Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Lady of Czestochowa

Our Lady of Czestochowa , or known simply as "The Black Madonna", is a revered icon of the Blessed Mother that is housed in Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, and is a great devotion among the Polish people and those of Polish descent. According to tradition, it was painted by St. Luke himself. From Wikipedia:

The difficulty in dating the icon stems from the fact that the original image was painted over, after being badly damaged by Hussite raiders in 1430. Medieval restorers unfamiliar with the encaustic method found that the paints they applied to the damaged areas "simply sloughed off the image" according to the medieval chronicler Risinius, and their solution was to erase the original image and to repaint it on the original panel, which was believed to be holy because of its legendary origin as a table top from the home of the Holy Family. The painting displays a traditional composition well known in the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Virgin Mary is shown as the "Hodegetria" ("One Who Shows the Way"). In it the Virgin directs attention away from herself, gesturing with her right hand toward Jesus as the source of salvation. In turn, the child extends his right hand toward the viewer in blessing while holding a book of gospels in his left hand. The icon shows the Madonna in fleur-de-lys robes.

It is said to have arrived at the monastery of Jasna Gora in 1382 by the Duke of Opole.  The image is credited with saving the monastery from a Swedish invasion in the 17th century, which turned the tide of the battle in favor of the Poles, so the image was crowned as "Queen and Protectress of Poland". 

"The legend concerning the two scars on the Black Madonna's right cheek is that the Hussites stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the icon. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites tried to get away but their horses refused to move. They threw the portrait down to the ground and one of the plunderers drew his sword upon the image and inflicted two deep strikes. When the robber tried to inflict a third strike, he fell to the ground and squirmed in agony until his death. Despite past attempts to repair these scars, they had difficulty in covering up those slashes (as they found out that the painting was painted with tempera infused with diluted wax). In commemoration of the attack, two slashes on her right cheek were made by a pen.

Another legend states that, as the robber struck the painting twice, the face of the Virgin Mary started to bleed; in a panic, the scared Hussites retreated and left the painting."

Bl. John Paul the Great being embraced by Our Mother of Czestochowa. This image was designed shortly after the attempted assassination. 

It should also be mentioned that the image darkened by the use of incense and the burning of candles throughout the centuries, so the skin on Our Lady and Christ where much lighter at one time.

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