Czestochowa is Poland's major pilgrimage site, and since the pontificate of John Paul II, linked to Rome and routes of Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe and north America. It is a monastery located on "Bright Mountain" (Claramontana or Jasna Gora), home to Paulite monks and a chapel that houses an icon of the Virgin Mary, popularly called in English, the "Black Madonna." Fires, candlelight, and age darken icons, hence her soubriquet. Done in the Byzantine style of the Mediterranean, the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa is an eastern or orthodox form of pictorial art rather than western or Roman Catholic; it somehow migrated to Poland. The icon is associated with the miraculous raising of the seige of the Swedish army in Poland in the 17th century (the Polish king at the time vowed that Mary would be queen of Poland if the Swedish army were defeated). Whatever the reasons, the overextended Swedes retreated; the monks of the monastery defended their hill successfully, and a pilgrimage site was born. The faithful visit here year round---young, old, groups of artists, and all kinds of pilgrims pray for themselves and their families at Czestochowa. Catholicism eventually overwhelmed an older tradition of religious and linguistic pluralism, an earlier heritage of trade, eastward expansion, and gentry aversion to fanaticism.
Theodosia (Teddy) Robertson
- Raised in California, graduated from Dominican College, Phd in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Indiana University. Teaching at UM-Flint since 1986 in the History Department. Retired 2012, but continues to love teaching (online), writing, and research.