Czarna Madonna, Częstochowa, Silesia, Poland
Every Polish person knows at
least some of this story. At the urging of a group of holy women in Jerusalem,
St. Luke painted the Black Madonna from life after Jesus' death, upon a cypress
board the young Christ had fashioned into a tabletop for the Holy Family's use.
The community of Christian women kept the image in Jerusalem until 328, when St.
Helena took it to Constantinople along with other relics. In the 1200s, it
came into the possession of Lev I of Galicia, whose wife was the granddaughter
of the Byzantine emperor. Lev installed it in his castle in Belz, Ukraine,
around 1270. Some hundred years later, Vladislaus II of Opole took possession of
the castle. Not long afterward, when Tatars attacked, Vladislaus hung the icon
on the surrounding wall. A fog arose, in which the attackers retreated, but not
before one of their arrows scarred the Virgin's neck. In 1382, as a gesture of
reconciliation with the Catholic Church, which had excommunicated him over a
financial dispute, Vladislaus founded a monastery on Jasna Góra (Bright Hill)
near Częstochowa in southern Poland, populating it with Pauline monks from
Hungary. On August 26, 1382, he had the sacred painting installed in the Church
of the Assumption there. In 1430, Hussite raiders left two sword marks on the
Virgin's cheek. Although the Hussites were iconoclastic reformers, the attack
was said to have been prompted by greed, not righteous fury. The raiders tried
to make off with a wagonload of valuables, including the painting, but when
their horses refused to move, they threw down the icon and slashed it.
Immediately, they died, went blind, or lost use of the offending hand.
her long stay at Jasna Góra, the Black Madonna has endeared herself to the
Polish people through countless miracles, both private and public. In 1655, she
was credited with raising the Swedish siege of the monastery. On August 15,
1920, she was said to have appeared above the Polish defenders at the Battle of
the Vistula near Warsaw, heralding or abetting the Russian defeat. (However,
Jerzy Kossak's 1930 painting of the scene depicts Our Lady of Grace, as in the
Miraculous Medal, instead.)
The Catholic Church has honored the Black Madonna
with four canonical coronations, in 1717, 1910, 1966, and 2005. As Pope, John
Paul II visited the shrine four times; he and his successors each personally
presented the icon with a golden rose. In 1931, Pope Pius XI established August 26 as the feast
day of Our Lady of Częstochowa in commemoration of the icon's move to Jasna
Góra on this date in 1382. Tens of thousands of Poles converge on the shrine,
many on foot, to honor their beloved Madonna with songs, masses, and
processions. Major pilgrimages also take place on May
3, feast of Our Lady,
Queen of Poland, and August 15, feast of the Assumption. An Orthodox
commemoration of Our Lady of Częstochowa on March 6 (March 19 Gregorian) recalls
the miraculous appearance of a similar image in Moscow on that date in 1770.
historians have identified three main layers on the icon. The oldest is a
Byzantine encaustic (wax) painting of the 1200s, painted over in Italian style in
the 1300s, and repainted in the 1400s after the Hussite attack. The
Madonna's black mantle is covered with gold fleurs-de-lys, emblem of the Anjou
kings of Hungary in the 1300s, with a single gold six-pointed star
over her forehead. She seems to be wearing the night sky—night that gives
birth to the sun—and in the Hodegetria or way-pointing pose, she
gestures toward her child.
But the appeal of the Black Madonna is
not just symbolism, it's sympathy. Dark and wounded, she appears to understand
|The shrine's site, Jasna Góra, www.jasnagora.pl
|"Храм Шестоковской иконы Божией Матери,"
|"Obraz Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej," Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia,
|Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
en.wikipedia.org, several articles|
Also commemorated this date:
|Mother of God of Minsk, Minsk, Belarus (Aug. 13 Julian). Feast
commemorates finding of icon in river, under a shaft of light.|
|Notre-Dame de la Porte d'Ogy, Lessines, Belgium. Huguenot siege
raised, 1583. Feast first Sunday in September.|
|Notre-Dame des Portes, Châteauneuf-du-Faou, Finistère, Brittany,
France. Statue crowned, 1894. Pardon penultimate Sun. Aug.|
|Notre-Dame des Enfants, Châteauneuf-sur-Cher, Cher, Centre, France.
Statue crowned, 1923. Pilgrimage 1st Sun. May.|
|Madonna delle Grazie, Città di Castello, Perugia, Umbria, Italy.
Patronal festa. Painting exposed Feb. 2 & Aug. 26 only.|
|Santa Maria delle Grazie, Velletri, Frosinone, Latium, Italy. Festa
del Patrocinio commemorates earthquake. Festa 1st Sun. May.|
|Mother of God of the Passion, Moscow, Russia (Aug. 13 Julian). Feast
commemorates icon's transfer to Moscow in 1641.|
|Theotokos of the Seven Arrows, Vologda, Vologda, Russia (Aug. 13
Julian). Also commemorated Feb. 2/25.|
|Hodegetria, Moscow, Russia. Former procession with icon at Ascension
|Virgen de Las Cortes, Alcaraz, Albacete, Castilla La Mancha, Spain.