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Black Madonna from Czestochowa and Doylestown

Black Madonna from Czestochowa

jasnagoraMadonna of Czestochowa icon is the most famous miraculous religious painting in Poland. It was probably created in VI century. It is an icon done under the influence of the Eastern, Byzantine culture. According to the legend it was painted by St. Luke. the Evangelist on a cypress table. The documents from Jasna Gora indicate that the picture traveled from Jerusalem, via Constantinople and was bestowed to the Princess of Ruthenia. "Jasna Gora" means "Bright Hill". It is the common name of the hill where the Pauline Monastery is located. The icon was brought to Poland in 1382 through the efforts of Ladislaus of Opole who discovered it in a castle at Belz. For its protection he invited the Monks of Saint Paul, the first Hermit, from Hungary to come to Poland, to guard it. The original monastery was wooden, the construction of the current day basilica and defense wall (see the photo to the left) was built in the first half of XVII century.

The early history of Black Madonna is not completely documented. According to the legend, the painting saved the monastery from the fire but it darkened the picture. The visible two scars on Madonna's face were done allegedly by a Hussite robber who died before inflicting the third strike. Czestochova monastery and Black Madonna paintings gain additional fame after heroic defense during Swedish flood in 1655. The courageous defense of the monastery by father Augustine Kordecki which withstood the attack gave a tremendous boost to the morale of the Polish nation and contributed greatly to the final victory over Swedish army of king Gustav. After the victory Jan Casimir, Polish king, proclaimed the Mother of God to be the "Queen of Polish Crown". Black Madonna's Shrine in Czestochowa is a popular pilgrimage place for several hundreds years already.

Black Madonna Robes

Compare the same Madonna picture without and with the robe below:

There are several robes that embellish Madonna painting. The icon was decorated with robes since the middle of XVII century. The robes are made of precious textiles adorned with gold and jewelry. One famous robe made of perls was stolen in 1909 together with crones, probably by Russian tzar's officers who were stationed in Czestochova in that time. Presently, about ten different robes are used or displayed in the shrine museum. The most famous and the oldest preserved are made of diamonds and rubies. They were done by the monks who were also the craftsmen. Some of the newer robes were done by nuns or laic women. The ruby dress (below) is called also a fidelity robe since it contains hundreds of wedding rings. It also has a bottle for aroma made of pearls. The newest and the most original, according to me, is the amber robe, especially since amber is one of the most precious Polish products (read more about Polish amber). This robe was done by the gold and amber craftsman from Gdansk. Gdansk (Danzig) is a city on Baltic coast famous for amber. Another interesting robe was embellished with seeds. There is also a millenium robe done for the thousands anniversary of Polish baptism in 1966 and many more.

The tradition to embellish Madonna icon with jewelry and crones is as old as the history of the icon in Czestochova.

History of Imprisoned Black Madonna Copy During The Celebration of Baptism Millenium in Poland

The 1966 year was an official year of the millenium of Polish state. A baptist of Mieszko the 1st, Polish prince, in 966 year, is considered as the beginning of an independent Polish state. Since this time Poland was considered a Christian country and its state was acknowledged by the pope and other countries.

Time of millenium celebration was also the time of the conflict between the communist government which had a series of official celebrations of Polish millenium and the Polish Catholic Church, which emphasized the religious aspect of the millenium.

Authorized copy of Madonna of Czestochova travelled around Poland visiting parishes and families all over Poland - as a part of religious celebration. The communist government tried to prevent it by... imprisoning Madonna's pictures. The communists thought that imprisoning of the copy would diminish religious enthusiasm of the millenium. The effect was just the opposite. When Madonna's picture was imprisoned, the empty frame with a candle was driven around and people were even more shocked and more angry with government than before. Polish families who were receiving the empty frame, prayed to the Madonna even with more feeling than before. The image was imprisoned until 1972. Later the black Madonna image was returned, placed back to the frames and kept on visiting Polish homes until 1980.

History of Madonna Icon in Doylestown

Our Lady of Czestochova Chapel

Interior of Shrine Main Church

Polish Americans decided to build a magnificent Shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestochova before the anniversary of a Millenium. The American version of Black Madonna image is done in slightly brighter tones than the original. The American copy which is located in the Shrine main church, was painted by Leonard Toweitt in Poland and was blessed by Pope John XXIII on Feb. 10, 1962. Before being enshrined in the new Shrine in Doylestown, the painting traveled to US Polish parishes throughout the country for 4 years.

The copy which is located in the chapel was signed and blessed by Polish pope, John Paul II on August 2, 1980. The picture is set behind a screen which can be raised and lowered just like its original in Poland.

Recommended reading(s):

Eyewitness Travel Guide to Poland by Teresa Czerniewics-Umer, Malgorzata Omilanowska, Jerzy S. Majewski, DK Travel Writers

The Rough Guide to Poland by Mark Salter, Jonathan Bousfield

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