Written by Martin S Nowak Saturday, 01 November 2014 11:20
Kraków's Czartoryski Museum houses Lady With an Ermine, one of the world's greatest non-religious masterpieces. In the city of Częstochowa, is a great religious treasure. The tale of the painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa, or Matka Boska Częstochowy. is intertwined with the glory and history of Poland. Legend holds that this portrait of the Virgin and the Baby Jesus was created by St. Luke the Apostle, and that Mary may have actually posed for him. It was found in Jerusalem by St. Helen, given to the Roman emperor in Constantinople, and credited with saving the city from an invasion of Saracens. Later given as a gift to Charlemagne, it was presented to Prince Leo of Ruthenia, once part of Poland but now in Ukraine.
The painting's history now becomes clearer. It came to be owned by Prince Władysław of Opole, Poland, who kept it in Belz, near Halicz. During an attack in 1382, a Tartar arrow hit the image of the Virgin in the throat, a mark which can still be seen today. He prince fled with the portrait to Częstochowa where he turned it over to the Pauline brothers at their monastery on Jasna Góra. The monks built a special chapel for the painting, which from then on came to be called Our Lady of Częstochowa.
Compare the same Madonna picture without and with the robe below:
In 1430, Hussite vandals stole the portrait, but their wagon with the picture loaded onto it would not move. One of the frustrated bandits struck the face of the Madonna twice across the cheek with his sword. Before he could come down with a third blow, legend says he was struck dead on the spot, and the other looters fled. Despite attempts at repair, the slashes on the Virgin's cheek remain to this day.