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Jasna Gora

Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa

Text & Images - Copyright © 2009 Kevin Hulsey

The baroque monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, and the chapel of the Nativity of St. Mary at the Paulite church is the fountainhead, and Mecca of Religious and spiritual life in Poland.

For several centuries, the Our Lady of Czestochowa monastery has served as a pilgrimage destination for thousands of devout Catholics, with its most important touchstone being the Black Madonna; a portrait of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child.

Jasna Góra's Black Madonna

The miracle of the Black Madonna dates back to the Swedish invasion of the 17th century, and the Potop Szwedzki, or "Swedish Deluge." Poland has always been a land in the middle, and therefor, a land of conquest, and re-acquisition.

Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa
Entrance to the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa

The Swedish occupation of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lasted from 1655 to 1660, when the pogroms, or riots led to the repression or expulsion of Catholics from the region.

The Siege of Jasna Góra

This period of intolerance and repression by the Protestant Swedes gave rise to the Polish resistance movement, and the creation of an alliance with the Crimean Khanate.

Czestochowa Basilica Interior
Czestochowa Basilica Chapel (right)

In late 1655, an army of German mercenaries hired by Sweden, invaded Czestochowa, laying siege to the Jasna Góra monastery. Believing that the monastery would be ransacked, on November 7, 1655, Jasna Góra's monks replaced their beloved portrait of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child with a reproduction, spiriting the original to a castle in Lubliniec (Silesian Voivodship).

Black Madonna of Czestochowa
Chapel of the Nativity of St. Mary (left) Czestochowa's Black Madonna (right)

The siege of Jasna Góra (Obrona Jasnej Góry) lasted for over one month, and even though they were outnumbered and under-supplied, a small group of monks, fighting alongside local villagers, members of the Szlachta nobility, and Stanislaw Warszycki, they were able to repel the advance.

Statue at Czestochowa

At some point during the conflict, the portrait was again moved to Glogówek. During the melee of the siege, it is rumored that the portrait of the Virgin Mary was partially burned in a fire, only to survive the conflict, and be credited with the salvation of the monastery and its Polish inhabitants. Hence the creation of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

Siege of Jasna Góra
Painting of the Siege of Jasna Góra (Artist: Janvier Suchodolski, Public Domain)

On April 1, 1656, at the cathedral in Lwów (now Lviv in northwestern Ukrainian), Poland's King Jan Kazimierz vowed to consecrate the his land to the protection of the Virgin Mary, and Kazimierz proclaimed her the Patron and Queen of the kingdom.

Czestochowa's Jasna Góra
Entrance to Jasna Góra (Photo: Public Domain)

In spite of the victory during the Siege of Jasna Góra, the Poland Commonwealth would remain mired in conflict for several decades, surviving the Swedish Deluge and Polish-Swedish war, as well as the Chmielnicki Uprising (1648-1654), and Russo-Polish War (1654-1667).

To this day, thousands of pilgrims flock to Czestochowa's Jasna Góra Monastery, and every hour of the day, each day of the week, the basilica is packed with hundreds of devote Catholics who pay homage to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

Jasna Gora Monastery


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