The origin of this miraculous image in Czestochowa, Poland is unknown for absolute certainty, 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. The painting was taken to Constaninople, where St. Helena’s son, the Emperor Constantine, erected a church for its enthronement. This image was revered by the people of the city.

During  the siege by the Saracens, the invaders became frightened when the people carried the picture in a procession around the city; the infidels fled. Later, the image was  threatened with burning by an evil emperor, who had a wife, Irene, who saved it and hid it from harm. The image was in that city for 500 years, until it became part of some dowries, eventually being taken to Russia to a region that later became Poland.

After the portrait became the possession of the Polish prince, St. Ladislaus in the 15th century, it was installed in his castle. Tartar invaders besieged the castle and an enemy arrow pierced Our Lady’s image, inflicting a scar. Interestingly, repeated attempts to fix the image, artistically have all failed.

Tradition says that St. Ladislaus determined to save the image from repeated invasions, so he went to his birthplace, Opala, stopping for rest in Czestochowa; the image was brought nearby to Jasna Gora [“bright hill”] and placed in a small wooden church named for the Assumption. The following morning, after the picture was carefully placed in the wagon, the horses refused to move. St. Ladislaus understood this to be a sign from Heaven that the image should stay in Czestochowa; thus he replaced the painting in the Church of the Assumption, August 26, 1382, a day still observed as the Feast Day of the painting. The Saint wished to have the holiest of men guard the painting, so he assigned the church and the monastery to the Pauline Fathers, who have devoutly protected the image for the last six hundred years.

Having survived two attacks upon it, Our Lady’s image was next imperiled by the Hussites, followers of the heretic priest, John Hus from Prague. The Hussites did not accept papal authority as coming from Christ and taught that mortal sin deprived an office holder of his position, among other heresies. Hus had been influenced by John Wyclif and became infected with his errors. Hus was tried and condemned at Constance in 1415. The Hussites successfully stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the image. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites went a little ways but then the horses refused to go any further. Recalling the former incident that was so similar, the heretics threw the portrait down to the ground, which shattered the image into three pieces. One of the plunderers drew his sword and slashed the image twice, causing two deep gashes; while attempting a third gash, he was overcome with a writhing agony and died.

The two slashes on the cheek of the Blessed Virgin, together with the one on the throat, not readily visible in our copy, have always reappeared after artistic attempts to fix them. The portrait again faced danger in 1655 by a Swedish horde of 12,000, which confronted the 300 men guarding the image. The band of 300 routed the 12,000 and the following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland.

In September 14, 1920, when the Russian army assembled at the River Vistula, in preparation for invading Warsaw, the Polish people prayed to Our Lady. the next day was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Russians quickly withdrew after the image appeared in the clouds over Warsaw. In Polish history, this is known as the Miracle of Vistula.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II, Hitler order all religious pilgrimages stopped. In a demonstration of love for Our Lady and their confidence in her protection, a half million Poles went to the sanctuary in defiance of Hitler’s orders. Following the liberation of Poland in 1945, a million and a half people expressed their gratitude to the Madonna by praying before this miraculous image.

Twenty-eight years after the Russian’s first attempt at capturing the city, they successfully took control of Warsaw and the entire nation in 1948. That year more than 800,000 brave Poles made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Czestochowa on the Feast of the Assumption, one of the three Feast days of the image; the pilgrims had to pass by the Communist soldiers who patrolled the streets.

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 and most spectacular. The original accounts of them,  some of them cures, are archived by the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora.

Papal recognition of the miraculous image was made by Pope Clement XI in 1717. The crown given to the image was used in the first official coronation of the painting, which was stolen in 1909.

Pope Pius X replaced it with a gold one encrusted with jewels.czes2-1




St. Florian Church Sweet treats at the New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck. New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck. Inside of Polish Art Center in Hamtramck. Inside of Polish Art Center in Hamtramck. Shrodek's Gocery store, Hamtramck.

This year PACT  is organizing a trip to Hamtramck, Michigan; once a stronghold of Polish immigrants and Polish culture.  Hamtramck was originally settled by German farmers, but Polish immigrants flooded into the area when the Dodge Brothers plant opened in 1914. Poles still make up a large proportion of the population. It is sometimes confused with Poletown, a traditional Polish neighborhood, which lies mostly in the city of Detroit and includes a small part of Hamtramck. As of the 2000 census, over 22% of Hamtramck’s population is of Polish origin; in 1970, it was 90% Polish.  ST. Florian Church was the center of Polish culture and Polish events.  It is named in honor of Florjan (Florian) patron of Poland and Upper Austria;  his feast day is May 4.   Today, you can still find authentic Polish grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and an art center.  Our tour will include a tour of St. Florian Church, the Polish Art Center, lunch at a Polish restaurant and time to shop at the Polish bakery and grocery store.  If you have questions about  this trip, please email us at  Deadline to sign up for this trip is May 1st, so reserve your seat on the bus early.  The price of the trip is $40 per person for non members and $35  per person for PACT members.  This price will include the bus trip to and from Hamtramck, a tour guide at St. Florian Polish Church, and lunch at the Polonia Restaurant.  Lunch consists of soup, salad, pierogi, kielbasa and potato pancakes.  We will also visit the Polish Art Center for a talk on  Polish pottery and a shopping at the New Palace bakery and Srodek’s grocery store.  There will free time to shop and browse.

Please send your check to PACT, P.O. Box 1033, Sylvania, Ohio, 43560 by the first of May.  Also include the name and phone number of all that are going.

Don’t let the bus leave without you.  Join us for a day in Hamtramck!

Friday March 7th from 4-8pm Toledo’s very own traditional Polish folk song and dance ensemble “Echoes of Poland” will offer their popular Lenten Pierogi dinner: (4 pierogi–cheese, potato, sauerkraut or mixed, and a vegetable for $8 for an Adult (25 cents extra to go, call 419-531-8658).  This will be at the PRCUA Polish Roman Catholic Union of America Hall at 5255 North Detroit .

Saturday March 15th will be the third Saturday of the month, so it will be the next monthly meeting of our very friendly Toledo Polish Genealogical Society, held at 420 Sandusky Street (Saint Michael’s School in “Point Place”), between Suder and 280.  Everyone (any ancestry!) welcome!

Sunday March 16 afternoon will be the annual general membership meeting of the Toledo Poznan Alliance at LourdesUniversityFranciscanCenter –ANYONE interested is welcome!

Thursday March 20th the independent Resurrection Polish National Catholic Church at 1835 West Temperance Road between Jackman and Douglas will offer  another of their “Taste of Poland” dinners from 5-7pm (always very good food, often running out early) as either Dine-In or Carry-Out for just $10.  The menu this time is listed as: “Baked pork chop, kielbasa, mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet and sour cabbage, vegetable, dessert and beverage.”