BLACK MADONNA AND LOST CASTLE ON A HILL
I have a free day after having visited Krakow, so I take the opportunity to visit an attraction of a different kind, Częstochowa or more precisely the shrine of Jasna Góra. It is a Marian pilgrimage center especially famous in Central and Eastern Europe. Well before the 20th century, it attracted crowds of several hundred thousand people each year. So we left early in the morning from Krakow to visit the huge religious complex and the buildings around it.
The Basilica of Jasna Góra Monastery houses the famous icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The monastery is occupied by Pauline monk congregation. The name “Black Madonna” is to be distinguished from Black Virgins, Romanesque sculptures of the Middle Ages in the West Mediterranean. The Czarna Madonna is an icon painted by St. Luke, and his nickname “Czarna”, “black” in Polish comes from the darkening over time of the paint used originally. The icon, located in this place Opolczyk Władysław (Ladislaus of Opole) in 1382, is easily recognizable to the “scars” on the right cheek of the Virgin, memories of pillage of the sanctuary by Hussite bandits in April 14, 1430, the day of Easter. It was restored to the court of King Władysław Jagiełło (Ladislaus Jagiello). Often copied and reproduced, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa is one of the most important Catholic symbols in Poland.
Many churches in Poland or abroad have more or less impressive reproductions. The tour lasts around 3 hours and photos are only allowed in some places. After that we eat at a nearby restaurant.
Częstochowa is the Polish equivalent of Lourdes. However, there are here no sellers of charms or trinkets. The place is amazing, with beautiful views and a very high cleanliness. Do not miss the visit of the church with the Black Madonna and the many other museums around, like Lech Walesa. Although being a non-believer, I appreciate at its true value of the opportunity to visit such places. On the way back to Krakow, we stop by Pieskowa Skała castle.
The current castle, built by Casimir III of Poland, is one of the most famous examples of defensive architecture of the Polish Renaissance. It was built in the first half of the 14th century and was part of a set of fortifications called Orle Gniazda along the Jura between Cracow and Czestochowa. The castle has been renovated and given by King Louis I of Hungary in 1377 to Piotr Szafraniec of Łuczyce, but his family has only acquired the full rights of ownership in 1422 by King Ladislaus II Jagiello in recognition of services granted by Piotr Szafraniec at the Battle of Grunwald. The castle was rebuilt in the Mannerist style between 1542 and 1544 by Niccolò Castiglione with the participation of Gabriel Slonski. The front building above the door is a 17th century addition. The last owner in Szafraniec family was Jędrzej, son of Stanisław, who died childless in 1608.
After his death, the estate was owned by Maciej Łubnicki and the Zebrzydowski family. In 1640, Michał Zebrzydowski built bastions with a Baroque gate and a chapel. The castle then changed owner repeatedly over the centuries. In 1903, it was bought by the Pieskowa Skała company led by Adolf Dygasiński. It has since been carefully restored by the Polish state.
It is a beautiful stop on the way back to Krakow from Częstochowa. The castle tour was a very nice spot to visit and many exhibits in the castle are worth the trip, even if pictures or videos are forbidden. After a few hours there, we head back to Krakow.