We began the day at our hotel in Gniezno with a nice breakfast. And soon enough, it was time to get on the road. Our first objective was Jasna Góra, which turned out to be a good 4+ hour drive. We had good roads along the way, and bad roads. We had some smooth sailing, a some 30+ minutes of construction delays and backlogged traffic. But eventually we made it!
Jasna Góra is the home to one of the most famous symbols and icons of Poland, the icon of the Black Madonna, Czarna Madonna. As luck would have it, we got to the church where it is kept covered (with silver and jewels) about 10 minutes before it was uncovered, so we were near the front of the line. After a bit of a wait, it was slowly uncovered with great fanfare. After that, we were near the first to get inside and get a good look. It really is something to behold, and it had a rich history—it is even credited with saving the monastery from the siege by the Swedes during the
Great Deluge (c. 1655). Before heading to the battle of Vienna (1683)—which saved Europe and Western Christendom from the Ottomans, King Jan III Sobieski prayed there. And many Polish kings also venerated it. It’s a very holy object and has played an important part in Polish culture and history, along with the veneration of Mary as the mother of God. It’s part of the Polish soul and consciousness.
Afterward, we toured other parts of the monastery, including the very opulent Basilica/Cathedral there. Quite impressive. We saw many ancient and historic artifacts as well, some dating back to the 14th century founding of the monastery. It was very impressive. Most impressive were the faithful people, praying, kneeling, some even “walking “ in front of the icon on their knees, a sign of great devotion. But eventually, it was time to head to our next destination.
Our trek to Zamek Ogrodzieniec was literally cross-country, on lots of back roads. But Google maps came through for us. My, what an impressive castle, even though it is but a ruin now. It is huge, the largest castle on what was a series of about 25 castles that stretch from Kraków to Częstochowa and date back to the 14th century. They are all along a chain of high limestone cliffs. You can actually walk the 163 km (101 mile) trail connecting them all. Zamek Ogrodzienic was the largest and most opulent, at one time, and was often called the “little Wawel,” which makes sense as it was built by the designer of the famous Wawel castle in Kraków. We got to walk a good bit of the ruins, the view from the top was awesome. But eventually, we had to go.
We arrived a good hour later—after another mostly cross-country drive, at our hotel in Katowice, hungry, thirsty, and tired. It was a good day. Pictures, though, will have to wait until we return home….