The cloak of the Virgin Mary is blue. Sacred blue. It was not always so, but beginning in the thirteenth century, the Church dictated that in paintings, frescoes, mosaics, stained glass windows, icons, and altarpieces, Mary’s cloak was to be colored blue, and not just any blue, but ultramarine blue, the rarest and most expensive color in the medieval painter’s palette, the source mineral, more valuable than gold. Strangely enough, in the eleven hundred years prior to the rise of the cult of the Virgin, there is no mention in Church liturgy of the color blue, none, as if it had been deliberately avoided. Prior to the thirteenth century, the Virgin’s cloak was to be depicted in red—color of the sacred blood.
Medieval color merchants and dyers, who had been geared up for red since the time of the Roman Empire, but had no established natural source for blue, were hard-pressed to meet the demand that rose from the color’s association with the Virgin. They tried to bribe glass-makers at the great cathedrals to portray the Devil in blue in their windows, in hope of changing the mind-set of the faithful, but the Virgin and Sacré Bleu prevailed.
The cult of the Virgin itself may have risen out of an effort of the Church to absorb the last few pagan goddess-worshippers in Europe, some of those the remnants of worshippers of the Roman goddess Venus, and her Greek analogue Aphrodite, and the Norse, Freya. The ancients did not associate the color blue with their goddesses. To them, blue was not even a real color but a shade of night, a derivative of black.
In the ancient world, blue was a breed of darkness.