Swedish Deluge and the Defense of Częstochowa
In 1655 General Burchard Müller’s Swedish Army stood under the monastery of Jasna Góra. For 40 days they tried unsuccessfully to lead to the surrender, or forcible conquest of the Częstochowa fortress.
The fact of targeting the monastery, one of the nation’s greatest sanctities, upset the Poles and became the “drop that poured the spell”. A miraculous defence of Jasna Góra (siege army had 3,200 soldiers, and the garrison of defenders consisted of 160 shooters, supported by monks and residents), became a spark that made Poles fight. Gentry, peasants and highlanders began to organize guerrilla units on their own, which engaged the besieging forces. Ultimately, the attack on Częstochowa led to the establishment of the Tyszowiec Confederation – giving rise to an armed uprising against theSwedish invaders. This event spread widely throughout seventeenth-century Europe. The defiance of the defenders has been described, among others by the then largest French newspaper Gazette de France.
While in exile, King Jan Kazimierz decided to return to the country and fight.However, he was aware that through force alone he would not win and he followed the advice of Pope Alexander VII to entrust the republic to the Mother of God: “Mary will save you, She is the Lady of Poles. Devote to her. Offer to her officially. Announce her as Queen.” On April 1, 1656, Jan II Kazimierz Waza, in the presence of the papal legate, made a vow (whose text was written by St. Andrzej Bobola) in front of the image of Our Lady of Grace and joyfully announced Mary as Queen of the Polish Crown. Then, for the first time, during public recitation of the Loretto Litany by the papal nuncio Piotr Vidoni, the call “Queen of the Polish Crown, pray for us” was made three times. To emphasize this fact and its significance, the image from Częstochowa was crowned with new crowns, placed above the head of the Mother of God and Child. Over the years, more crowns were offered. They were given among others by: Queen Eleonora Habsburg (wife of King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki) and Fr. Konstanty Pawłowski (Definitor of the Pauline province and Sacristan of Jasna Góra). In 1717 re-coronation was done by King August II the Strong and Pope Clement XI. It was then first in Polish lands, established by papal decree, coronation of the image of the Mother God with the Child, made outside of Rome.
Theft of the Crowns
The crowns of Pope Clement XI and a pearl dress with valuables were stolen at night on October 22, 1909. The perpetrators were never detected and the lost insignia were never recovered. As time passed, the conviction spread that the theft constituted solidified political provocation of the Russian partitioning powers. Jasna Góra had a significant impact influencing the formation of national consciousness, constituting a serious obstacle in the Russification of the society. One of the clues was that the valuables did not belong to most precious ones that were within the reach of thieves. Moreover, a political context of the robbery was also indicated by the intention of Tsar Nicholas II – to give his own crowns for the picture. However, this never happened, because Moscow was succeeded by Pope Pius X, who already at the turn of the year 1909 and 1910, offered the Black Madonna Papal Diadems.
Reconstruction of Tiaras of St. Pius X
Golden crowns were handed over to the Polish delegation on April 21, 1910 by Pope St. Pius X, who said then: “As soon as I learned that Poland was crying, I decided to offer my crowns to the Mother of God in the place of those sent by one of my predecessors. I only regret that my poverty did not allow me to make such a wonderful gift that my heart wanted to offer. If it were in my power, I would do a miracle so that my gift would correspond to my fervent devotion to the Mother of God and my love for the Polish nation.”
On April 24, 1910, diadems were brought. The act of re-coronation took place during celebrations on May 22. The painting was also decorated with a new dress (so-called coral dress), offered by women from the Kielce region from the villages of Rembieszyce and Złotniki.
Since the first crowns were offered by King Władysław Jagiełło, many have been funded later. The most important ones include two donated around 1642 by King Władysław IV. In the second half of the twentieth century, several others were created. The most important of them are crowns founded for the millennium of the baptism of Poland in 1966, as a set for a millennium dress, for coronation made by Blessed Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. At the end of his life in 2005, Pope Saint John Paul II also offered his crowns – with the motif of Piast eagles, symbolizing the majesty of the Queen of Poland. On an anniversary of 100 years of papal recoronation there were founded the new crowns and the dress – with fragments of the presidential plane that crashed in Smoleńsk on April 10, 2010. The last ones were given in 2017 on the 300th anniversary of the first papal coronation of the painting by the Italian archdiocese of Crotone-Santa Severina – as a reconstruction of the stolen crowns of Pope Clement XI.
Re-painting of the Image
In 1682, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Jasna Góra, the painting was renovated. Simultaneously, Provincial Father Izydor Krasuski OSPPE made an oil painting on canvas displaying in a dozen or so scenes the history of the image, then stuck it to the reverse of the icon. More work on the painting took place in 1705, and it was carried out by Pauline goldsmith friar Makary Sztyftowski. He re-painted the coat and dress of Mary and the Child with oil paints and also stuck 28 brass stars to Mary’s coat, which were later removed by Prof. Jan Rutkowski, when in 1925-1926 he made a scientific examination of the image and its thorough conservation. He removed previously applied oil paints, soot from the face of the Mother of God and the Lord Jesus and nail marks after pins that were nailed to the board to attach the dresses. He also cleaned the wood from vermin and cavities as a result of decay and removed the previously mentioned painting from 1705. It was glued onto a separate linden board, and then fixed to the picture. In this way the so-called Zaplecek, which later in 1980 was disconnected from image, is currently exhibited in the Jasna Góra museum.
by Tomasz Niemas
translation by Filip Szary