Jasna Gora, Poland: Our Lady of Czestochowa (the Black Madonna)
About the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa:
The story of Our Lady of Czestochowa is somewhat of a mystery. According to tradition, the image of Our Lady was reportedly painted by Saint Luke and later Saint Helena (mother of Constantine) is said to have discovered the image in Jerusalem and brought it back to Constantinople.
For 500 years it remained in Constantinople, and in 803 the Byzantine emperor is said to have given the icon to a Greek princess as a wedding present. The young woman placed the image in the royal palace at Belz where it remained until the 14th Century. When the Tartars conquered the city they looted almost everything–except for the portrait of the Madonna. A mysterious cloud was said to have enveloped the chapel where it was kept and it was preserved. Later an angel appeared to Saint ladislaus, the prince of Belz, and told him to take the image to a small village named Częstochowa.
After doing so, the saint founded a monastery of Pauline monks there to care for the icon. A church was built on Jasna Gora (Bright Hill) in 1386. However, once again, the country was invaded, this time by the Hussites, who burned and looted everything in sight. When a soldier was unable to destroy the image, he struck the painting with his sword leaving two gashes on Our Lady’s right cheek. When the monks later found the picture it was covered with filth. They were unable to clean it immediately due to a lack of water, but later a miraculous fountain sprung up and they were able to clean it.
In 1919 again Our Lady’s intercession was sought as the Soviet army invaded the newly unified country of Poland, reaching the banks of the River Vistula. As the Russian victory seemed almost certain, priests carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession through many cities and people prayed novenas to Our Lady of Częstochowa. The Russians were then defeated in a series of battles known as “the Miracle at the Vistula”.
During World War II, Hitler prohibited pilgrimages to Jasna Góra, although some of the faithful made them anyway.
There is little doubt that Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland in 1979 helped to bring about the fall of Communism. The Holy Father prayed before the image and made subsequent visits in 1983, 1991 and 1997. When Pope Francis visited here in July 2106, he bestowed upon it the Golden Rose, as had his predecessor Pope John Paul II.
We celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Czestechowa on August 26.
About the Basilica of Jasna Gora:
The Monastery of Jasna Góra is now one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. As you can see, the Basilica itself is beautiful, but of course the miraculous icon is the main attraction here. The miraculous icon is in the chapel of the Basilica. Masses are celebrated daily in Polish, English and many other languages.
There is a Church-operated hotel right behind the Basilica.
Częstochowa is located in south central Poland, about 20 miles from Katowice. The city is accessible by plain, train or bus. There are trains from Warsaw and Krakow taking aout 4 hours; from Katowice taking about one hour, and several daily trains from Lodz, Opole and Wroclaw. The airport in Katowice is served by several European airlines.
Address: ul. o. A. Kordeckiego 2, 42-225 Częstochowa, Poland
GPS coordinates: 50° 48′ 45.3456” N, 19° 5′ 49.2216” E
Tel: +48 34 3777 777
Click here for the official website of Jasna Gora and Our Lady of Czestechowa (in Polish)
There is also a National Shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa in the U.S. in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.