul are essential parts of our journey. As well, I know they are essential elements of storytelling. Characters that don’t face the darkness are shallow, empty, and, in many ways, inhuman.

We spend so much time in the light, even forcing it upon ourselves as to not have to face what is there in the utter silence of our darkest nights. But, what if it is the darkness that we require to find our humanity and transform? Night whispers in ways the day could never fathom. It forces us to sit vigil, alone, and sift through all that we think we know or understand or believe. The darkness reveals where we must heal, what we must open ourselves to and face so that, when we return to the light, we can do our most loving work with others.

Notre Dame de Sous-Terre reminds us not to avoid the dark, but to sit quietly within the chaos and allow ourselves to be transformed by what is revealed. She requires us to do the work, to reach deep and excavate our humanity, and bring it with us into the light every day.