Spiritual encounter at Częstochowa
Whilst in the city of Częstochowa (about an hour’s drive north-east of Krakow) I had to check out one of the most religious icons in Poland, the Black Madonna (also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa). Located in the heart of the Jasna Góra Monastery, the Virgin Mary has been recognised by several pontiffs including Pope Clement XI way back in 1717.
Arriving at the monastery on top of the hill which overlooks the centre of the city on a cold dreary rainy day, I was glad to take shelter inside. Heading to the main part of the church which is in the heart of the monastery, it was just a typical place of worship with the stained glass windows and rows of wooden benches everywhere (but the organ above the main entrance is pretty impressive).
However walking to the part of the building next to it, I saw a lot of people sitting down and a service about to start. Looking ahead at the far end of a small room was the Black Madonna and she was looking totally awesome. It’s not often something in a church would amaze me but this sure did. There was something about the Black Madonna but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. There were people on their knees, saying prayers, kissing the wall behind the painting (pilgrims can walk around the painting via a separating wall) and to be honest, it was an amazing sight. The monastery estimates that roughly 100,000 pilgrims come here to see this amazing lady. (Photo at the top of the page).
There is a little story about the Black Madonna. I noticed that on her right cheek there were two scars. Some guys stormed the monastery many moons ago (back in 1430 according to historians) and stole a lot of goods including the Black Madonna. Jumping into the wagon, the guys (known as Hussites – think it was their gang name or something along those lines) could not make their horses moved. One of the men got really angry and threw the portrait of the Black Madonna down to the ground whilst the other man drew his sword and inflicted two deep strikes into her to stop her controlling the horses as they thought the portrait was cursed. However when the man tried to inflict a third strike into her face, he fell to the ground and died very slowly. Well, that’s one story of how the scars got there but another reason was that as the rubber struck the painting twice, the face of the Black Madonna started to bleed. Both men got very scared, ran towards the hills and left the painting on the ground.
To this day, the scars are still there and can be seen. Someone has tried to repair it with wax but to no luck. Even though I am not catholic I was glad to make the pilgrimage to Częstochowa to see this amazing art work and to see what this means to others who come here to pray, to seek guidance, to hope, to find answers and above all, to find their way in life.