While my mom and I were touring Auschwitz, we met an American couple. We began talking with them and discovered the wife was originally from Poland. She absolutely raved about the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa and insisted it was a must-see in Poland. She described is as the most beautiful place in the world, almost magical. She also briefly mentioned the Black Madonna that was housed there, and that it is a religious icon of Poland. We were intrigued and when we realized that Czestochowa was not that far out-of-the-way, we decided to go there from Krakow for a day before going on to Warsaw.
Without doing any prior research or reading, we arrived in Czestochowa on a Monday morning and walked directly to Jasna Gora from the train station. Initially, I was underwhelmed. The monastery was serene and pretty, but not breathtaking like I was expecting it to be from the woman’s description. The chapel wasn’t nearly as impressive as Mariacki Church in Krakow, which we had just seen a few days before. I felt like we’d wasted a day we could have spent in Krakow or Warsaw. But as we toured around and started reading and learning more, I realized the real essence of the monastery is the Black Madonna (also known as the Queen and Protector of Poland) and her legend.
According to legend…..
The Black Madonna was painted by Saint Luke on a piece of wood originally from a table in the Holy Family’s house. She made her way to Poland in the 1300′s and has remained there since. Her face is black because she survived a fire that destroyed her shrine, but the smoke darkened her face. If you look closely, you can see small scars on her cheek. She received these in 1430 when a group of Hussites attempted to steal the icon. When their horses would not move, they threw her out of their cart to the ground. One of the Hussites stabbed the image with his sword (causing the scars) twice. When he attempted to strike a third time, he fell to the ground in pain, and died an agonizing death there. Another version of this legend says the image bled from the stab wounds, scaring the Hussites away. She earned the title of Queen and Protector of Poland in 1655 when she was credited with enabling a small group of monks and local volunteers to miraculously defend Jasna Gora from far superior attacking Swedish force during The Deluge.
After learning about the legend of the Black Madonna, I found Jasna Gora much more interesting. However, I am not Catholic, so it did not have as much meaning for me as it does for the many Polish Catholics who make a pilgrimage here every year. After being initially disappointed, I was glad we spent the time to learn about her legend and were able to appreciate it as one of Poland’s most famous religious icons.
Are you familiar with the Black Madonna of Jasna Gora? Are there more legends about her I haven’t listed here?