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Saturday, February 28, 2009

National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa

There is a Shrine at Czestochowa, Poland honoring the Blessed Mother and a painting of her and the Christ child with a legendary history filled with mystery and intrigue, created sometime in the 5th or 6th centuries but that also involves St. Luke, who suposedly painted it himself, to St. Helen, who if we remember some of the stories we heard in Italy, went about rescuing great works of art with religious significance and bringing them back to Constantinople for safekeeping in the 4th century. The painting made quite a journey around eastern Europe and ended up in Poland where it was damaged by bandits attempting to steal it. The scars can still be seen on the Lady's face. After the famous siege of Czestochowa by invading Swedes, Our Lady of Czestochowa was declared Queen of Poland and has been venerated by Polish Catholics and Catholics the world over ever since.

In the 1950s the Pauline Fathers brought a reproduction of the painting to Bucks County, Pennsylvania where they established a monastery. It is now the home of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and stands on a hill overlooking Doylestown, PA. Skeptics about these legends, we nevertheless appreciate houses of worship as works of art and went to see the stained glass windows designed by Polish immigrant and artist Jerzy T. Bialecki and produced by the Willet Studio of Stained Glass Windows in Philadelphia. Two entire monumental walls of the church are filled with color and light, telling the stories of America on one side and Poland on the other. Breathtaking.

One of the window walls (note little me in the lower left-hand corner, for scale)

A statue stands outside the Shrine, with the faithfull leaving rosary beads on its prayerful hands. We wonder how often they have to remove those that collect here and how many they have now. Reminded us of the exvotos we found in Italy (milagros, in Spanish) left by grateful believers to acknowledge a miracle (or ask for one) and we wondered if this has the same significance.

The National Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, PA

Wall of Color - it is beautiful the way the light reflects on the interior walls of each individual, recessed window that make up these walls of stained glass

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