In Poland, Our Lady of Czestochowa

Our Lady of Czestochowa

Every day a steady stream of pilgrims approaches the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. With four to five million pilgrims a year (almost as many as Lourdes and Fatima), and the home of the beloved miraculous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa or Jasna Gora, in Silesia (southern Poland, the former Weimar Republic), the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is one of the most famous shrines in Central Europe. This pilgrimage dates back to the fourteenth century.

In Polish, Jasna Gora means "Light-filled Mountain." All the great Polish dignitaries of the Kingdom would pray at the shrine of Czestochowa, including the Polish kings whose custom was to pay homage to the Black Madonna after their coronation. Our Lady of Jasna Gora arrived in Poland in 1382, brought by King Ladislas, who built a monastery on the hill overlooking Czestochowa for the monks of Saint Paul. Two years later the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora was enshrined in the monastery and soon King Jagiello built a cathedral around the chapel containing the icon.  

Was Our Lady of Jasna Gora painted by Saint Luke?

Where does the Black Virgin of Jasna Gora come from? According to tradition, the original icon was painted by Luke the Evangelist on a tabletop built by Jesus Himself, used by the Holy Family for their daily meals, and the icon was discovered by Saint Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine and collector of relics in the Holy Land.

Since the fifteenth century, many copies of the painting have been made. One hundred of these copies are the object of veneration and more than ten have been crowned. In 1717, Pope Clement XI officially recognized the miraculous nature of the image and Our Lady of Jasna Gora was the first icon in Poland to be crowned with the papal diadems. Soon, the "Light-filled Mountain" was famous throughout the Kingdom.  

The National Shrine of Poland

By the late fourteenth century Jasna Gora was already the main center of pilgrimage in Poland. But Jasna Gora has also attracted pillagers:

  • In 1430, Hussites (pre-Reformation reformers) attacked the monastery, slashed the Virgin’s face with a sword, and left it desecrated in a pool of blood and mud. Even today, the two scars on the Black Virgin’s face are still visible.
  • The miracle for which the Black Madonna of Jasna Gora is most famous occurred in 1655, when Swedish troops were about to invade Czestochowa. The soldiers prayed fervently before the icon and the enemy retreated. 
  • In 1809, the fortress resisted the Austrians, but four years later the Poles had to surrender to the Russian army.  

The devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa has since spread throughout the world

At that time, churches dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa began to be built everywhere. Currently there are 350 such churches, 300 of which located in Poland. The devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa has spread to North America, Australia, Africa and Asia.