Discovering Jasna Góra – As the history goes…

Black Madonna Icon Faces

This is translated from Polish that appeared on titled ‘Odkrywamy Jasną Górę (31) Jak mówi historia…’ written by Fr. Jan Stanislaw Rudzinski OSPPE.

Medallions, gorgets and medals with the Image of Our Lady of Jasna Gora

The cause of the miracles and graces performed in the Sanctuary of Jasna Gora is not the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady as such. It is only a material object, but it is surrounded by great veneration because it is an instrument through which the Blessed Virgin Mary acts, showing her participation in the power of God. The Icon of Jasna Gora is more than an image, a picture or – as it was once thought – even a portrait of the Mother of God. It is an expression and sign of Her presence. It signifies, although directly intangible to us, yet real, known by us by its effects, the presence of the One it represents. The healing in the Jasna Gora Chapel does not prove the supernatural power of the Image, but the action of Our Lady using the Image. It can be expressed very simply in the words: “You speak to us from Your Miraculous Image, Mother, who in Your Image has been with us for so many centuries. Mother, how good that you are”.

 Information about the miracles and graces of Jasna Gora is drawn from archival sources and literature and descriptions of specific events. 

Such an oldest source is the Translatio tabulae Beatae Mariae Virginis manuscript preserved in the Jasna Gora archives, with a date of 1474 added later. It says that both the Image and its history are one great miracle. The author assumes that an Image of such extraordinary origin, painted by St Luke the Evangelist on the boards of the table of the Holy Family, should be famous for all kinds of miracles. In this text, it is difficult to distinguish legend from historical fact. But even if the entire content of the document – apart from stating the fact of the Image’s existence – conveyed a legend, it still provides us with some proof of the extraordinariness, or miraculousness, of the Image, since legends – as we know – are always formed around extraordinary objects, persons and events.

 A historical source that speaks of the miracles of Jasna Gora is a letter of King Władysław Jagiełło written to Pope Martin V in the first quarter of the 15th century (certainly before 1429). The king, supporting the Paulines’ request for indulgence privileges, writes of his fondness and devotion to Jasna Góra, where many pilgrims used to come, because “many miracles often happen in the church by the power of God”.

 The Polish chronicler – Rev. Canon Jan Długosz – personally visited Jasna Góra and admired the Miraculous Picture, where “the most perfect Queen of ours and the world” appeared. Then, describing a robbery attack on the Jasna Gora Monastery in 1430, he notes: “For from all over Poland and the neighbouring countries, viz: Silesia, Moravia, Prussia and Hungary, for the feast of the Holy Mary – whose rare and pious image on wood is located here – the pious people gathered for the astonishing miracles performed here through the intercession of our Lady and Advocate”.

 Pope Alexander VI, in his breve of 16 April 1493, responding to a request to grant special indulgences to the numerous pilgrims arriving at Jasna Góra, notes: “…to which the Blessed Virgin Mary, as we have learned, on account of the multitude of miracles which, through the merits and mediation of that Virgin Mary, the Most High often works, a multitude of the faithful converges…”.

 The Visitation Decree of the Bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Jerzy Radziwill, dated 26 August 1593, orders the conscientious recording of miracles and the collection of authentication documentation. The document reads, among other things: “For how much the Son of God wished to honour His Mother through this memorial and in this place, as evidenced by the constant, exceedingly numerous influx of Christian people from all the lands of the North, caused by very frequent and various graces and miracles…”.

 Gregory of Sambora (1523-73), in his poem entitled Czestochowa, published in Krakow in 1568, thanks Our Lady of Jasna Gora for the graces he has experienced. He begins the poem with the words:

 In a letter to Pope Alexander VII on 13 September 1657, King John Casimir wrote: “The most venerable Image of the Great Mother of God in Czestochowa, in my kingdom, is famous for its ancient veneration and numerous miracles…”. 

Sixty years later, the Papal Nuncio from Vienna, Cardinal G. Albani, wrote almost exactly the same to the Holy See, asking for the favour of an extraordinary event – the coronation of the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa with the crowns of the Vatican Chapter: “This Image is famous for a very ancient veneration and a never interrupted series of miracles”.