MOTHER OF GOD OF GIETRZWALD
Founded in the 1300s, Gietrzwald lies among gentle hills along the river Giłwa in northeastern Poland. On one of these hills is the Marian shrine, now a big pilgrimage complex. By 1500, Gietrzwald celebrated its patronal feast on September 8, the Birth of Mary, and was known for a miraculous icon of the Mother of God, a hodigitria depicted beneath angels holding a banner proclaiming "Ave regina coelorum, ave domina angelorum" (Hail Queen of Heaven, hail Mistress of Angels). The image was crowned in 1717. Pilgrimages to Gietrzwald revived in 1877, when two girls, Justina Schaffrinski and Barbara Samulowski, had apparitions of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception there beginning on June 27, featuring the Lourdes-like discovery of a healing spring and messages in Polish stressing the importance of praying the Rosary. On September 16, 1877, the day of the final apparition, 50,000 people attended, and a statue of Mary was blessed and installed in a small chapel. At that time, Prussia ruled the region and had banned the use of Polish in the schools. Local residents, as well as Prussian officials, recognized the significance of the Queen of Heaven's speaking in Polish: a divine mandate to use the native language. After a hundred years of reported conversions and healings, Catholic Church officials finally approved these devotions in 1977.
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