About the Icon of the Black Madonna

The Icon of the Black Madonna is piously said to have been painted by St Luke the Evangelist on the very table that the Holy Family used in Nazareth. Regardless of its origins, it is an Icon of Our Lady in the Byzantine Style. It a Hodegetria icon, meaning one who shows the way, thus Our Lady is depicted as pointing away from herself and towards the Christ Child. The Icon owes its dark appearance and its title of black Madonna to the centuries of candle smoke and incense that have been burned in its sight. The icon came to Poland by the means of Władysław, the Duke of Opole, who was moving the icon from his castle in modern day Ukraine to another of his castles in Silesia. The story goes that at a certain point the horses leading the carriage containing the icon stopped and refused to go any further, thereby providentially choosing site of the Shrine. In 1382, Władysław invited our order from Hungry to come to Poland and found the Monastery of Jasna Góra to keep custody of the Icon and protect it. Interestingly enough the Icon has had a perilous history, with it being shot in the neck by a Tatar arrow and having its cheek slashed by the blade of a Hussite. The most notable episode that placed the Icon in jeopardy was the siege of Jasna Góra in 1655.

The mid-17th century saw Poland or the then Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth invaded or flooded as the Polish term Potop suggests by various hostile neighbours. Most notable of which was the Swedish Invasion of Poland. All of Poland can be have said to have either joined the Swedes or capitulated to them. Even the King was in hiding in Silesia! But our fortress monastery held out as the last beacon of a Catholic Poland. Our monks and a small amount of polish soldiers held out against overwhelming Swedish forces defending the fortress, the Monastery and the Black Madonna Icon under the command of Fr Augustine Kordecki, the Prior. The Swedes unable to break the fortress eventually gave up and withdrew. The Poles have attributed this miracle to the intercession of the back Madonna.

Inspired by the resolve of the Monks and the few remaining loyalist Soldiers, King Jan Kazimierz or John Casimir in English, resolved to entrust his kingdom to the Black Madonna and solemnly named her Queen of Poland. He did this in the Roman rite Cathedral of L’viv, now in modern day Ukraine. The survival of the Polish nation in any sense has been piously attributed to this Queenship of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. As a result the Shrine became a national place of pilgrimage for laity, clergy and royalty alike. Thus, Regina Poloniae is one of Our Lady’s official titles.

In 1717, the Icon was solemnly and liturgically crowned. This is very historic since it was the first liturgically coronation, with papal approval, of an image of Our Lady outside of Rome. (The first in Rome being in 1631). Pope Clement XI approved this coronation and offered the Icon a Crown all at the request of Fr Constantine Moszynski, the provincial of the Polish Province of the Order of St Paul the First Hermit.

In 2017, we are joyously living through the 300 anniversary of this coronation. The jubilee celebrations were begun last year on the nativity of Our Lady that is the 8th of September and will last until the same feast this year. Pope Francis has granted the possibility of obtaining a Plenary Indulgence, under the usual conditions, for making a pilgrimage to the Shrine and participating in any sacred rites before the crowned image of the Black Madonna.

In 1974 the siege of Jasna Góra featured in the Polish film Potop or in english The Deluge, based on the Novel of the same name. Below is a fragment of the film depicting the defense of the Monastery by both the Monks and the Soldiers.It is important to note that the chief weapon of the Monks was a Eucharistic procession around the Walls of the Monastery.