Monday, December 12, 2011

Matka Boska Częstochowska

Now, the most famous icon in the land of the Poles, and in the hearts of Poles is the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (Czarna Madonna, Matka Boska Częstochowska) is the Polish Madonna. There are perhaps 500 mediæval black madonnas (some are statues), this is the most famous and important one. It is the only notable one in Poland. It has an hymn. In recent years, odd academics have tried to explain black madonnas. This one has nothing to do with that gibberish. Its hue is only a visual characteristic. It is an icon of deep depth of feeling to many about the world.
A window in the church of St. Stanislaus, Cleveland, Ohio has a window of the icon. Many Polish churches do. This window has several scenes depicting the history of the icon.
Legend has St. Luke the Apostle (and painter) painting the icon on the cedar table top of the Holy Family. It is a Byzantine icon, Hodegetria (One Who Shows the Way). One scene blends into another. Right below the table is a particularly gruesome Hussite marauder. In his left hand he carries off ecclesial booty [now the window is booty], and in the right he carrier a war axe, which has a skull and crossbones inscribed upon it.
The Duke of Opole (in Polish Silesia), Władysław Opolczyk, brought the icon to Częstochowa in 1382 and gave it to Jasna Góra Pauline Monastery, which became Poland's premier shrine.
Its most storied moment was the incidence when the icon received facial scars. Hussites raided and pillaged the Pauline monastery in 1430 during a frequent Spanilé jízdy ('graceful ride'). The Hussites were Bohemian Czechs of two parties, the more extreme were the Taborites. The Hussite Wars ran from 1419 to 1434, with many Hussite victories against Germans, and papal loyalists. Much of east central Europe became involved. A frequent event was iconoclasm, and the destruction of monasteries. In March of 1430 Joan of Arc wrote an angry letter to the Hussites condemning their actions. A soldier stabbed the image at Jasna Góra twice, and he was dramatically prevented a third strike. Several attempts were made to 'repair' the icon, the scars reappeared. The icon was in encaustic (pigment suspended in beeswax), and not familiar to the artisans of the area.
King John II Casimir Vasa (he had been a Jesuit and a cardinal) crowned Our Lady of Częstochowa, as Queen of Poland in 1656. This was after the Swedes had occupied the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Deluge (Potok). The Siege of Jasna Góra (November 1655 to January 1656) held back the Swedes, and sparked a successful resistance.

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