THE Monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Poland, is one of the biggest Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.
Home to the beloved icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the monastery is also the national shrine of Poland and the centre of Catholic life in Poland.
It will be high on the list of World Youth Day pilgrims when they visit next year.
The icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which is displayed in an altar in the Chapel of the Black Madonna.
The icon shows a serious Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and gesturing towards him with her right hand.
The origin of this image in Czestochowa, is unknown, but according to tradition the painting was a portrait of Our Lady done by St John sometime after the Crucifixion of Our Lord and remained in the Holy Land until discovered by St Helena of the Cross in the fourth century.
Today, the Polish people continue to honor their beloved portrait of the Madonna and Child, especially on August 26, the day reserved by St Ladislaus.
Because of the dark pigment on Our Lady’s face and hands, the image is affectionately called the “Black Madonna,” most beautifully prefigured in the Bible, in the Canticle of Canticles, “I am black but beautiful.”
The pigmentation is ascribed primarily to age and the need to keep it hidden for long periods of time in places where the only light was from candles, which colored the painting with smoke.
The miracles attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa are many.
The original accounts of them, some of them cures, are archived by the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora.