Czestochowa and Jasna Gora -The Legend
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A., Clan Malcolm, P.G.S.A.
Why is the Madonna so dark?
Why is the Madonna so dark?
Many cultists think that the "Black Madonna" is really black. However, it is a painting of the Jewish Mother of Jesus. People living in the Holy Lands have darker skin than those living in the North. This is because of the harsh climate and hot sun.
The history, traditions, and miracles of Czestochowa are part of the heritage of the Polish people. Upon this page, we will explore its impact on Eastern Europe.
Up to the 1300's, there is not much written about the origin and early history of this famous painting of the Virgin Mother and Child. Church traditions state that the painting (Mary sat for the portrait) was done on a wooden (cypress) table top, from a table made by Jesus Christ. After his death on the cross, The Blessed Mother, Mary, took this table to the home of Saint John, who was her guardian. The painting was made by Saint Luke, and was hid in the Catacombs of Jerusalem for three hundred (300) years.
Here is the sequence of events:
In the year, 326, Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great (first Christian Emperor of Rome), wanted to locate the relic (Our Lady) and the true cross. Even though she was getting old, it is said that she went to Jerusalem, and with God's help, she found it.
She proceeded to give it to her son. Constantine built a church at Constantinople and dedicated this church to the Blessed Mother, and the painting was housed here from many years. Constantine's city was called New Rome and it chose the Mother of God as their patroness.
The painting became famous. When the Saracens besieged the city, the painting was carried through the streets in a solemn processional by the nobles and officials, and the Saracens fled. It was thought that they already considered this painting to have strength, because of its reputation for miracles.
The painting survived the reign of Emperor Izauryn, who wanted all holy objects and relics burned. At this time, the painting was hidden in the Emperor's own palace, by his own wife, Irene. Irene gave the Holy Image to Pulcheria and Pulcheria passed it down through her descendants, The painting was in Constantinople for five hundred years (500).
|In the reign of King Sigmund August, a man named Nichols Lanchoronski (his ambassador) investigated the origin and history of the painting, which was then housed at Czestochowa. Lanchorinski had documentation that the legend was true. However, today these documents are lost.|
The painting went from Constantinople into Russia; then to Halicia; and finally the castle of Belzki/Belz. Royalty from the East married daughters of these countries and their dowry was this sacred painting, a gift from the Byzantium Empire to a Ruthenian noblemen.
All the above were Russian princesses.
The Opolsey princes were also related to the Polish kings. For example,Ladislaus was an Opolski prince (later Louis, King of Poland and Hungary).
Casimir the Great (in 1352), made the Ukraine part of the Kingdom of Poland (1370-1382). Louis was crowned after his death, in 1390.
Ladislaus of Hungary, who also became "King," captured all the castles of the Russian lords, including Castle Belzki (where the painting had been for five hundred (500) years.
When the Jasna Gora Monastery was founded, when the Paulites were granted a small timber church. Then in 1430, they built a larger brick church, which was completed before the middle of the 15th century. Father Izydor Lesczcynski painted scenes showing the life of Mary and Jesus and the miracles performed at Jasna Gora, while side altars were painted by Father Felicjan Ratynski. The walls of the basillica were re-vaulted between 1692 and 1695.
In 1382, when the Tartars attacked the castle, an arrow entered the chapel where the painting hung, and made a scar on the throat of the Virgin.
Ladislaw wanted to take the painting to Opala, his birthplace, located in upper Silesia. He thought he could guard the painting from further damage. On the road to Opala, he stopped at Czestochowa. He placed the painting in a wooden parish church there. This church was under the patronage of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother. When Ladislaus attempted to continue his journey, with the portrait on his wagon, the horses could not move it. Ladislaus then decided that the painting should remain in Czestochowa on Jasna Gora (bright hill). Klasztor Paulinow (the Paulite Monastery) is on top of Jasna Gora. This monastery resembled a Baroque fortress, and was founded in 1382 by Duke Wladyslaw Opolczk. The portrait was left there in the Church of the Assumption. This event occured on August 26, 1382, which was the Wednesday after the feast of St. Bartholomew, which is today called the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Ladislaus/Wladyslaw ordered the erection of Jasna Gora as a convent, church, and cloister. The Pauline Fathers from the Convent of Nosztre, Hungary were entrusted to care for this portrait.
In 1382, the recorded history of this painting begins. In 1430, the Hussites made two scars on the Virgin's face. An artist tried to cover these scars, but they continued to reappear. In 1655, the monastery held out against the Swedish Army; in 1685, it was the Turks; and in 1920, it was the Bolsheviks. The portrait had three dresses: One of previous jewels; the other was beaded in rich colors; while another was of pearls.
In 1909, the gold crown and the pearl dress of Constanty Sobieski, the king's son, were stolen. Then they made a silver dress. Every Holy Thursday these dresses were changed. The present crown of gold, decorated with jewels; was a gift from Pope Pious X. The first crown was given by Pope Clement XI, in 1717 (this was the crown stolen in 1901). For more information about crowns: Crowns
In 1717, a ceremony was performed by Bishop Jan Krystof Szembek, as the first official cornation of the painting. On this day, one-hundred, forty eight thousand (148,000) received the Holy Eucharist. In 1910, a second cornation took place with the Bishop of Wlaclaw, Stanislaus Zdzitowiecki.
Since this painting is Jewish, in origin, Mary has Jewish features and it has been darkened (over the centuries) by candle smoke and body lanolin from people's lips (kissing it).
In 1925, the Pauline Fathers restored the painting (from November 1925 to March 1926), and replaced it upon the altar. The first time it was renovated was in 1430, during the reign of Jagiello, and the second time was in 1682, during the reign of King John Sobieski.
After the 1925 restoration, the dresses were never put directly on the painting, from that point on there was always a protective device between the painting and the dresses.
Today, Pope John Paul has a copy of the painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa on the altar of his own private chapel.
The largest crowds gather here on the Marion Feasts:
In tradition, many knights never went into battle without a medal of Our Lady hanging around their neck. Andrew Jezowski was the name of one such knight. In 1677, he was doing battle against the Tartars and Turks (with 1,500 men), at the battle of Wojnilowa. When he was taken captive, as might be expected, Andrew was tortured and starved. When he was disrobed, no doubt to take a beating, they took his medal from his neck. To desecrate it, they threw it under the feet of horses. Andrew begged for the return of the medal, a plea that fell on deaf ears. He was tortured and after that thrown into a prison cell. He prayed to Our Lady of Czestochowa and his medal was said to appear suddenly, on his cot. His kissed the image and placed it back around his neck. As soon as they noticed the necklace had returned, they tried to remove it a second time. It could not be taken off. They gave up and left it there. The men were a bit taken back by this event, so he was freed and returned to Warsaw.
Another soldier was similarly saved. In 1672, Sir Adam Strzalkowski, was threatened by a Tartar's sword. He prayed and the Tartar's hand began to shake violently, causing the sword to drop. The executioner picked up the sword, and tried again, with similar results. Adam returned home briefly, then went to another battle. His medal again spared his life. This time he was shot and a hole went through his armor, but was stopped by Our Lady, which afterwards carried the imprint of the bullet.
Colonel Stanislus Jazowski was traveling in 1743, during a plague epidemic. He fell from his horse stricken by the fever. He could not move from the ground, because of his sudden weakness. He prayed: "Our Lady of Czestochowa, help me." He fainted away and slept. He began to float in the air, and saw his own image laying on the ground below. He knew, at that moment, that he must be dying. However, as he floated, he then saw the image of the Blessed Virgin. She spoke: "Fear not, you will live." He woke up later feeling revived and healthy.
Princess Anna Wisniowiecka went boating in 1613. As soon as she was a distance from the shore, a storm approached rapidly. The violent wind scared her and she lost hold of her oars. The sky grew darker and she could barely see the oar in the water. In her attempt to reach it, she fell into the water of the now angry river. She was terrified, since she could not swim. She called out desperately: "Our Lady of Czestochowa, help me." The Lady appeared and helped the young woman safely to the shore.
The princess showed her gratitude by presenting a silver plaque to Czestochowa to commemerate her rescue.
On May 29, 1921, Anna Korsak, from Lublin, was cured of an incurable eye disease and regained her sight.
A blind, deaf, and dumb man, named Martin Obietynski was similarly cured and made able to hear, see, and speak.
Many people died of epidemics in central Europe in 1622, 1625, 1630, 1677, and 1707; and Crakow (Kracow), Warsaw, Lwow and other cities were devastated. However, the city of Czestochowa was never touched. The Pauline fathers were prepared for an epidemic that never came. Those who prayed, at the Madonna, were saved.
Countess Mniszchowa, of Lubomir, was in pain and had a burning fever. Her doctors gave her medicines and practiced cures, but nothing worked. She had her servants take her to Czestochowa in 1744. She prayed for several days at the foot of the painting, begging Our Lady to save her. She then noticed pilgrims pouring water on their afflictions and being cured before her eyes. The Countess did the same and prayed again. She was cured and traveled home.
The court artist, James Wezyk (of King Jagiello's court), was afflicted with eye problems. He thought this was the worst thing that could happen to an artist, since he could no long see and paint the beauty of the world. Being an artist and not being able to paint greatly troubled him. Court physicians could not cure him. The artist lived in Wilno (Vilno), Lithuania.
In 1392, he learned of Jasna Gora and Czestochowa. This was thousands of kilometers from Wilno, but he was determined to make the trip, as his last chance at a cure. He made the trip to Jasna Gora and entered the chapel and began to pray. His eyes suddenly filled with tears as he tried to look upon the face of the Blessed Mother. Since he was almost completely blind it was difficult to see. However, a voice instructed him where to look. He looked in that direction and beheld a radiant glow of light and a beautiful painting with the face of Our Lady. His eyesight returned and he dedicated the rest of his life to painting images of the Virgin Mary.
This miracle was verified by Bishop Martin Szyszkowski, an eyewitness to the miracle.
In 1784, on an estate in Krzewiny; Francis Bialkowski, the estate's adnministrator, noticed a peasant stealing their wood. The thief was scared of the consequences of his thievery, and attacked the onlooker, hoping to avoid his fate. He wounded the administrator with his axe. Francis, though greatly shaken by the blow, ran towards his horse to escape. The peasant again attacked. The victim prayed: "Our Lady of Czestochowa, help me." The attacker trampled Bialkowski, stabbed him with a rod and left him for dead," then fled the scene.
Hours passed and the man lost a lot of blood, and felt as if he were leaving his mortal body, then suddenly he was in the world again. The man regained consciousness and prayed" "O Mother of God, I thank thee for saving my life." The man had enough strength to get home and be treated for his wounds, which healed rapidly. He return to the Shrine again and again to thank Our Lady for sparing his life.
Jasna Gora Main Page ..... The Basilica at Jasna Gora ..... The Arsenal at Jasna Gora
The Virgin Mary ..... The Feasts of the Virgin Mary ..... The Dolors (Sorrows) of the Virgin Mary ..... Stanislaus Papczynski Founder of the Marians ..... Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy
Our Lady of Czestochowa Foundation. The Glories of Czestochowa and Jasna Gora. Worchester, MA.: Marian Press, 2000.
Pasierb, Janusz S. and Jan Samek. The Shrine of the Black Madonna. Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1997.