After having traveled together for more than ten years, Lars and I have some favorite destinations, as you can imagine. One of them is certainly Poland, because of its rich cultural heritage, its sometimes turbulent history, and a huge variety of landscapes that will keep every photographer busy.

But the thing that struck us the most during every trip to this country is how devout the Polish people are. Coincidence or not, but every time we wanted to visit a church or cathedral, there was a mass going on, no matter what day of the week or the time of the day. We always had to wait until we could photograph any religious building. But nothing prepares you for a visit to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and the emotion it evokes amongst religious people.

What is the Black Madonna?

In short, it is one of the most important shrines in Poland.

The icon is painted on wood and adorned with jewellery. Its origin can be traced back to the 14th century. It depicts the Holy Virgin holding Jesus on her lap.

Legend has it that St. Luke himself painted the icon. Via Constantinopel, it traveled all the way to Częstochowa where it arrived in the 14th century.


In order to see the Black Madonna, you will have to travel to Częstochowa, which is roughly in the south of Poland.

The name of the monastery where you can see it is Jasna Góra. Pauline monks founded it in the 14th century. Nowadays, it attracts lots of pilgrims.

The Visit

Lars and I stayed in a hotel not far from the site. We arrived at the monastery around 10 in the morning and although the parking lot is enormous, it was almost full. Anyway, we followed the masses to the basilica. In the beginning, we were surrounded by lots and lots of excited voices, but as soon as we entered the monastery, it became a lot quieter.

In the basilica, there was a mass going on. Since it was in Polish, we decided to observe the people around us and have a look at the building itself. One word to describe it: wow!

When the mass was over, we finally had the opportunity to have a closer look at the shrine.

Although I am not really a religious person, the veneration of the people was very touching. You could almost feel it.

One last look…

I am going to take it easy the next few weeks, so expect 1-2 posts per week. In order to avoid serious health problems, I need some rest. But we will be back soon!


  1. Great post. Having lived a few months in Poland, I appreciate that you have visited this country, it is not the most visited and that is a pity.


  2. The legend says that in the 15th century thieves who stole the painting also tried to damage it – they threw it on the ground and slashed it with a sword, making two bloody marks on Madonna’s cheek. They died whilst attempting the third strike. When the painting was returned, the slashes supposedly bled like real ones and nobody was ever able to repair them as they kept coming back. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so special and in this particular shrine. I hope you also got to see the chamber with all the crutches that people left there, when they were miraculously healed after completing a pilgrimage to Jasna Gora.


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