Częstochowa is a city known to many around the world for the holy icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus in her arms. The icon is in the Sanctuary of the Pauline monastery at Bright Hill (Jasna Góra), and this Sanctuary has been visited by great numbers of people. It is said that up to 5 million pilgrims come annually to this hereditary home of Polish nationality to offer thanksgiving and veneration to Our Holy Mother. It is not at all exceptional to see pilgrims coming here on foot from 600 kilometres away. For some pilgrims, it may take as many as twenty days to cover the distance from home to the Chapel of the Mother of God; and once there, they go down on their knees. Every August 15th since 1711, on the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest pilgrimage in Poland arrives from Warsaw. Then after that, in just a few days’ time, on August 26th, the faithful multitudes come together at the shrine to celebrate the day of Our Holy Mother of Częstochowa, devotionally recognised by Poles as Our Lady’s Day.
Annually, in September, on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, a very famous Polish country folk and culture festival is held. Farmers, from all over the country, come to Bright Hill (Jasna Góra) bringing many wondrously fashioned wreaths that are the sign and symbol of their toil and of the harvest from their ploughed and planted fields.
This is a centre of Marian veneration and devotion for the entire world; and the centre is the chapel Sanctuary; it is the Pauline monastery; it is Jasna Góra, and it is Częstochowa, too.
Częstochowa is a city that cannot be judged by its exterior alone. It is a city full of history and heritage, art and culture, and all waits inside a variety of museums, galleries and auditoriums.
The village of Gidle was once visited by the Polish kings, Władysław IV and Jan Kazimierz, and it is a place to be recommended to everyone.
There is the 15th century larch-wood parish church of St. Mary Magdalene. There are the relics of a Carthusian hermitage in the crypt of the 18th century church of the Sorrowful Mother of God. On the grounds of the Dominican monastery, there is a museum and a Way of the Cross. A tiny stone statue, the Madonna of Gidle, is in the 17th century Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The basilica is an outstanding example of 17th century architecture. The statue is in the perpetual care of the Dominican Fathers. The stone statue, merely the size of a hand, is the smallest image of Our Holy Mother to be crowned by papal insignia. The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus was found in 1516 by a peasant who was ploughing a field. Now venerated in the basilica on a large and beautiful altar, the miraculous image is among the many commemorative pictures that tell of miracles received through the intercession of the Madonna of Gidle. The Madonna is the patron saint of farmers and miners, and usually, is visited by 100 thousand pilgrims a year.
Święta Anna (Saint Anne)
This village is a place of silence and meditation. It is the domain of a contemplative order of cloistered Dominican sisters. In front of the church and among the trees, there is a Tadeusz Kościuszko monument and a wooden cross, too. They are memorials for the patriotic insurgents of 1863. Inside the baroque church of St. Anne, there are 17th century frescos and 18th century paintings. Adjacent to the church, on a quadrangle, is the convent. A gothic statue of St. Anne, who holds both, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, is in the care of the nuns. Once Saint Anne was an especially important site for all pilgrims, and it is still a special stop-over site for pilgrims on their way to Częstochowa. The village of Saint Anne has its special day on July 26th. Crowds of people come to take part in the religious feast day celebrations of the village’s patron saint, St. Anne.
Poland’s oldest centre of monastic life is in Mstów. Polish monastic life began in 1145, when the Canons Regular set up a monastery in Mstów. Soon afterwards, a synod took place there in 1212. As late as the 16th century, Mstów was of greater importance than Częstochowa. The town is renowned for a picture of Our Holy Mother. This holy picture, regarded by the Archbishop of Gniezno as generous with Divine Grace, is venerated today. On Wednesdays, a Marian novenna is offered. Newly weds, and parents with their children after the Catholic sacrament of Baptism, kneel in devotion before this image of Our Holy Mother.
Also, worth seeing in Mstów: a 1620 cemetery chapel with a metal door fitting, a complex of old barns arranged on a pretty hill to resemble the streets of the town, and on the banks of the Warta River, the Love Rock.
The devotion and veneration of Our Holy Mother of Leśniów is closely linked to that of Our Holy Mother of Częstochowa. In 1382, Prince Ladislaus of Opole (Władysław Oploczyk), prayed for the intercession of the Mother of God, because the people of his village had dug for water in vain. In anwer to his prayer, a great spring gushed forth from under his feet. The heavenly grace granted then remains today as the Leśniówka source. As symbol of his thanksgiving, the Prince endowed a shrine to be built next to the miraculous spring for a wooden statue of the Black Madonna. The 70 cm high gothic statue, now on the main altar of the Sanctuary, has the constant veneration of devoted believers. The veneration of the statue was symbolically elevated when it was crowned by Primate Stefan Wyszyński and Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, later, Pope John Paul II. Our Holy Mother of Leśniów is the patron saint of families. Since the beginning of the 18th century, there is witness of miraculous recoveries and accounts of hundreds of divine graces received. The Sanctuary complex, which consists of the Pauline Fathers Novitiate Monastery and the Shrine of Our Holy Mother of Leśniów, has become an important pilgrimage centre for local inhabitants.