Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By

8/22/2008 (6 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

The Black Madonna has a global following. In Britain and Ireland the Black Madonna still remains a neglected mother.

Highlights

By

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

8/22/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Europe


LONDON (The Catholic Herald) - Poland's spiritual heart is Czestochowa. Czestochowa's spiritual heart is Jasna Gora Monastery. Jasna Gora Monastery's spiritual heart is the Black Madonna.

The Black Madonna has a global following. In one day's event she can have more visitors than a season's worth of Manchester United fans visiting Old Trafford. The Madonna of southern Poland is the third biggest pilgrimage shrine in the Catholic world. But few British and Irish pilgrims will have heard of her. Even fewer will have visited.

The well-trodden routes to the calming waters of the French Pyrenees at Lourdes, the dry heat and dust of Portugal's Fatima and the rocky route to the Galician-Celtic Santiago de Compostela, north-west Spain, all act as familiar backdrops to pilgrims' tales. These paths recall only too well the stories behind the blisters and aches, which are part of the pilgrimage adventure.

In Britain and Ireland the Black Madonna still remains a neglected mother. Bejewelled in velvet robes and golden crown, the Mother of God holds gently, but securely, the Christ Child in her left arm. With an intensity of stare that knows suffering past and suffering to come, this is no woman of timidity, but a woman of steel.

Protected by huge thick iron gates, the Czestochowa Virgin has a stilling effect on the large and robust crowds. With the presence of a traditional teacher, she demands attention, complete attention. Pilgrims feels pierced by her Mona Lisa-like gaze no matter where they stand. It has a tangible effect. As one regular disciple said: "She brings comfort to those in discomfort, and discomfort to those in comfort."

Reading her biography, the reason is clear. This Blessed Mother has been protecting Poland, even Europe, against hostile invaders. Reportedly the icon dates from Luke the Evangelist. Tradition says it was painted on a table made by Christ himself.

After long spell resident in the Holy City of Constantinople she arrived in Poland in 1382. Fleeing with the Polish army, the enemy Tartars in hot pursuit, the icon was struck and scarred by an enemy arrow.

Since then the Black Madonna of Czestochowa has been very active. It is understandable that the Madonna is more reminiscent of the Gospel's Martha rather than Mary. Having a chapel, and then a cathedral, built around her, she certainly has had an impact. Attacked and slashed in 1430 by the pre-Reformation Hussites, the icon is also credited with the 1655 sudden and unexpected Swedish army retreat. Polish defeat had looked as much a certainty as Robert Mugabe's victory in the one-candidate Zimbabwe election.

Credited for the victory, the Madonna was declared the "Queen of Poland" in 1656, a title that exists to this very day. Her works did not remain in the mists of history: in 1920, as the Soviet Red Army was bearing down on the beleaguered Polish nation, the Poles prayed fervently for delivery. The date was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, and an apparition of the Blessed Virgin reportedly appeared in the clouds above Warsaw. The Russians were repelled and defeated. The Blessed Virgin icon had come up trumps again.

More modern scenes of celebration credited to the Black Madonna have included the 1.5 million people who gathered at the announcement of Nazi defeat.

Fast-forward to more recent events and Czestochowa witnessed similar scenes with the end of totalitarian Communist rule. With regular visits from the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, and the 2006 pilgrimage by Benedict XVI, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa is truly recognised as an international place of holiness.

The area around Czestochowa is in transition. Formerly the industrial heartland of the country, it was severely hit by the demise and fall of Communism. But Katowice and the surrounding area is re-inventing itself as a hub of business and commerce. Because of this there are plenty of hotels, restaurants and coffee shops springing up, so the wandering traveller will have no problem finding amenities.

This may be the ideal time to visit. There are enough western conveniences to make the travel not too burdensome, but there is enough of the old pre-1989 way of life to still make it fascinating. And the pilgrimage city of Czestochowa could not be more convenient. To miss the Jasna Gora Monastery would be the equivalent of a Edinburgh Waverly train passenger asking the whereabouts of the famous castle.

The monastery is not just easy to see but easy to find: simply follow the crowds. Line after line, group after group, of men women and children, all ages, marching their way to the top of the hill. If you even find that your feet cannot keep up, no worries: use your hearing. There is usually a leader with a magnified sound system leading prayers or hymns all the way to the top. That's one of the beauties of this pilgrimage: it caters for the eye, the foot and even the ear.

The 350-foot high bell tower stands guard on top of the hill, dominating the city. The Jasna Gora Monastery is not so much a place of humble whispers but a place of defiant posturing. The baroque building, and its fortress-like defences, promises from each brick discomfort to foe and comfort to friend. At the heart of its tripled-layered protective shield is the very heart of the Polish nation, the Black Madonna.

To understand Poland one must understand the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. It may be said, with the rapid secularisation of Europe, to understand Europe one must understand Poland. And there is no better place to begin than the Polish "Lourdes".



Comments


More Europe

Pope Francis Gives Direction to Charismatic Renewal and New Movements Watch

Image of Pope Francis at the last Pentecost Sunday Mass. Included in the massive crowd were members of the diverse ecclesial movements from around the world.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 22, 2014, Pope Francis addressed a Congress sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It brought together new movements and communities in the Catholic Church - from across the globe. These movements are not only flourishing, but multiplying ... continue reading


If backed into a corner will Putin come out swinging? On the eve of Russia's great depression Europe braces for violent repercussions Watch

Image of Some analysts fear that Russia could default on its foreign debt, even worse, a depression may force Vladimir Putin to take an aggressive and expansionist stance in Europe.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The sharply declining price of a barrel of oil and the harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe have created a perfect storm for Russia's weak economy. The ruble has fallen fast, and the financial crisis that faces Russia is quickly spiraling out of ... continue reading


Singing nun Sister Cristian Scucccia fulfills lifelong dream to meet Pope Francis Watch

Image of Sister Cristina is slated to perform at the Vatican's Christmas concert later this week, along with American punk singer Patti Smith.

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

Sister Cristina Scuccia, whose cover of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" has gathered more than four million views on YouTube, has fulfilled her longtime dream of meeting Pope Francis. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Meeting Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, she ... continue reading


Sexual predator nabbed trying to lure teenage girls off social media sites Watch

Image of Prosecutor Mary McCarthy said Wood sent explicit pictures to girls and, in some cases, arranged to meet them. He had full sexual intercourse with five of the girls. Some of the offenses occurred while he was on bail.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Yeovil man, in Great Britain has been arrested on numerous sex charges. Twenty-year-old Jacob Wood is accused of grooming "vulnerable" teenage girls for sex through social media sites. Wood has been spared a prison sentence after a judge said it would not ... continue reading


'We may not live through these days': Is Mikhail Gorbachev warning that the crisis in Ukraine could turn into World War III? Watch

Image of Former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, who has long been hailed as one of the leading architects in ending the Cold War is now warning that the world may be facing the potential of war if Russian and American leaders are unwilling to back down.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is no secret that relations between the United States-and its allies in Europe-and Russia have chilled to levels unseen since the end of the Cold War over the ongoing civil war in Ukraine. What is surprising is just who is issuing a warning about the potential ... continue reading


Plight of boat people worldwide addressed by United Nations Watch

Image of

By Katie Nguyen, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Governments must focus on saving lives rather than keeping foreigners out at a time when more people than ever are embarking on risky sea crossings in search of asylum or a better life, the United Nations said on Wednesday. GENEVA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - ... continue reading


Indian, Pakistani accept Nobel Peace Prizes Watch

Image of Both Malala Yousafzai, from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, from India accepted their Nobel Peace Prizes in Norway.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

India and Pakistan are longtime international rivals. This didn't prevent a Pakistani teenage advocate for women's education and an Indian child rights campaigner from receiving Nobel Peace Prizes. Both Malala Yousafzai, from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, ... continue reading


VATICAN AT RISK OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION as Islamic State smuggles dirty bomb into Europe Watch

Image of Vatican City may be a primary target for the Islamic State's dirty bomb.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A weapons maker for the Islamic State has posted a chilling warning to the world, claiming that a radioactive device, known as a "dirty bomb" has been successfully smuggled into Europe. This suggests that a radiological bombing could be imminent. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


'ISIS killers are monsters and cowards,' widow of slain British aid worker says Watch

Image of

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

The widow of a 44-year-old British aid worker David Haines, who was murdered by Islamic State extremists has denounced his killers "cowards." Dragana Haines, whose husband David was killed by the militants in a graphic video posted online last September, says she still ... continue reading


Has the Islamic State moved on to Russia? 16 dead in Islamist attack! Watch

Image of 16 people have died, and 21 more were injured during an attack in the capital of Chechnya by Islamic militants.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At least 16 people are dead in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, following an early morning attack on a police checkpoint, media building and school by rebel gunmen. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The attack occurred at 1:00 a.m. (local time) on December 4, and ... continue reading


All Europe News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 18th, 2014 Image

St. Rufus
December 18: Rufus and Zosimus were citizens of Antioch (or perhaps Philippi) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter