Short history of the peregrination

Czeslaw Ryszka

In April 1957, the Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, after having been released from prison, presided over the 45th Polish Bishops' Conference, which accepted the project of the peregrination of a faithful copy of the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady of Jasna Gora in all Polish parishes. The Primate convinced all the participants of the meeting by his simple words, ''Since the whole nation cannot visit her Queen at Jasna Gora the Mother of God will visit all her children, where they live, i.e. in their parishes.'

Faithful copy

A proper copy of the Miraculous Picture had to be made. Prof. Leonard Torwirt, restorer and painter from the University of Torun, undertook the task. When he was at Jasna Gora he reflected on the picture and said to the Pauline fathers, 'My background is Swedish, that is my name is Swedish. I am thinking I will have to compensate the Mother of God for the Swedish siege of Jasna Gora in 1655. He agreed to make a copy of the picture but after having seen the picture that was taken from the altar he had doubts about his skills and knowledge. But his wife, who was also a restorer, said, 'My dear, as you have come here you must do it and you will do it well.' He agreed and looking at the face of Our Lady he said with admiration, 'This is not a copy but a portrait that I must make. The face is so expressive that she seems to be alive.'
Prof. Torwirt worked on two copies days and nights. He painted during the night because the Pauline fathers brought the Miraculous Picture to him so that the copies were not only faithful but somehow filled with the power of our Lady of Jasna Gora. When Prof. Torwirt presented the two copies on 2 May 1957 he felt embarrassed but one could see joy in his eyes. 'I will not make anything bigger in my life', he evaluated his work himself. The Primate of Poland was very much satisfied with his work. He said that the copies were faithful to the Miraculous Image. One of the copies was offered to the Holy Father Pius XII by Cardinal Wyszynski and the second one was blessed by the Pope and began the peregrination. Pius XII blessed the copy of Our Lady of Jasna Gora on 14 May 1957. Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski had taken it to Rome. The communists had let him go there to receive the cardinal's red hat, which had been waited for him for several years.
The copy of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, which had been in a way 'anointed' by the Pope's blessing, was exposed in the Warsaw cathedral at first, and on 26 August 1957, on the first anniversary of the Jasna Gora National Vows, was taken to Jasna Gora. Before it was shown to one million pilgrims there was a symbolic nuptial ceremony. The Miraculous Picture was taken from the chapel and brought to the basilica where the two pictures were close to each other as if for the sign of 'holy kiss', trusting that the Picture of the Visitation would travel all over Poland empowered by the Miraculous Picture; that it would be the same Queen of Jasna Gora that was going to visit her people. Then the Miraculous Picture returned to the chapel, and the Picture of the Visitation was carried in a procession around the walls of Jasna Gora, which on that day represented all districts of Poland that awaited her Queen. The peregrination in all Polish parishes, which lasted over twenty years, began from the walls of Jasna Gora.

Stages and dramas

The period of the Visitation can be divided into several stages. The first one embraces the period of 26 August 1957 to the millennium year. During that time ten dioceses (Warsaw, Siedlce, Lomza, Bialystok, Warmia, Gdansk, Chelm, Gorzow, Wroclaw, Opole) were visited by the copy of the Picture. In 1966, the Polish Bishops' Conference decided to stop the visitation in parishes so that the Picture of the Visitation could be present in 25 bishops' cities on the Millennium Tour.
The second stage of the Visitation began on 21 April 1966. Then the picture was taken to Poznan, and on 3 May it reached Jasna Gora. The copy of the Travelling Lady was placed at the main altar at the foot of Jasna Gora so that countless crowds of pilgrims could worship it. During a solemn Mass presided over by Cardinal Wyszynski the Act of Dedication to Mary for the freedom of the Church in Poland and in the world was renewed. Unfortunately, the picture could be transported without any troubles to the millennium celebrations in Gniezno, Poznan and Jasna Gora. In order to reach Krakow (6 May) the driver had to take a different road during the night since the communists began 'hunting' for the Picture of the Visitation. Two days later, the wonderful procession with the Picture, from the Wawel Cathedral to the church called 'Skalka' and back to the cathedral, led by the host Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, with the presence of the whole Episcopate and huge crowds of joyful citizens of Krakow, was the answer to the troubles caused by the government. Then the Picture reached Piekary Slaskie, Gdansk, Lublin, Frombork...
However, the communists could not bear the spiritual sign of the presence of Mary in the Polish nation. After the celebrations in Lublin, on 6 June (other sources give 7 June), the Picture was transported to Jasna Gora. After the driver covered about 20 km the police, including a high rank officer and a prosecutor, halted the car. All flowers were thrown out of the car; the car was covered by a dirty tarpaulin, and piloted to Jasna Gora.
After a week some priests from the Diocese of Warmia drove to Jasna Gora to take the Picture of the Visitation to the millennium celebration in Frombork, which was to be held on 19 June. On the morning of 20 June, after the celebration had ended in Frombork, Cardinal Wyszynski took the picture to carry it to Warsaw. On the way from Warsaw, between Pasleka and Ostroda, in the place called Liksajny, the Primate's car was surrounded by a police motor escort that used force to take over the car-chapel with the Picture and transported it to the Warsaw cathedral. Consequently, the millennium celebrations in Nowy Dwor and Warszawa-Zoliborz, in Stanislaus Kostka's Church, did not take place.
The priests put the Picture behind the barred window of the sacristy. The faithful gathered before the Picture in the street, they put flowers, lit candles and prayed. The millennium celebration in Sandomierz was held without the Picture. The authorities seemed to be triumphant.

The Picture was arrested

The Visitation was to begin in the Diocese of Katowice on 4 September. When the priests were driving the picture from Warsaw on Friday, 2 September, they were brutally stopped in the forest near Bedzin by the police and commanded to go to Jasna Gora. In the monastery of Jasna Gora a police officer called the Prior and said, 'The order of the highest state authorities is that the picture is to remain at Jasna Gora. Otherwise, all seminarians will be conscripted and your Warsaw monastery will be closed!' Soon police cars controlled all cars leaving Jasna Gora. The pilgrims called the police who guarded the Picture 'Swedes of the 20th century.' The second stage of the Visitation ended in such dramatic circumstances. From that time the programme of the Visitation in dioceses and parishes was performed till 1972 and it was an empty frame, decorated with flowers and a symbolic candle and an evangeliary that were taken from one parish to another. On 13 June 1972, the Picture, with the Primate's knowledge, was 'stolen' by Fr Jozef Wojcik and Fr Roman Siudek and two nuns from Mariowka, and after adventures that would be worthy of filming, returned to the millennium tour. That was the fourth stage of the Visitation and it was normally continued in the dioceses of Sandomierz, Kielce, Drohiczyn, Lodz, Wloclawek, Plock, Poznan, Gniezno and Czestochowa.

Spiritual fruits

One could write books about the spiritual fruits of the Visitation. The peregrination turned into a great manifestation of faith. On the days of the Visitation whole parishes went to confession and took Holy Communion; broken marriages were healed, neighbours who had not talked to one another were reconciled, alcoholics desired to break up with their addiction. At the close of the first stage of the Visitation in the Diocese of Opole, the Primate Cardinal Wyszynski said on 3 April 1966, 'At the beginning we ourselves were full of fear whether this Visitation would reach the depth of the soul. Will it bear supernatural graces? But looking at the attitudes of the Warsaw clergy, the deans of the Archdiocese and the whole society we understood immediately that some special God's graces were active here. How many times did the deans who hosted the Picture of Our Lady of Jasna Gora openly admit when they passed the Picture to the next decanate, 'We have never supposed that this Visitation would arouse such commotion; that it would deepen the spirit of faith and prayer'? Today, when we count all these fruits we are amazed ourselves and as if we get to know the power and might of our Mother. And our heart cries out like Elizabeth, who was amazed by the honour, 'And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'
After the Picture had been arrested the communist party thought that the Visitation would finish. But the spiritual fruits of the Visitation with 'the empty frame' were not fewer than the one with the Picture. And perhaps they were even more fruits since they were covered by tears. On 4 April 1967, during the celebration that began the Visitation in the Diocese of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla said in Nowy Targ, 'We are facing the empty frame but this frame expresses pain - it is a part of our cross... Mary expresses universal love that unites. No one is excluded from this love, no one is rejected although he rejects. We all experience the visitation, all are invited to the visitation.'
On 12 October 1980, at the end of the Visitation, the Picture was carried in the procession from the Czestochowa cathedral to Jasna Gora. Then Bishop Stefan Barela said, 'In order to speak about the effects of the Visitation one should reveal the mysteries of millions of hearts; one should show a tour of the true Traveller, who worked in the sign of her Image, tour which is unique in the history of the Polish Church, and perhaps in the history of the universal Church. On the one hand, the picture was a sign of protest and on the other hand, it was a sign of God's blessing. It was a source of supernatural power and graces for the people of God in Poland.'
The Picture of the Visitation did not rest long since from 18 October 1980 till 30 March 1982 it travelled in all parishes in Warsaw, and before the 600th Jubilee of Mary's presence in the sign of the Jasna Gora Image (1983) the Visitation was held in the bishops' cathedrals all over Poland. But that was not the end of the peregrination. Since 4 May 1985 another peregrination has begun from Drohiczyn. Currently, the Picture is visiting the Diocese of Radom.

"Niedziela" 17/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: