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Black Madonna's Jasna Gora Sanctuary in Czestochowa

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Czestochowa, frequently referred to as the Spiritual Capital of Poland, is situated north-east of Katowice in the very heart of the region of Silesia. The city is mainly famous for its Jasna Gora (Bright Mountain) Sanctuary with the renowned icon of the Black Madonna. The origins of the site date back to 1382 when Prince Ladislaus of Opole brought the Pauline Monks, the Order from Hungary, who built their monastery here. As the edifice was erected on a 293-metre-high limestone hill, it was called the ''Bright Hill'' (Jasna Gora), similarly to the name of the Paulines' home monastery in Buda.

  The Miraculous Painting of the Black Madonna

black madonna czestochowaThe Jasna Gora Sanctuary is mainly renowned as the shrine of the Black Madonna – Poland's most sacred icon. The miracle-performing painting displays Virgin Mary, referred to as Our Lady of Czestochowa, clad in fleur de lys robes, pointing at the little Jesus. Her Son, holding the Gospel, is making a blessing gesture.

As for the origins of this exquisite painting, there are two versions, a legendary one and a historical one. Legend has it that the venerated image of the Virgin Mary was painted on the cypress table top in the Holy Family's house in Jerusalem by Saint Luke the Evangelist. Once owned by the Emperor Constantine, it was donated to Lev, the Russian Prince, in recognition for his military achievements. Later the Painting of Our Lady, already believed to perform miracles, was found by Prince Ladislaus if Opole in the castle of Belz, a small city in Ukraine. He brought it to Czestochowa and entrusted iIwith the Pauline Monks, which is recorded in the Jasna Gora archives.

Originally, according to the critics of art, the Miraculous Painting of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa was a Byzantine icon whose origins lie in the 6th - 9th centuries.
  The Black Madonna – the Queen of Poland

The Black Madonna of Czestochowa has been also regarded as the Queen and Protectress of Poland since the legendary miraculous saving the Monastery of Jasna Gora from being taken over during the siege, organised by King Charles X Gustav during the 17-century Swedish invasion known as the Deluge. Upon coming back to Lvov on April 1st 1656, as an act of gratitude, Our Lady of Czestochowa was crowned the Queen of Poland by Jan Kazimierz, King of Poland, in his solemn vow. This act of special devotion of the Polish nation to the Holiest Virgin Mary was repeated, this time on August 26th 1656 in Jasna Gora, as the Jasna Gora Vows of the Polish Nation.

   Jasna Gora – Major Pilgrim Destination

Jasna Gora CzestochowaSince time immemorial the numerous miracles believed to have happened due to the intercession of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, evident in the number of the priceless votive offerings, have been attracting pilgrims from Poland and from different corners of the globe. Thus, the original Gothic church with the renowned Chapel of Our Lady was no longer big enough to house the faithful. Hence, the three-nave Chapel dedicated to the Holiest Virgin Mary was erected next to the original Our Lady Chapel. In its present-day shape the Jasna Gora Sanctuary is the Basilica of the Holy Cross and Nativity of Mary.

The Jasna Gora Sanctuary is also well-known as the major pilgrim destination of Poland. Following the 17th-century tradition of the old-style pilgrimages on foot, 200, 000 – 250,000 people walk to Czestochowa each year, most frequently participating in the profession-related pilgrimages for groups of teachers, lawyers, farmers, labourers, policemen, etc. Of all the pilgrimages the largest and the most famous is the Warsaw Pilgrimage whose origins date back to 1711.

    Pilgrims – Facts and Figures

As many as 4.5 million pilgrims are estimated to have visited the Jasna Gora Sanctuary last year. About 150, 000 of them came to Czestochowa on foot as participants of the total of over 260 organised pilgrimages. The fame of the Miraculous Painting of the Black Madonna has also been attracting worshippers of the Virgin Mary from all over the world. In 2006 the foreign pilgrims and tourists who visited the Jasna Gora Sanctuary came from as many as 73 countries. On top of the list of overseas pilgrim nationalities are the Americans, Italians, Germans and French.

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The latest opinion
Jack Darwood, Basingstoke, UK, 2011-02-07
Heard good things 'bout this place and I'm very disappointed. The food is so so, service is lazy and kinda 'gay' and... prices are far to high. [...]
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