The Icon of the Black Madonna is piously said to have been painted by St Luke the Evangelist on the table that the Holy Family used in Nazareth. Regardless of its origins, it is an Icon of Our Lady in the Byzantine Style. It is 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 title of black Madonna to the centuries of candle smoke and incense before it.
The Icon came to Poland because of Władysław, the Duke of Opole, who moved the Icon from his castle of Belz (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 the site of the Shrine. Thus, 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. However, 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 Siege of Jasna Góra
The most notable episode that jeopardised the safety of the Icon 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 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 Polish people have piously attributed the survival of their nation in any sense to the 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.
Coronation of the Black Madonna Icon
In 1717 the Icon was solemnly and liturgically crowned. This is very historic since it was the first liturgical coronation, with papal approval, of an image of Our Lady outside of Rome. (The first in Rome was in 1631). Pope Clement XI approved this coronation and offered the Icon a Crown 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 joyously lived through the 300th anniversary of this coronation. The jubilee celebrations began the year before on the Nativity of Our Lady, the 8th of September, and last until the same feast a year later. Therefore, 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.
Potop film Clip
In 1974 the siege of Jasna Góra was featured in the Polish film Potop (English: The Deluge), based on the Novel of the same name. Below is a clip from the film depicting the Monastery’s defence 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.
Hymn to the Black Madonna
- There’s a corner of a country, Which the pilgrims gladly seek,
Where In glory stands a portrait of a Queen slashed on the cheek.
She is grieving, she is caring, she invites us everyone:
“I’m your Mother, be my daughter, be my son.”
Madonna, Oh Black Madonna,
I’m happy Your child to be!
Oh, grant me, O Black Madonna, that your arms may cradle me.
- In your arms we find the refuge and the warmth of your great love.
In your arms we do find hope, joy and the strength to go through life.
In your arms is found the saviour, the Bread, the Truth, and our Way.
In your arms is found the Peace for which we search.