In 1838, sisters from Lyon donated the image of Our Lady of Africa to the first Bishop of Algiers. It is a “black Madonna” an image of Mary with a dark skin color. The statue was consecrated in 1872 and placed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa of Algiers. Since then, this has been a place of pilgrimage for the small Catholic community in Algeria, and for Muslims. The inscription of the apse: “Our Lady of Africa pray for us and for the Muslims” is present to this day to illustrate the interreligious dimension of prayer in the basilica.
In 1885 Cardinal Lavigerie wanted to disband the congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. The sisters prayed at the statue of Our Lady of Africa to ask Mary to prevent this. They promised that if the congregation would continue, there would always be a Statue of Our Lady of Africa in the Mother House. Happily the congregation continued and in thanksgiving the sisters placed a dark colored statue of Mary in the garden of their mother house in Algiers. They called her “Our Lady of the Promise”.
Every evening they sang the “Sancta Maria” around this statue. This is a hymn from the 4th century AD, very much loved by Lavigerie. When the mother house was moved from Algiers to Rome in 1964, the statue went along.