In August 1384, Władysław Opolczyk, an advisor to the King of Poland and Hungary, passed by the town of Częstochowa with a Hodegetria Marian icon in his possession. His horses suddenly stopped, refusing to go any further, and it took a night and a divinely inspired dream for Opolczyk to figure out that the icon he was taking home, believed to have been written by Saint Luke and found by Saint Helena, was to stay in Częstochowa at the Jasna Góra (“bright mount”) monastery.
The icon of Our Lady of Czętochowa, made of tempera and diluted wax, remained safe in Jasna Góra until a robbery in 1430. It was exposed to fire, which darkened the subjects’ skin (making this icon a Black Madonna), and loaded in a wagon of stolen treasures for a quick getaway. But the thieves were dismayed to find that their horses wouldn’t move. One robber threw the icon of Madonna and Child on the ground and struck it twice with a sword across Our Lady’s face; but before he could strike a third time, he fell to the ground and died shortly thereafter.
Clearly this icon was supposed to stay in the monastery, as she warded off these robbers and an invasion about 240 years later. Our Lady of Częstochowa still resides in Jasna Go today, venerated by thousands of pilgrims each year with prayers for resilience like hers, miraculous cures, world peace, and thanksgiving through some rather unusual gifts.
Among the most surprising things given to Our Lady of Czeętochowa are three papal gold roses, a clock, and a Nobel Peace Prize (won in 1983 by Polish president and trade activist Lech Wałęsa). Other gifts in Jasna Góra’s treasury include monstrances from Saint John XXIII and Saint Paul VI and a wide variety of crowns for many different celebrations.
The first coronation of Our Lady of Częstochowa was called for by Pope Clement X, and beautiful crowns were given to both Madonna and Child (as well as a pearl dress) on September 8th, 1717. But sometime in the night of October 22nd, 1909 – almost 200 years later – the crowns and dress were stolen off this Polish icon.
Pope Pius X was the first to offer new crowns to the Queen of Poland: “I have just learned that Poland is crying. I decided to offer the crowns to the Holy Mother in place of the ones my predecessor sent. …to express my devotion to the Mother of God and my love to the Polish nation.”
This resilient icon, cherished by a resilient nation, has received several crowns since, righting the robbery of her first ones – for the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland in 1966, coronated by Servant of God Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński; one from Saint John Paul II in 2005; and, most recently, a reconstructed match to her original crowns from the Italian Archdiocese of Crotone-Santa Severina on May 17th, 2017.
Our Lady of Częstochowa has several twins across the world, most notably for us in the states in Doylestown, Pennsylvania; this Black Madonna has given us a new image of hope in Christ, of resilience in the face of adversity, and just how clearly Mary is beloved – in Poland and beyond.
Our Lady of Czętochowa, pray for us!
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