Outside Czestochowa, in an industrial area, is the Jasna Gora Monastery that houses the famous Black Madonna Icon. Over the years, this famous shrine to the Virgin Mary in Poland has become the most important center of pilgrimage for the Polish people and for Roman Catholics.
Legend has it that this portrait of the Black Madonna icon traces its origin to Luke the Evangelist. St. Luke is believed to have painted this portrait of the Blessed Virgin on a bench that was produced by Jesus when Jesus was a trainee-carpenter learning under the guidance of St. Joseph. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, this bench was brought to the Holy City of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell to the invading Romans, some Christian monks hid the Black Madonna icon during their itinerant travels.
Empress Helena, the wife of Emperor Constantius and the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great discovered this bench in the fourth century when searching for the relics of the True Cross and brought the picture to Constantinople, modern Istanbul. From the third century to the eighth century, this portrait remained in Constantinople.
In the eight century, during the rise of Islam in the Middle East and the following the siege of Constantinople, some Christian holy men carried the portrait to Belsk in east-central Poland. During the looting that followed the 1382 Tartar invasion, the portrait remained hidden because a mysterious cloud enveloped the chapel that housed this portrait. After the Tartars abandoned their siege of Belsk in 1384, a Prince of Belsk took the Black Madonna icon to a then-obscure parish called Czestochowa and entrusted it with the Pauline monks of St. Paul of the Desert at the Jasna Gora Monastery near Czestochowa. Over the course of time, Jasna Gora became a centre of pilgrimage for Polish Christians and Catholics.
In 1430 The Hussites attached Czestochowa and embezzled the Black Madonna icon. Legend has it that as the Hussites were leaving Czestochowa, their horses mysteriously halted at the edges of the village and they could not be spurred to move forward without abandoning the Black Madonna portrait. When the Pauline monks found the portrait stained by mud and blood, they could not find any water in the wells of the village because the all the water had been used to fight a big fire incited by the invading Hussites. Then, a miraculous fountain initiated itself to aid the monks. This spring is said to have magical powers.
After the Hussite invasion the Poles fought for three hundred years with the Teutonic Crusaders, and all the decisive victories won by the Polish nation in these battles are attributed to the miraculous help of the Holy Virgin. Thus the safety of the shrine of Czestochowa is identified with the very safety and independence of the whole nation.
In the seventeenth century, the Black Madonna icon is credited with saving the Jasna Gora Monastery when the Swedish army took siege of Czestochowa for more than six weeks during The Deluge. Even though this event is not significant from a military perspective, the event inspired the Polish unity and independence over the centuries. On 1-Apr-1656, the King of Poland Jan Kazimierz consecrated Poland to the protection of the Mother of God and proclaimed Her the Patron of his kingdom and acclaimed her the Queen of Poland. That preserved Czestochowa’s reputation as the spiritual capital of the nation of Poland.
The Jasna Gora Monastery is a functioning Monastery inside which the ‘Kaplica Cudownego Obrazu’, or the Chapel of Our Lady, holds the venerated Black Madonna Icon, Poland’s most revered icon. The unveiling ceremony is held at 06:00 and 13:30 on the weekdays and at 06:00 and 14:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. The veiling ceremony is held at 12:00 and 21:20 on the weekdays and at 13:00 and 21:20 on Saturdays and Sundays.
A museum holds, among many artifacts, arsenals, and religious objects of interest, the medal from the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize received by Lech Walesa, the Polish politician, trade-union organizer, and human-rights activist.