Our Lady of Czestochowa

“Of the more than 400 images of the Black Madonna or Black Virgin known worldwide, the image of Our Lady in Czestochowa, Poland, has received the most recent recognition because of the personal devotion displayed toward this religious icon by Pope John Paul II (1920– ). The pope, a native of Poland, prayed before the Madonna of Czestochowa in 1979, several months after his election to the Chair of Peter, and he is known to have made subsequent visits in 1983 and in 1991. The reports of miracles and healings attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa (also known as Our Lady of Jasna Gora) through the centuries are numerous. They include Our Lady greatly enhancing the ability of a small group of Polish defenders to protect her sanctuary from an army of Swedish invaders in 1655 and her holy apparition appearing to disperse an invading army of Russians in 1920. Records of such spectacular acts of intervention and dramatic cures are kept in the archives of the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora, the monastery site in which the portrait was housed for six centuries.

The Black Madonna of Czestochowa is of such antiquity that its origins are unknown. Tradition has it that St. Luke, the “beloved physician,” painted the portrait of Jesus’s mother on the cedar wood table at which she took her meals. Two centuries later, during her visit to the Holy Land, St. Helena (c. 248–c. 328), the Queen-Mother of Emperor Constantine (d. 337), is said to have discovered the portrait and brought it to Constantinople in the fourth century. Five centuries later, determined to save the image of the Madonna from the repeated invasions of the Tartars, St. Ladislaus (1040–1095) took the portrait to Opala, Poland, the city of his birth, for safekeeping. Regretfully, not long after its move, a disrespectful Tartar arrow managed to find its way to the Madonna’s throat, inflicting a scar that still remains visible. In 1430, Hussite thieves stole the portrait and broke it into three pieces.

Contemporary scholar Leonard Moss has argued against a vast antiquity for the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, claiming that the figure of the woman in the portrait was painted in a distinctly thirteenth- or fourteenth-century Byzantine style. Janusz Pasierb, another scholar who examined the portrait, counters such an assertion, stating that the image was “painted virtually new” in 1434 because of the extensive damage that the portrait had suffered at the hands of vandals.

Another aspect of the mystery of Our Lady of Czestochowa and all the other Black Madonnas that has puzzled many individuals is why they are portrayed with such dark skin tones. Some scholars answer this by stating that it wasn’t until the onset of the Renaissance in the fourteenth century that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph began being portrayed with pale skin, blue eyes, and blond or reddish-blond hair. Prior to that period, the Holy Family and the apostles were most often depicted as semitic people whose dark skin tones reflected the hot arid climate in which they lived. If the Black Madonna of Czestochowa was truly a portrait of Mary that had been painted from life by the apostle Luke, he would surely have captured a woman with olive or dark brown skin and black or brown hair.” (from unexplainedstuff.com)

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5 Responses to Our Lady of Czestochowa

  1. annem040359 says:

    Being of part Polish heritage, and having a very big interest in Eastern Christian icons, be they Eastern rite Catholic or Eastern Orothodox, the one about the Our Lady of Czestochowa, is my favorite one. It captures the speacial holiness that icon pictures can become as a form of prayer.


  2. The Raven says:

    Without wishing to get too technical about the whole thing, isn’t it possible that the image has become black over time because of chemical reactions in the pigment?

    Iconographers typically start painting faces by painting a layer of dark paint or, possibly, gesso over the area of the face and then applying layers of opaque lighter colours to bring out shadow etc. If the pigment had faded over time, the darker ground would begin to predominate.

    However it was created, Our Lady in Czestochowa, remains a beautiful and inspiring image.


  3. annem040359 says:

    Also the smoke from the candles, and lighted candles is very, very big with the Byzantine- style icons, the smoke from the same candles would also create a darker look also.


  4. Pingback: Our Lady Czestochova Pope

  5. Eugene Pio says:

    I thought you might like this:

    Resurrection Miracles of Our Lady of Czestochowa [ Virgin Mary Easter Miracle Raise Dead Mother of God Theotokos Icon Christian Catholic Orthodox Adventist Mormon ]:


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