The Black Madonna

Our Lady of Częstochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, is considered the Queen and Protectress of Poland. She is housed at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland. There are many legends that trace the origins of this image back to St. Luke, who painted it in the home of the Holy Family. It is later believed to have been found in Jerusalem by St. Helena, who then presented it to her son, Constantine the Great.

The scars of the Black Madonna

According to legend, the two scars on her check were from 1403, when the Hussites stormed the Pauline monastery and stole several artifacts, including the Madonna. One of the robbers threw the image on the ground, slashing it twice with his sword, but died trying to inflict another. Despite previous attempts to repair the image, the two scars always reappeared.

Remembering the Holocaust

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is one of the largest Nazi concentration and death camps. It is also the site where both Sts. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein died.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's cell

In 1979, Pope John Paul II left a candle in the starvation cell in Block 11 of Auschwitz where Maximilian Kolbe was sentenced after trading his life for that of a fellow prisoner.

Wawel Cathedral in Krakow

Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill in Krakow is traditionally the coronation site of Polish monarchs. Poland’s Patron, St. Stanislaus, is buried here and the basilica contains many relics of John Paul II, including a vial of his blood. John Paul II also celebrated his first Mass in the cathedral’s crypt after his ordination to the priesthood.

Interior of Wawel Cathedral

The Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow

The Shrine of Divine Mercy is built on land that originally housed the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, St. Faustina’s order. At the heart of the shrine is a chapel that contains the original image of the merciful Jesus and the tomb of St. Faustina.

The Chapel of Divine Mercy

St. John Paul II's hometown

About 30 miles from Krakow is John Paul II’s hometown, Wadowice. Here you can see many important places from the pontiff’s life including the baptistery where he was baptized and his childhood home. You can also try the town’s specialty dessert, known as “Pope Cakes.”