Pilgrimage to Czestochowa

The main reason to go to Czestochowa is to see the spiritual heart of Poland, if you will.  The Black Madonna – a key religious item (supposedly painted/carved onto a table by St. Luke, the Evangelist) and an item also tied to Polish history – resides at the Jasna Gora monastery/fortress.  I was expecting to be visiting another important site, take a few pictures, and learn something.  But I learned something I was not expecting to learn as I did when I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau

A Monastery Fortress – Jasna Gora

The Jasna Gora monastery seemed daunting at first.  It sits atop a hill and surrounded my massive fortifications.

Jasna Gora monastery and complex in Czestochowa, Poland

However, a visit to the info office at the monastery quickly made it very accessible to us.  As quick background, back in the 17th century (or was it the 16th?), the monastery resisted the Swedish armies that had just conquered and ravaged most of Poland and I think may have been the only place not taken thereby ensuring the continuity of Poland at the time (someone with better history, please correct me or add to this info!).

To get to Czestochowa from Krakow, the best way was a 2hr+ train ride.  Upon arriving at the train station, we took a cab to the monastery on recommendation of a Krakovian who said there wasn’t much to see along the way. We were glad we did because of the timing of our arrival at the monastery.

The painting of the Black Madonna hangs in the altar of the chapel next to the Basilica.  The painting is not always exposed and the screening (covering up) and un-screening of it are key events which we got to witness almost by coincidence in the timing of our visit – pretty cool.

Chapel with the Black Madonna in Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Poland

The chapel fills up with pilgrims or locals, people kneel during the un-/screening, and big trumpet (or horn) music plays for the important moment.  At the info office, we were informed that the next screening was 15 mins away – so our timing was great (this only happens twice per day).  An hour and a half later the un-screening would take place so we would be there to see it – this worked well because it was the right amount of time to see the 3 small museums in the monastery in between events.  The un-/screening was not as momentous for me though I’m aware how important it is religiously here and how it played a key part in Polish history.  I imagine if I were Pole, I would have experienced differently but seeing it and seeing the locals at those moments definitely gave me a view into Poland.

One nice surprise was the second story of the chapel (we accessed it via the Knights Hall).  The stations of the cross (plus 2 extra stations) were painted around 2000-01 by a painter named Duda Gracz. They are fairly graphic but basically place the stations of the cross with key personages or events (mostly from Poland).  For those familiar with the stations of the cross, one depicts Veronica helping Jesus. In this version, it is Mother Teresa.  In the one where Jesus walks past his mother, the Black Madonna is the figure shown.  The Holocaust is also represented very vividly.

The museums in the monastery are simple and small sized but the arsenal one was my favorite as it eventually displays photos and key items from the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Very moving to see.  Part of it is built around one of the exterior corner walls of the fort so that was pretty neat.  Walking around the fort is really neat.

View of Czestochowa from Jasna Gora

Looking towards the main avenue from the fort

Jasna Gora building in Czestochowa, Poland

Jasna Gora building in Czestochowa, Poland

Out and about down the Main Thoroughfare of Al. NMP

Once done with Jasna Gora, we walked down the main thoroughfare (known as Al. NMP due to its long name) and stopped at a cafe for a snack.  The first cafe we tried only had desserts (no pastries) and was very smoky (while there are non smoking sections in some restaurants I ate at.  Those non-smoking sections were usually worse off than the smoking sections).  The second place, a few doors up, had the front door open so it was very pleasant inside and, besides desserts, had pastries.  The almond/apple tart I had was delicious.  That and a cafe au lait totaled a whopping $3.25. Nice.  The place was spotless, the restroom clean and the cafe had good ambiance.

We kept walking down Al. NMP until we saw a plaza with a very large cross and a status of Pope John Paul II in from of St. Zygmunt Church.

St. Zygmunt Church in Czestochowa, Poland

St. Zygmunt Church in Czestochowa, Poland

We arrived to the area near the train station, typical of many train stations around Europe.  With extra time in our hands, I had some time to snap a few shots along the way.

Stands near the Czestochowa, Poland train station

Stands near the train station

Train station at Czestochowa, Poland

Train station in Czestochowa, Poland

Czestochowa, while not seemingly as exciting as Krakow in the short duration of our visit, certainly helped me know Poland a little better and is a great destination for those wanting to see more of Poland – a place unencumbered by the importance of Warsaw or the fame of Krakow.

Comments

  1. Interesting – never even heard about this place. Loved the photos. Why did you decide to go to Czestochowa?
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..A perfect weekend in Dublin, IrelandMy Profile

    • It was doable as a day trip from my base, Krakow, and I wanted to see a secondary city. Plus, it is the home of the Black Madonna which I had read was incredibly important to the Polish people for historic and spiritual reasons so I thought, why not go see it!!

  2. Your pictures are incredible. Czestochowa seems like a hidden gem and one that we hope to check out sometime soon!
    Tawny- Captain and Clark recently posted..Our Life Revealed by our iPhone.My Profile

  3. Great stuff…I hadn’t heard about this place either. Awesome pictures as always…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..The Napa Valley Lodge – YountvilleMy Profile

  4. interesting! the national shrine of czestochowa is in our hometown (doylestown, pa) and they have a huge polish festival every year. i never gave much thought to the actual town in poland!
    the lazy travelers recently posted..no travel requiredMy Profile

    • Oh, wow, what a coincidence! I guess a lot of Polish immigrants in the U.S. would naturally look to have some shrine here too. Maybe someday I will explore this other Czestochowa shrine 🙂

  5. Why is the cross knocked over in front of the church? Did you do that Raul because you were impatient that the church did not retweet your post 🙂

    Beautiful pictures from the city. I have been to Krakow, but went to Lublin from there instead of this city.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Arromanches: A harbor that helped win a war in Normandy, FranceMy Profile

    • No, it was because it was not shortening my links with SU… 😉 Czestochowa was as far afield as I had time to go since I was based in Krakow that week I spent in Poland. I wish I had had time to explore other towns in Poland – so much history!

  6. Looks like a great destination to see some more of the real Poland, Raul. Cool pictures as well – thanks for sharing!
    John recently posted..Visiting Denver, Colorado: The Local’s Take With Kim OlsonMy Profile

    • It is true anywhere but I love exploring secondary towns in the Eastern European countries because life is less, what shall I call it, commercialized? They feel genuine, which sounds weird because, say, Rome is genuine too…

  7. Well, add another place to my list. I’m going to need a new notebook. That cross touching the ground near St. Zygmunt Church in Czestochowa is crazy. Then add the red and white pole in the distance, it looks like something out of Dr. Seuss. Very cool, Raul.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Seeing Egypt the Russian Way: Scary Planes & Friendly CamelsMy Profile

    • Yes, I noticed the pole (sic) too and it made for an interesting contrast to the church and the cross! I left feeling I could have walked around another day or two and found more surprises like those, Leah!

  8. Poland is a place that’s been on my list for a while, but I have been on a bit of a hiatus from Europe for a bit. This post is a reminder about why I need to go back. These photos are wonderful!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Exploring the Okavango Delta: Part Two.My Profile

  9. It’s a shame, I really know very little about Poland. This helped me out a bit, and I definitely appreciate the connection between a place’s history and religion. Looks like it was cold when you were there!
    Francesca recently posted..Kenosha, Wisconsin: More to it than an outlet mallMy Profile

    • Yes! It was March so towards the end of winter but like the worst of my winter months in Atlanta! But it gave it a nice aura that spring or summer I am sure don’t have. It changed my mind about winter travel in winter-heavy lands!

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