The miracles worked by Our Lady of Częstochowa seem to occur mainly on a public scale. During her stay in Constantinople, she is reported to have frightened the besieging Saracens away from the city. Similarly, in 1655 a small group of Polish defenders was able to drive off a much larger army of Swedish invaders from the sanctuary. The following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland by King Casimir. It is also recorded that Our Lady dispersed an army of Russian invaders by an apparition at the River Vistula on September 15, 1920. In more recent times, the Częstochowa Madonna has also been acknowledged for her protection of and cooperation with the Polish nation. Beyond these public prodigies:
The miracles attributed to Our Lady of Częstochowa are numerous and spectacular. The original accounts of these cures and miracles are preserved in the archives of the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Góra.
The image is not so well-known only on account of its history of miracles. Its international reputation has been considerably enhanced because of the personal devotion of the current Roman Pontiff:
In modern times, Pope John Paul II, a native son of Poland, prayed before the Madonna during his historic visit in 1979, several months after his election to the Chair of Peter. The Pope made another visit to Our Lady of Częstochowa in 1983 and again in 1991.
Why is She Black?
A final question remains: why is Our Lady of Częstochowa black? Cruz mentions a possible link to the Canticle of Canticles: “I am black but beautiful”; but concludes that “The darkness is ascribed to various conditions [e.g. accumulated residue from candles], of which its age is primary.” Broschart, by contrast, opines:
the shrine was destroyed by fire, but the picture was not burned – however, the flames and smoke had darkened it and from that day it has been known as the “Black Madonna.”
Recall that Moss saw the image as Byzantine in form, dating from the Medieval period. He added: “the skin pigmentation is characteristic of this stylized portraiture.”
Interestingly, Ernst Scheyer, an art historian who studied the image, believed that “the present image was restored in the nineteenth century and painted somewhat darker than previously.”
Adding to all this confusion, a notable Swiss copy, completed by Kosmoski in 1956 and kept in the Hospice of the Great St. Bernard Pass, is much darker than the version in Jasna Góra, while a copy at a shrine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania is depicted in lighter flesh tones. All of which makes the question of authorial intent extremely complicated. Perhaps all that may be said of Our Lady of Częstochowa is that she may be called black, but she is certainly beautiful. Her miraculous reputation, though, is beyond dispute.
For further information on Our Lady of Częstochowa, refer to In Quest of the Black Virgin … by Leonard W. Moss pp. 53-74 in Mother Worship: Themes and Variations (1982) by James Preston (ed.); Miraculous Images of Our Lady (1993) by Joan Carroll Cruz; Call Her Blessed (1961) by Charles B. Broschart; and The Shrine of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (1989) by Janusz Pasierb.