Gietrzwald is located in northern Poland, between Olsztyn and Ostroda, 3 miles from the train station of Biesal.
The first wooden church in Gietrzwald dates back to1352 and the Gothic church from 1500. In 1568, it was dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. The important point in the history of Gietrzwald is an apparition of the Virgin Mary, in 1877, after the partition of the kingdom of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
The apparition of 1877
Between June 27, 1877, and September 16, 1877, the Virgin appeared to two children, Justyna Szafrynska and Barbara Samulowska. On June 27, Justyna and her mother had just left the church when they heard the bell ringing the Angelus. Justyna began to pray, and then she saw a bright light over a maple tree, and a beautiful lady who was seated on a throne surrounded by angels. The next day Justyna returned with her friend Barbara. They recited the rosary and the Virgin appeared to them. These apparitions continued daily at different times.
On June 30, 1877, the apparition said, in Polish:
"I would like you to say the Rosary every day."
On July 1st, she declared:
"I am the Most Blessed Mary Immaculate."
Many people joined the girls in the following months. Some asked the Virgin questions about imprisoned priests, missing people, and the freedom of Poland. Other asked for healing, especially from alcoholism.
The Virgin Mary's answer was always:
"Pray and say the rosary, priests will be freed, the sick will recover, Poland will regain its independence thanks to your prayers."
Our Lady asked the faithful to build a chapel on the place of her apparition, with a statue of the Immaculate Conception. She promised to bless a spring at the edge of the forest and encouraged the people to drink the miraculous water.
The Polish divided between Prussia (Germany), Austria and Russia, won Gietrzwald to the feeling of being reunified and of being once again one nation.
The seers were persecuted by the local authorities. A theological and medical committee examined the girls and the content of the message: everything was found to be normal.
1945: the shrine was entrusted to the Order of Canons Regular of the Lateran.
On September 10, 1967, on behalf of Pope Paul VI, the cardinals S. Wyszynski and C.Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II), solemnly crowned the sacred image.
On September 11, 1977, one hundred years after the apparitions, the bishop of the region declared the authenticity of the apparitions, with the permission of the Primate and the Holy See.
The Shrine today
Special feast days
June 27: Anniversary of the apparitions
June 29: Sts Peter and Paul
August 2: St Mary of the Angels of the Portioncula
August 15: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sunday after the Assumption: Day of the Sick
September 8: Nativity of Mary
Sunday after the Nativity of Mary: This is the main feast, with a Pontifical Mass at the altar next to the miraculous spring.
October 7: Our Lady of the Rosary
December 8: Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Everyday, several masses are celebrated.
The Shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, attracts thousands of faithful.
Source: flyer and official website