New robes of Our Lady of Czestochowa

Zofia Rozanow

During the ceremony, to be held on 4 September 2010, new robes will be put on the Icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora. The ceremony will be held on the 100th anniversary of the coronation of Our Lady of Jasna Gora by Pope Pius X in 1910.

New crowns

The author of the new crowns and robes for the Jasna Gora Icon is Mariusz Drapikowski, a jeweller and amber jewellery maker from Gdansk. In his studio the famous amber robe, the votive offering for the 25th anniversary of the Trade Union ‘Solidarity’, was made in 2005.
The present votive crowns and robes are the Votive Offering of the Nation, made from the gifts offered by numerous pilgrims, families and communities in Poland and abroad. The crowns and robes were designed as one composition, which means an ideological unity, integrated in the prayer of the Jasna Gora Appeal, recited for decades, ‘Mary, Queen of Poland, I am with You. I remember. I am vigilant.’ The content, expressed in an artistic form, became in a way a prayer like it is with the rosary beads, which we use while praying and which ‘participate’ in our prayers. The present finery of the Picture has a monumental form and majesty. A festive robe requires that. In fact, these are the new coronation robe of Mary, Queen of Poland, and the insignia of her reign. The artist adjusted his composition and the colours of the robe to the Gothic version of the Icon of Our Lady from the years 1430-34, stressing the planeness, which characterises the painting itself. Being contrasted with the huge number of artistic elements it gave the whole composition a unique accent of archaism.
The crows of the Madonna and Child, being an integral part of the robes, were made from gold, silver, alloy of silver and palladium as well as amber and numerous precious stones, mainly diamonds, rubies and pearls and such unique materials as planetary meteorites. The quality, shape and origin of the materials used have inspiring meanings, deepened by the spirituality of the origin, for the artist. He realised his artistic visions according to that. The crowns made by Mariusz Drapikowski are perhaps the most innovative part of the whole composition. The bases of both crowns have inseparable, narrow bows with smooth planes above, filled with unpolished bright gold amber, the colour and shape of which are connected with the line of the nimbuses around both figures. The upper part of the crowns, with concavely cut crest, having long razor-sharp arches, were placed in two rows, a lower gold one at the front and a higher silver one at the back. In the crown of Our Lady, which is lower at the front, the arches are surmounted by the heraldic lilies, testifying to the royal background of Mary from the tribe of David. In the back silver upper part the arches are natural pearls, arranged in blue little rosettes – symbol of the Heavenly Kingdom. In the crown of the Infant Jesus the gold pinnacles (from the front) are surmounted by rubies, the silver ones (from the back) – diamonds. However, the most important element of this crown is the amber bow stretched between the pinnacles, which according to the artist is a sign of covenant – the rainbow that God showed Noah. The element is surmounted by a cross of precious stones placed on a ball, which is doubled on the pinnacles. All of them are decorated with rubies and diamonds. The artist intended them to mean the three primary virtues. In its fundamental shape the crown is closed, with a cross on the apple – the highest symbol of emperor’s power over the world and in the theological sense – the symbol of God, the Ruler of the Universe who created heaven and earth. The central part of the Child’s crown, on the horizontal axis, has a composition of diamonds, representing the tools of the Lord’s Passion. It is crowned with a small statue of young Jesus. The little statue is Baroque, from the 17th century, made of enamel, set with diamonds, from the treasury of Jasna Gora, probably the remain of the crown of Wladyslaw IV. The foundation of the composition contains some gold framed stone from the Golgotha, the place of Christ’s crucifixion. There are five rubies in different frames, symbolising five wounds of Christ, over the crest of the crown, in the intended freedom of the composition. The artist concentrated his all artistic expressions over the crown of the Mother of God. In the golden amber background its ethereal open-work contour becomes simultaneously monumental.
Twelve six-humeral stars, made from the alloy of silver and palladium, have been composed into the crown and the nimbuses spread to the sides. They shine with hundreds of diamonds that – according to the artist – together with the frames come from the votive offerings as materialised prayers of pilgrims coming to Jasna Gora. The three stars: the middle one in the upper part of the crown and two stars below on the sides contain the planetary meteorites. The central star contains a meteorite from the Moon; the meteorite is placed next to the biggest diamond, and the remaining stars contain meteorites from Mercury on the left and from Mars on the right. In the crown there are three amber lilies between the stars; lilies are the traditional symbol of Mary, expressing innocence and virginity as well as it has been a symbol of royal power since ancient times.
The twelve stars, like nimbuses at the sides, having the shape of a wreath, testify that as the artist took his idea from St John’s vision, described in the Revelation (12:1), ‘a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.’ At the lower part of the crown, over Mary’s forehead, there is a dove of diamonds, symbolising the Holy Spirit, on the sides there are fragments of the rock from the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth, reminding us of the special relationship between Mary and the Holy Trinity.
The new crown, which will adorn the forehead of the Mother of God, has no features of the closed emperor’s crown. It is a royal circlet.
While realising his work the artist answered the requests of the believers offering the gifts and completed the crown with one delicate detail. It is a narrow, white-red (national colours) ribbon freely woven between the pinnacles of the upper part. Since repeating the words of Jan Dlugosz we know that it is the crown of ‘the Queen of the world and our Mary’ – the Queen of Poland.

New robe

The history knows four famous robes prepared for the Picture of Our Lady of Jasna Gora. The robes are named after their prevailing ornaments: diamond, ruby, pearl and chain. In the 19th century the robes were re-made several times. Their backgrounds were resown and completed with additional precious stones. Only two robes: the diamond one and the ruby one, have survived. The pearl robe was stolen in 1909, together with the crowns of Clement XI offered in 1717. The chain robe has never been reconstructed.
In the 19th century several new robes were made and they repeated the pattern of the Baroque robes. The most unusual robe was made for the 1000th anniversary of Christianity in Poland, repeating the whole composition and ornaments of the Gothic robes from the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady. The last two robes designed by Mariusz Drapikowski: the amber one made in 2005 and the new one, the Votive Offering of the Nation, constitute daring and innovative realisations, inscribed in the pursuit for new forms of artistic expression in the Polish sacral art.
According to the intention of the artist Mariusz Drapikowski the new robe, which will adorn Picture of Our Lady, repeats precisely the composition of the original, the shape and colour of the Gothic painting. The robes of Our Lady and the Child, mounted on a new structure made of titanic plate, were made of silver and gold. They are decorated with various precious stones, including diamonds and rubies, amethysts, opals, lunar stones, amber, coral beads and pearls. The unique decorative elements are fragments of meteorites, the extraterrestrial matter from the cosmos. Framed in gold they are expressively exposed. All these stones, forming a compact substance, cover the whole surface of the robes.
Almost all precious stones that adorn the new robes of Mary and the Child come directly from the votive offerings of pilgrims but not all of them could be used in the composition. That’s why the artist found an extraordinary solution – some votive offerings were set in the space between the gold or silver plates, which model the robes, and the titanic rack, as a symbolic expression of pilgrims’ participation in this collective foundation. The silver and gold plates of the background made it possible to use the Code of the Gospel put in the left hand of the Child. The Code forms a kind of a casket in which the prayers for the whole nation dedicated to the care of the Mother of God, written by the Pauline Fathers, were placed. Undersigned and dated, sealed following the example of old documents placed inside the balls of church spires, the prayers will be testimonies about these collective offerings for future generations.
The robe and mantle of the Mother of God, referring to the colours of the robes of the Miraculous Picture, are dark blue. The artist intended to use various opalescent lunar stones, including sparkling labradorites, supported by diamonds, phosphorescing lunar stones, clear opals with a slight silkiness and bright milky pearls, exposed on the background of amethysts. The stones in the decorative jewellery frames, next to the cut unframed stones, form extraordinary richness of colours and brilliance, intended by the artist to show the depth and brightness of the night sky, the space of which the artist studied through the telescope in the Vatican Astronomical Observatory. In fact, he managed to create cosmic space of the mantle of the Queen of Heaven and Earth with additional accent of the meteorites.
The rim of Mary’s mantle is adorned with an open-work triple silvery edging, following the original Picture, trefoil crowning – the symbol of the Holy Trinity, on the amber background. Beneath, there are the words of the songs: on the right side of the mantle, ‘Z dawna Polski Tys Krolowa, Maryjo’ [Queen of Poland as of old, Mary] and on the left side – the prayer ‘Pod Twoja obrone’ [Under Your protection].
The motive of the three ornamental belts on the right arm of Mary’s mantle, made of solid gold, showing an electrocardiogram of a beating heart, is completely unique. According to the artist’s intention it is a symbol of the beating heart of our nation, filled with our love for Mary, Queen of Poland. In the sequences of the diagram, in rhythmical space gaps, there are the votive mottoes: of Poland’s Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, ‘Soli Deo per Mariam’ and of John Paul II, the Polish Pope, ‘Totus Tuus.’
The tunic of the Infant Jesus, made of coral beads having many colour shades: from deep carmine to vermillion, extraordinarily plastic, trimmed with gold fine laces, is a great symbol of the Redemption. According to the artist’s vision it is a reminder of the washing of humankind from sins in the blood of the sacrificial Lamb – Christ. In the Christian iconography red is not only the colour of royal majesty but first of all the colour of fervent love and infinite mercy. That’s why the artist entrusted two special votive offerings at the little feet of the Infant, in the folds of the tunic, namely a ring thrown from the train by some prisoner transported to Auschwitz and the remnants of the plane that crashed at Smolensk; the remnants from the Polish Air Force checkerboard. These two votive offerings, hidden in the folds of the Child’s robe, speak about our inclusion into his mercy and glory.
The work of Mariusz Drapikowski has a significant place in the contemporary Christian art, which has been seeking new forms of expressions to describe the fathomless truths of faith for almost a hundred years. Drawing from the Medieval message of the symbolism of the Jasna Gora Picture he spoke with a new voice of plastic forms, showing new horizons of our understanding of the sacrum.

"Niedziela" 36/2010

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