To find the spiritual center of Poland, visit the monastery at Jasna Gora. There you can view the famous Queen of Poland, the Black Madonna.
Throughout the tumultuous times undergone by Poland, religious centers often safe-guarded its spiritual as well as material wealth. For none is this more true than the church and monastery of Jasna Gora. Founded in 1382 by the nobel Wladyslaw Opalczyk, Jasna Gora received 2 years later the painting which subsequently came to symbolize the spiritual core of a nation: the Blessed Mother and Child Jesus. Now known as the Black Madonna, the painting was the work of St. Luke who used a board from the table of the Holy Family in Nazareth, or so goes the first myth surrounding the Black Madonna. The second myth arises in 1430 when thieves attempted to do away with the now revered icon: as they departed the chapel, painting in hands, it grew too heavy to lift. In frustrated anger, the thieves slashed the painting; from those cuts, the Madonna began to bleed.
Thwarted, the thieves fled and the painting was whisked off to Krakow for repair. Repaired, but not restored, the Madonna shows scars of the desecration to this day upon her cheek. Her third high point in Poland’s history arrived when she was out of town, as it were. During the early part of the 17th century, the monastery and church were fortified in light of all the religious tumult going on at the time. Said fortifications came in handy in 1655 when the Swedes laid siege for 6 weeks. Thousands fought outside the monastery against only hundreds within it, yet they failed to conquer it. Despite the physical absence of the Black Madonna at that time (having been placed in safe-keeping elsewhere), Poles attributed this second miracle to her spiritual presence and subsequently rallied against the Swedes.
Today, the Black Madonna is world renowned: more than 5 million pilgrims flock to Czestochowa yearly to pay their respects; copies exist everywhere within and without Poland; and, the ascension of Karol Wojtyla to the throne of St. Peter ensured her everlasting veneration. If you seek the spirit of Catholic Poland, it is here in Jasna Gora paying homage to its Queen.