Częstochowa - the Jasna Góra Pauline Monastery, Częstochowa
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Częstochowa - the Jasna Góra Pauline Monastery

Częstochowa

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This painting, executed in tempera technique on a support made of three limewood boards covered with canvas, measures 1215 × 815 mm. Mounted in a Gothic, moulded, wooden frame, it depicts the Virgin Mary (Hodegitria) with the Child Jesus. There is no reliable information relating to its date and the identity of the artist”. This dispassionate description taken form a conservation report makes no pretence of trying to convey how significant the image of the Black Madonna is to Poles. In 1982 Pope John Paul II said: “Our Lady of Jasna Góra! You have been part of our history for over six centuries and have helped us to shape it…, you help us maintain continuity and retain an identity…” Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was also a fervent devotee and proponent of the cult of the Virgin Mary.

Jasna Góra is one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. The tradition of pilgrimage to this sanctuary dates back to the earliest days of the Pauline monastery, the monks having arrived here from Hungary in 1382 at the invitation of Duke Władysław II Opolczyk. He granted them a hill near Częstochowa together with a small church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Aid, and shortly afterwards, a miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary brought over from Belz in Red Ruthenia. According to legend, the icon was painted by St Luke the Evangelist on a wooden panel from the table at which the Holy Family prayed and ate their meals. Recent research and analysis of X-ray photographs indicates that the painting dates from the 13th century and was originally part of a Balkan iconostasis. Early on in its history it became customary to adorn the icon with votive jewels and royal insignias: crowns and robes. The first of these - sheets of gold - were added when it was still in Ruthenia by Prince Leo, who was believed to have been given the painting by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine. In 1717, during the pontificate of Clement XI, in an official coronation ceremony the icon was crowned with papal diadems (the first time such an event had taken place outside Rome). The Golden Rose - the highest distinction awarded by the Vatican - was conferred on the icon by John Paul II. In 1430, during a Hussite raid on Jasna Góra, the painting was desecrated. Looters stormed the monastery, plundering its treasures, stripping the icon of its adornments and votive offerings, breaking it into three pieces and discarding it outside the church. Three slash marks were made on the Virgin’s face during this incident. These scars were intentionally left on the icon when 15th-century restoration work (paid for by Ladislaus Jagiełło) was carried out in Cracow (the earliest recorded instance of conservation treatment undertaken in Poland).

Over the centuries new buildings were added to the monastic hilltop complex. A church was raised in 1460-1463, and during the same period the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of the Virgin Mary was built into the former cloisters. Its enlargement in 1641-1644, founded by Bishops Stanisław and Maciej Łubieński, was undertaken because the old Gothic chapel was too small to accommodate worshippers. In 1650 the chapel received a new altarpiece, donated by the Great Crown Chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński. Made of oak, it was clad with ebony veneers and silver, and designed by Giovanni Battista Gisleni. In 1673 the icon itself began to be concealed behind a beautifully embossed silver screen. The chapel abutted a church, which was remodelled in Baroque style between 1690 and 1693. Numerous chapels were added to the church.

Jasna Góra was also a fortress. The six-week-long siege staged by the Swedes in 1655 ended in the aggressors’ unconditional retreat, whilst Prior Augustyn Kordecki, who led the defensive action, became a national legend. The bastioned fortifications were quadrangular in layout and served as a haven for the Bar Confederates. The most important developments of the 20th century were the reconstruction of a tower damaged by fire in 1905, the construction of the Stations of the Cross and the chapel and courtyard of the Cenacle, built in 1921-1927. The treasury contains church equipment, liturgical vessels and vestments not needed for everyday use, army regalia, in particular the staffs of office contributed by kings and hetmans, as well as some trophies of war. Fortunately, not even the occupying forces from the days of Poland’s partitions and two world wars dared breach the sanctuary’s defences and loot its treasury.

General information

  • Type: ecclesiastical complex
  • Chronology: koniec XIV - pocz. XX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: o. A. Kordeckiego 2, Częstochowa
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Częstochowa, commune Częstochowa
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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