Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Czestochowa, a city situated in south of Poland, has about 250 thousand inhabitants. The first mentions of it come from 13th century – but the village was founded in 11 century. The growth of this place started at the end of 14th century when prince Wladyslaw Opolczyk founded Paulines monastery of Jasna Gora (Bright Mount) that soon received famous painting of Black Madonna (icon of the Virgin Mary). Soon after the pilgrimages to Czestochowa started.
The monastery has its strong place in Polish history. During 1655, when so called ‘deluge’ – Swedish invasion – took place, the Swedes attempted to capture the monastery. This event was called afterwards ‘the siege of Jasna Gora”. The month-long invasion was ineffective as a group of monks, led by their prior, together with local supporters (mostly deriving from Polish nobility) defended the monastery of Jasna Gora. This battle is said to change the course of the war. The win was attributed to the holy icon, credited for many other miracles, that for hundred of years has been the reason for numerous pilgrims visiting the site.
There have been many disputes about the origin and date of composition of the holy icon – due to the fact that the original image was painted over in 15th century. As it is the canvas that is thought to be miraculous (according to the legend it is made of the table top from the home of the Holy Family) when the original image was damaged, the Paulines decided to erase it and repaint it anew. The legend, however, attributes the original painting to St Luke.
The holy icon shows Virgin Mary as Hodegetria way – with her right hand raised as if she was pointing out a way. Her left hand supports Jesus (whose right hand is raised in magisterial gesture). The robe of Virgin Mary is decorated with lilies that were symbol of Hungarian royal family as the Order of Paulines was created in this country.
The most unique things about the image of Virgin Mary are scars on the right cheek – two parallel slashes and one horizontal cut. According to the legend they were made by Hussites who plundered the monastery – and one of the stolen things was the icon. When they tried get away with all the stolen items, the horses refused to move. One of plunderers threw the icon on the ground and marked deep strikes with his sword. After having done this, he fell to the ground and died.
Czestochowa is the most important pilgrim site in Poland and Black Madonna icon is thought to be Queen and Protector of Poland as well as the holiest relict of the country. Each year the site attracts millions of tourists. Apart from this, the churches in Poland organise annually in August walking pilgrimage from various parts of Poland – they all meet on one day in Czestochowa to pray to Virgin Mary.