I’ve been to Poland so often, it feels like my second home. But up to now, I had never been to the place often described as the religious capital of the state: Częstochowa. So, that had to change.
From Kraków to Częstochowa, I took the train (my preferred mode of transport). The InterCity trains take about two hours and lead through some beautiful landscape. In Częstochowa, most InterCity trains don’t stop at the Main Station but at Stradom Station, about three kilometer walk from the Jasna Góra monastery. Yes, you could take a bus to get there, but that would be cheaing. 😉
The Jasna Góra monastery dates back to the 14th century and its most revered heirloom is the Matka Boska Częstochowska, a depiction of a black Madonna. I went to the monastry in the morning, when it was still relatively empty and could even attend a church service in the chapel. If you come later, you may have to queue for a bit (like you can see on the photo below).
The monastery is a huge complex and built like a castle with massive fortifications, an arsenal and quarters for monks and knights (you will see a lot of the former and none of the latter walking around the area nowadays). Entrance is free, by the way.
Częstochowa lies in Silesia, a region formerly defined largely by mining and industry. Iron ore mining took place in a corridor of more than 100km, cutting right under the Częstochowa. During the communist dictatorship, the government developed the city’s industries and built prefabricated homes for workers. This leads to a stark contrast between the baroque splendor of the monastery and the avenues leading towards it and the 20th-century quarters surrounding it.
I don’t usually like places of pilgrimage because they tend to be loud and commercialised, but I was surprised by Częstochowa. Even though it receives millions of visitors every year, it has not been commercialised like for example, Lourdes. Częstochowa is actually surprisingly quiet and contemplative.