Up bright and early and what a beautiful day with the sun shining, the birds tweeting and the jack hammers bashing away. Behind the corrugated fence, a construction site with what looks to be a new, all signing and dancing spa resort. A far cry from our campsite, which is desperate need of a major revamp. A shame really because the facilities and grounds are excellent and only a few minutes walk to the monastery.
So where are we? We are at the huge monastery of Jasna Gora in Częstochowa, which is regarded as the most famous shrine in Poland and consequently a place of pilgrimage. We set off early to avoid the crowds but little did we know, the doors open at 6am! As we walk towards the entrance, the car park is just swarming with people flocking to see the image of the Black Madonna. Young, old, monks, nuns, an array of various people. Like us some are just curious but most are here to pray or visiting in hope of miracle from Our Lady of Jasna Gora.
Looking at Jasna Gora today, built just outside the city of Czestochowa it is easy to see why this place became a mass pilgrim site. The Polish Prince founded the monastery in 1392, which he then handed over to the Pauline monks to look after. Through several invasions and battles the monastery still stands but the heroic defence of 1655 is a key event. This is when the Swedish invaded Poland and the Pauline monks protected the painting. For their bravery, King John Casimir appointed the Mother of Jasna Gora as the Queen of Poland and from that day forward it became a throne.
The whole complex stands behind a brick wall, to which you enter via an avenue lined with flags from every nation. From the outside, its a collection of cream buildings with a huge church tower in the middle. But once inside you soon realise it is a myriad of religious buildings and museums with the church at the core. We walked around the whole complex completely surprised and aghast by how much more the site offered. The complexity and variety of the museums was fantastic (no photos allowed) with buildings dedicated to general history of Poland, as well as Jansa Gora itself.
We left the Basilica and the Chapel until the end. It was indeed, more splendid than any church we had seen since in Poland. Sunlight flowed through stained glass window, as we climbed the side staircase. At the top, a collection of graphic, if not unusual paintings of the life of Christ. From the balcony railings we looked down in to the chapel entrance where a priest was delivering mass.
Once in the chapel, the high arches and dark interior shielded much of natural light. A moment for our eyes to adjust and then wow. It was full of hanging rosemary beads, paintings, silver hearts and intricate pillars. In front of the gold alter, a gate, behind which the black madonna . We spent an hour standing to one side, gazing at the interior, watching people lighting candles, pray and kneel before the Queen of Poland.
Today, is the day of my Aunty Elsie’s funeral and what a beautiful place to say a prayer and take time to remember her.
The basilica not only surprisingly large for its community, but richly endowed with a number of chapels and sanctuaries. One small but gated chapel appeared to have a collection of framed bones around the room.
Outside, from the elevated platform of Jansa Gora, the view over Czestochowa is quite depressing. In the distances, high rise gloomy blocks from the communist era stand out from the clean and modern shopping complexes surrounding them. But they are in much better condition than the majority of smaller, wooden houses and out buildings. Just outside the walled complex, streets and alleys that are quiet poor with communities living is basic conditions. A lot of the people set up trinket stalls in the hope of making a few coins from passing trade. Jansa Gora is clearly the jewel in this rough, developing city.
Our Bumble Verdict: Jansa Gora, much more than just a chapel and church. A wonderful collection of historic items and detailed information about Poland as well Jansa Gora. Well worth a visit.
Our sleepy spot: Czechochowa, campsite on a slope. Basic but ideal location.
Paid Camping GPS position, Czechochowa N050.811381, E019.090938