Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Black Madonna

This painting, known as the Black Madonna, or Our Lady of Czestochowa, is said to have been painted by Saint Luke, but no one really knows its true origins. The horizontal scar on the right side of the Virgin's face happened in the fourteenth century when King Louis' castle in Hungary was besieged by Tartars. One of the villains shot an arrow through the window of the King's chapel, and struck the face of the Virgin, leaving a scar. At that moment, it is said that daylight turned into night, and the frightened Tartars ran away.

King Louis of Hungary then decided that the painting should be held in a more secure place, so he ordered it to be brought in a carriage to Silesia. The horses, hitched to a carriage, carried the painting to the Polish town of Czestochowa, and then they refused to move. No matter how hard the carriage drivers tried to coax the horses to continue on the journey, they steadfastly remained rooted to the spot.

The image was then placed in a small chapel on a hill in Czestochowa, and the horses were able to move again. The people of Czestochowa knew by this that Our Lady was meant to stay there, and they built a monastery to house and protect her image.

On Good Friday in the year 1430, a band of anti-Catholic Czech Hussites attacked the monastery, killing five of the monks, seizing sacred vessels, and making off with the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. They loaded the painting onto a horse-drawn cart, and drove it to the bottom of the hill, only to find out that their horses refused to budge past the hill's bottom. This so infuriated one of the Hussites, that he grabbed the picture, smashing it to the ground. Another Hussite drew his sword and slashed the picture twice. When he raised his sword to slash it again, he was struck by a bolt of lightening. The frightened Hussites fled the scene, leaving the picture on the ground.

When the monks retrieved the image, they repaired it, but the scars remain to this day. If you look closely, you will see the three scars that history has embedded on the face of the Black Madonna.

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