The devotion and faith to the Black Madonna is awesome
One example is the people that with all respect goes around the Virgin´s altar , walking on their knees
La devoción y la fe ante la Virgen Negra es impresionante
Una muestra es la gente que con todo respeto da una vuelta alrededor del altar en que está la Virgen , caminando de rodillas
I went on the August pilgrimage when I was still a student in 1987. Frankly, I didn't plan it at all...
I was on a private visit to Cracow when a Franciscan father, whom I had just met, asked me to go on the pilgrimage to serve as a translator for a group of Americans that were gonna join his group. I had two days to return to Warsaw, do my laundry, repack my backpack, and get on the train back to Cracow. And I never regretted it!
OK, I know, I know... the walk from Cracow is a piece of cake, just 7 days ;-)
But you meet wonderful people on the pilgrimage, and the locals along the way go out to the road to serve you food and drink, they wave and say hello, they ask you to take their prayer intentions to Jasna Gora, and they put you up for the night ... all for nothing, no cost at all!
I have one photo somewhere... I'll download it when/if I find it... This one is the Sunflowers painting by Jacek Malczewski - a view that you can often see along the pilgrim's route.
Every August, thousands of Catholics from all over Poland make a pilgrimage to Czestochowa in which they walk for days and sleep in fields and barns until they reach the Jasna Gora Monastery. The culmination of the pilgrimage is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15th, when the pilgrims attend a huge outdoor mass in the field outside the monastery.
Every year around Christmas there is a nativity scene displayed on Jasna Gora. Some animals, like llamas or donkeys, are taken for this time from the ZOO to help create the atmosphere and make the place more attractive for children. But, of course, the most important place is the crib with little Jesus. Everybody wants to stop there for a while but the crowds, especially on Christmas and Boxing Day are so big, that you can just catch a glimpse and must go on.
The true-style pilgrimage is done walking... Pilgrims from all parts of Poland start on different dates so as to arrive to Czestochowa the day before the Feast of Assumption (August 15). There are over 50 walking routes throughout the country. Imagine those who walk from Szczecin in the far north-east... They have like over 600 km (375 m) to cover in probably up to 3 weeks! And every year there are more and more foreign groups joining the local pilgrimages, and they carry their national flags proudly along.
Pilgrim groups keep arriving all day long, and there are even up to 350 thousands of them. Check the photo: this is a view of the beautiful, tree-lined Virgin Mary Avenue as the pilgrims approach the Jasna Gora sanctuary. I was one of them when I was a student. That final distance is when your feet really hurt! But you actually don't mind that... you're rather filled with the memories of all the beautiful things that happend to you along the way... and you're grateful for all the wonderful people that you would inevitably have to part with the next day...
Of course, many people just drive to Czestochowa or come by train or in organised bus trips throughout the year. Any transport is good as long as you choose to visit Jasna Gora at least once in your lifetime :-)
Photo from Jasna Gora website
(sorry, I can't fly! ;-)
For the Sixth World Youth Day in 1991, pope John Paul II invited all the young people to come to the Jasna Gora sanctuary.
The event took actually 4 days (August 12-15) and the local record was beaten: 1,700,000 young people from all over the world came to Czestochowa!
I didn't go but... shhh, got the T-shirt ;-)
The picture shows the crowds in the open space where the Holy Mass for pilgrims is celebrated.
Photo from Jasna Gora website
But we did manage a few photos in the chapel next to the one with the painting. Once again I was blown away by the gold. It has such a warm lustre. Wish someone would explain the differences in the golds to me. I had to take the pic without a flash...sorry it couldn't be better.
Since the end of Communism, Poland has been able to open itself up to the world, and in recent years more and more pilgrims have taken part in walking pilgrimages, especially of young people from abroad who come to Poland especially for them. August 1991 was extraordinary: the 4th World Youth Day was held in Jasna Gora, with the participation of Pope John Paul II; it was attended by 1.5 million young people. Pilgrims from abroad most often participate in the Warsaw, Krakow and Mountain pilgrimages. The largest groups are from Italy, France, Germany and the USA. Recently there have been more and more groups from the East - the Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Armenia. The peak of the pilgrimages from abroad is in July and August.
The ever-expanding pilgrimage movement and its long tradition reaching back six centuries have made walking pilgrimages to Jasna Gora a unique phenomenon on a world scale. The spontaneity of that movement testifies to the uniqueness of Jasna Gora - a place of truth, of the protection of the specialness and patriotic values of the Nation.
Pilgrimages bring together representatives of many social groups, professions, movements and communities from all parishes in Poland. A pilgrimage to Jasna Gora is a prayer, a gesture of homage; the votive offerings laid before the Black Madonna are days and nights of adoration and vigil, a journey accompanied by song and music, the hospitality of the homes on the way, opening their doors wide to offer a night's stay and food to tired pilgrims, free of any charge.