Home of Poland's Black Madonna
Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa is home to Poland's Black Madonna, the country's most important religious icon. Many visitors to Silesia make a point to visit Jasna Gora Monastery due to its significance and history and to pay a visit to the famous Black Madonna icon housed there. Other sights in this region include the Peach Churches and Wroclaw.
The monastery was founded in the 14th century by Pauline monks from Hungary. As pilgrims came to the monastery and donations to it grew, the monastery expanded. After word spread of miracles ascribed to the Black Madonna, the number of devout increased and the monastery's fame spread. Jasna Gora, meaning “Bright Hill,” developed itself into a complex that could handle many thousands of pilgrims and hosted visiting popes, including Pope John Paul II.
Bell Tower and Monastery Complex
Jasna Gora's bell tower, over 106 meters in height, can be seen by those approaching the monastery and acts as a point of reference in Czestochowa. Previously damaged by fire, the newest part of the bell tower dates to the last century, but older sections of the tower are from the early 1700s. A clock tells the time on each of the four sides of the bell tower and the spire bears the symbol of the Virgin and of the Pauline order of monks who founded the monastery.
The grounds of Jasna Gora are well kept and tidy, and old and new architecture mingles to give it a special character. Jasna Gora occupies enough territory to include a parkland that surrounds the monastery.
Jasna Gora Monastery is included on some organized tours of Poland, and if seeing this important religious site is important to you, you may want to look for such tours when you schedule your visit to Poland. If you'd rather go it alone, you can reach the city of Czestochowa by train. Or, if you are renting a car and want to explore Poland at leisure, the Czestochowa can be reached by car.
The Chapel of the Virgin at Jasna Gora
Poland's Black Madonna is located in a central chapel in the monastery complex. The Chapel of the Virgin is small, but an extended worship area enables pilgrims to attend services within the walls of the church. Visitors can follow a special route around the chapel to enable them to catch a glimpse of the Black Madonna without interrupting service or disturbing worshipers.
The Black Madonna can be seen with various icon covers depending upon the season or holiday. The icon itself is small, and the Virgin's darkened face and hands, and the two scars that mar Her cheek, are almost impossible to see. The icon is located in the center of an ebony and silver altar, where candles and flowers are also placed. Tourists who visit Jasna Gora will enter the chapel and walk behind the altar (and the icon) before coming out the other side and exiting the chapel.
If you didn't see the Black Madonna in your pass through the Chapel of the Virgin, you may be able to spot the icon if you took photos (no flash) during your visit. You may also purchase postcards that show the various icon covers used to protect the Black Madonna and emphasize the icon's priceless nature.
If you're able, take a careful look at the inside of the Chapel of the Virgin. You'll see glowing amber rosaries hanging from the ceiling and silver plaques representing pilgrims.