Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of Poland

Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of Poland

Our Lady of Częstochowa

Devotion to Mary, the Mother of God has had a special place in the Catholic faith in Poland. The most important Polish Marian shrine, where is the famous icon of Our Lady, is Częstochowa, called also Jasna Góra (Bright Mountain). The origin of this image is unknown with absolute certainty. It is a typical painting of Byzantine tradtion dating from 6th – 9th century. Nevertheless according to legend the icon was painted by St. Luke on a cedar table top from the house of the Holy Family. It was brought from Jerusalem to Constantinople and then from Constantinople to Red Ruthenia (Western Ukraine). The icon came to Jasna Góra in 1382 when Władysław (Ladislaus), Duke of Opole, had seen it at the castle of Bełz and acquired it. The image was already treated with great reverence and honoured. The Prince left the icon under the protection of the Pauline Fathers (Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit) whom he had brought to Częstochowa from Hungary. In 1430 took place a sacrilegious attack and the icon was demaged. It was carefully restored and repaired, but the marks left by the sword slashes could not be completely removed and two scars can still be seen on the right check of the Madonna.

The chapel with the image of the Madonna

The portrait of Our Lady is black because of soot residue that discolors the painting. The soot is the result of votive candles and lights burning in front of the painting. For public view the holy icon is always presented in the chapel covered with a special and richly ornamented dress.

At the beginning the image was placed in the small chapel, but because of many pilgrims visiting this place, the chapel became very quickly too small. Therefore it was enlarged and became three-nave chapel. Since 1644 has remained like that today. There were built also a new church that became basilica as well as monastery and fortification. At the beginning of the eighteenth century was built the tower.
The icon is regarded as being miraculous and some of these many miracles have been associated with very important events in the Polish history when Poles in a special way solemnly dedicated themselves to Mary. Therefore Jasna Góra is also a very significant treasury of Polish history.
A view of the monastery at Jasna Góra

One of the greatest victories took place in 1655. A Swedish invasion, called the Deluge, moved through Poland and their first defeat was at Jasna Góra when they were unable to take possession of the mountain and its buildings and they were forced to retreat. Next year following the victory the king of Poland, Jan Kazimierz (John Casimir) made a vow in the Cathedral in Lwów (Lvov) putting his country under the protection of Our Lady and declaring Her to be “Queen of the Polish Crown”.

In 1683 the defeat of the Turkish army at Vienna saved the Christianity in Europe. It was due to the intervention of the Polish army that was leading by king Jan III Sobieski (John III Sobieski) who went into battle in the name of Our Lady of Częstochowa at whose shrine he prayed before.
In 1920 Bolshevik invaders moved on Warsaw with the aim of taking the whole country that was on his way to make and spread the communist revolution in Europe. The people in Poland prayed fervently to their Queen and Mother. On 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the enemy retreated and this victory is called “The Miracle on the River Vistula”.
The avenue leading to the shrine

After Second World War Poland had been almost for fifty years under Communist system. Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, who was interned for three years (1953-1956), wrote the text of the national vows that were to be a kind of renewal of the royal vows made by Polish king, on its three hundreth anniversary. On 26 August 1956 the acting president of the Polish Episcopate proclaimed the vows, known as Jasna Góra, Vows of the Polish Nation, together with pilgrims (about one million) gathered at Jasna Góra Sanctuary.

Next year started the Great Novena, a nine years of fast and prayer, that was the preparations for the celebration of the Millenium of Polish Christianity in 1966. At that time the copy of the miraculous picture of Jasna Góra visited all Polish parishes. The communist authorities were very afraid, because people gathered and prayed together. To prevent and stop it they decided “to arrest” the picture, but it didn’t work at all. However the image of the Madonna could not visit next places, nevertheless during this difficult time people were gathered together by empty frame of the picture that still visited Polish parishes.
The basilica at Jasna Góra
Jasna Góra is not only a place of pilgrimage, but also the custodian and protector of the nation’s treasures. The kings and princes who honoured the shrine came bearing gifts, piligrims too in their own way have done likewise, also artists’ skills are reflected in the decoration of the shrine and its surroundings. The shrine of Częstochowa demonstrates how devotion to Our Lady is part of the life of the Polish people. The invaders of Poland have long been aware that the strength of the Polish people lies in their faith expressed in their devotion to their queen. It is indeed fortunate that two recent world wars, a Nazi occupation and more recently a Communist government have left the shrine and its treasures unscathed.
Pope John Paul II said: “This sign of Mary, Poland’s Queen, Our Lady of Jasna Góra, has been interpreted anew: We know the significance of this picture for us […], what it became in our struggles for the nation’s soul. […] I think that this sign is meaningful for the future, too. Mary is the Queen of the Polish Crown. Mary is the Queen of the Polish matters, Polish efforts, Polish sufferings and Polish victories. […] The past experiences teach us in whom we should seek support, who is the biggest ally of the Church and the nation. The relationship between the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of Poland, and the Church and nation in Poland is a kind of covenant.”
The shrine and the monastery at Jasna Góra
In the recognition of the miraculous image Pope Clement  XI donated a crown and the holy icon was crowned in 1717. Pope Pius XI designated 3 May Solemnity of Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of Poland. This day has also a special importance and significance in the history of Poland. This is a Polish national feast and public holiday because of the declaration of the Constitution of 3 May that took place in 1791 and it was the first constitution in Europe and the second in the world.
Almost in all Polish churches and in homes of Polish people scattered throughout the world can be found the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa and Mary is honoured as the Queen of country and of its people. In Poland Częstochowa is regarded the national shrine and the spiritual capital. Many Polish Catholics make a pilgrimage there every year. The shrine at Jasna Góra is also one of the most frequented Marian shrines in Europe.
Our Lady of Częstochowa, Queen of Poland, pray for us.
Mary, Queen of Poland, I am near you, I remember you, I watch.

Paweł Szylak OP

Comments (1)

  • A Website Visitor

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

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