Our Lady of Czestochowa
Location: Czestochowa, Poland
Date: Attested as early as the 14th century
Type: Wooden icon, bejewelled
Holy See Approval: Pope Clement XI
Pope Pius X
Pope John Paul II
Shrine: Jasna Gora Monastery
National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa; Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Attributes: Black Madonna in Hodegetria form
Slashes on right cheek
The Black Madonna was painted by Saint Luke the evangelist; and it was while painting the picture that Mary told him about the life of Jesus, which he later incorporated into his Gospel.
The next time we hear about the painting is in 326 A.D. when Saint Helen found it in Jerusalem and gave it to her son and had a shrine built for it in Constantinople. During a battle, the picture was placed on the walls of the city and the enemy army fled. Our Lady saved the city from destruction. The picture was owned by many people until 1382 when invading Tartar's attacked a Prince Ladislaus' fortress, where the painting was located. Tartar's arrow lodged into the throat of the Madonna so the prince transferred the painting to a church in Częstochowa, Poland.
In 1430, the church was invaded and a looter struck the painting two times with his sword but before he could strike it a third time, he fell to the ground in agony and pain and died. The sword cuts and the arrow wound are visible on the painting. Miracles worked by Our Lady of Częstochowa seem to occur mainly on a public scale. During her stay in Constantinople, she was reported to have frightened the besieging saracens (ancient word for muslims).
Similarly in 1655, a small group of Polish defenders was able to drive off a much larger army of Swedish invaders from the sanctuary. The following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland by King Casimir. When the Russians were at Warsaw's gate in 1920, thousands of people walked from Warsaw to Częstochowa to ask the Madonna for help. The Poles defeated the Russians at a battle along the Wisla (Vistula) River. Today, every child knows the victory as the Miracle at Wisla.
During world war II, under German occupation, the faithful made pilgrimages as shows of defiance. The spirit deepened during the atheistic years of the soviet enforced communism. Government attempts to stop the pilgrimages failed.
In the early 1980s, Walesa didn't drape himself in a Polish flag when he was leading the outlawed solidarity movement. He placed an Our Lady of Częstochowa pin on the lapel of his jacket. Poles knew it to be a subversive message. Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, prayed before the Madonna during his historic visit in 1979, several months after his election as pope. The pope made another visit to Our Lady of Częstochowa in 1983 and again in 1991.
Why is she black?
There have been reports for centuries of miraculous events, such as spontaneous healings, occurring to those who made pilgrimages to the portrait. It is known as the Black Madonna because of the soot residue that discolors the painting. The soot is a result of centuries of votive lights and candles burning in front of the painting. With the decline of communism in Poland, pilgrimages to the Black Madonna have increased dramatically.
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