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Jasna Gora Sanctuary in Czestochowa 

It is the holiest place of Poland and one of the world’s most important destinations for pilgrims. The Jasna Gora (Bright Mount in Polish) sanctuary in Czestochowa, industrial city of 300,000 a ninety minutes’ drive northwest from Krakow, has been Central Europe’s spiritual hub for six centuries and it shows. 

Every year several million pilgrims – commoners as well as celebrities – come here to pray before the miraculous picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The faithful has believed for ages that St. Luke the Evangelist himself painted the divine icon on a tabletop from the Holy Family’s house. Anyway, over the last half-millennium great number of them have had their prayers heard and, grateful, left innumerable votive offerings displayed in the sanctuary.

Sightseeing in the sanctuary of Jasna Gora

Small 15th-century Gothic chapel with Our Lady of Czestochowa’s holy picture, also known as 'The Black Madonna', is the heart of the sanctuary. It adjoins vast Baroque church of 1695. The fine 105-meter-tall tower crowned with viewing gallery dates back to 1620. The adjacent mid-17th-century early-Baroque monastery contains the Great Refectory of 1644, the Knight Hall of 1647, and the 18th-century library with unmatched collection of old books. Fortifications date from 1643 while majestic gates are a century younger.

The monastery’s treasure-house is a must by virtue of the artistic and/or historical value of its collections. The arsenal and the museum of the sanctuary’s 600th anniversary are also worthwhile.

With the average of 14,000 visitors a day the sanctuary seems often crowded, yet the feast days of May 3, August 15 and September 8 gather real multitudes from all over the world.

Our Lady of Czestochowa’s icon 

Tradition has it that St. Luke the Evangelist painted two pictures of the Virgin Mary on a tabletop once used by the Holy Family. One icon eventually made to Italy’s Bologna. Emperor Constantine brought the other from Jerusalem to Constantinople, and some 600 years later it was awarded to Prince Lev of Rus for his military services. In the 14th century a Polish prince, Wladislaw of Opole, found the icon in the Belz castle while he was warring Tatars who had conquered neighboring Rus, and he entrusted the holy image to the Pauline monks in Czestochowa. So says the 1474 volume of Translatio Tabulae from the Jasna Gora library. April 14, 1430, on the Easter, Bohemian robbers looted the Jasna Gora monastery, slashed Our Lady’s cheek with swords, and – by the account of the 1523 "Historia Pulchra" – left the holy image on the floor, broken in three.

Art historians believe Our Lady of Czestochowa was initially a Byzantine icon of the Hodigitria type, dated from the 6th to 9th centuries. During the 15th-centrury restoration in Krakow it was painted anew because the restorers were not able to apply their tempera colors over the original wax paint so they scraped it clean.

History of the Czestochowa sanctuary in brief 

1220: the earliest mention of "Czestochowa" in writing.

1356: King Casimir the Great gave Czestochowa municipal autonomy.

1384: Prince Wladyslaw of Opole supplied the Jasna Gora monastery he had founded with the miraculous picture of the Holy Virgin.

1404: King Wladyslaw Jagiello’s pilgrimage to Jasna Gora.

1430: Bohemian robbers raided the monastery and smashed the Black Madonna’s icon.

1655: despite a fierce and prolonged siege fortified Jasna Gora monastery occurred the only stronghold in Poland Swedish invaders failed to capture, which proved a turning point in the devastating war.

1717: coronation of Our Lady of Czestochowa’s picture.

1770-1772: Jasna Gora was a fortress of anti-Russian Bar Confederation insurgents led by Kazimierz Pulaski, future American hero.

1846: opening of the Warsaw-Vienna railroad line through Czestochowa enabled the city’s rapid industrialization.

1979: John Paul II visited Jasna Gora for the first time as the pope.

Travel to Czestochowa from Krakow.

Every day a couple of trains leave Krakow Glowny central rail station for Czestochowa. There is also regular bus service between Krakow and Czestochowa with coaches leaving the RDA central bus depot several times a day.

Holy icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa
Our Lady of Czestochowa, a.k.a. "The Black Madonna",
 is Poland's holiest icon.

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