Early Christianity in Poland
The region of Krakow was evangelized in the 9th century using the Slavic rite, by Saint Methodius. A national dynasty began during that same period, which marks the beginning of an unbroken line of Christianity till today.
With the Christian faith, the Virgin Mary entered family and social life. Peasants had their seed blessed on September 8th (Nativity of Mary) and builders blackened some of their beams on the flame of a candle blessed on February 2nd, Feast of the Purification and Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
The first poem in Polish literature was a Marian poem: "Begurodzica" (Mother of God), which begins as follows: "Mother of God, Virgin glorified by the Lord, Mary, pray for us, Kyrie eleison."
The first church, in Gniezno, was dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, a promise of our own resurrection. Many churches have been dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. The Poles have fixed their gaze on this mystery for comfort and courage to face death in many different situations.
Czestochowa in Polish history
At the end of 14th century, the monastery of Jasna Gora near Czestochowa was built. In the 16th century, Poland tried to expand to the east. This was followed by a serious counter-offensive from both the Russian and the Swedish armies.
Then, in 1655, the Blessed Virgin appeared to some monks of the monastery of Czestochowa, who were able to repel a Swedish attack.
Between Error and Conversion: The Consecration of Prince Casimir to Mary
On April 1, 1656, Prince Casimir saw in this warfare the punishment of the wrongs committed against the peasants who had been reduced into slavery after the attacks of the Russian and the Swedish armies. So he dedicated the country to the Virgin Mary, choosing Our Lady of Czestochowa as Queen and Patroness of Poland and promising to do reparation for these injustices.
The Virgin Mary at Gietrzwarld
In the 19th century, when Poland was no longer a kingdom, the Virgin Mary appeared at Gietrzwarld, to strengthen Polish national identity.
The 18th century was marked by foreign interference, and eventually, at the end of the 18th century, Poland was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria. This situation lasted until 1918. The story seemed to contradict the idea that Poland was the Kingdom of Mary: Poland no longer existed as a kingdom. At the time of Bismarck, it was forbidden to speak Polish (in Prussia-controlled Poland).
But in 1877, the Virgin appeared to two girls in Gietrzwarld, speaking to them in Polish. She appeared under the title of the Immaculate Conception, calling for conversion and abstention from alcohol. The occurrence had such a repercussion that it was impossible to suppress Polish culture.
In 1918, Poland became an independent nation and the bishops asked the Holy See for the institution of the Feast of the Blessed Queen of Poland (May 3) as a sign of recognition for the newfound freedom.
Czestochowa is a Light in the 20th Century
Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany. Quite revelatory is this entry written by the ruthless German governor Krank in his diary: "At a time when Poland was completely overwhelmed by darkness, a light always remained lit: the Shrine of Czestochowa and the Church."
After the war, Poland regained its independence but with a Communist government imposed by Moscow. During that somber period, Stephane Cardinal Wyszynski protected his people from the lure of the Communist government. To commemorate the millennium of the evangelization of Poland, he organized the "pilgrimage" from house to house of a copy of the image of Czestochowa. (When this devotion was banned, the pilgrimage still continued with an empty frame evoking Mary's presence.) This pilgrimage had a very strong popular impact and was the ferment of resistance.
The First Polish Pope
In 1978, Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope taking the name of John Paul II. His shield bore the motto "Totus tuus" or I am all yours, (i.e. O Mary). On May 3, 1979, he returned to his homeland in Czestochowa. This created a new bond of love between Rome and Poland.