Pilzno/Pilsen

Pilzno, O.L. Consolation.jpg

Our Lady of Consolation
(Matki Bożej Pocieszenia)

In the Carmelite convent church at ul. Karmelicka 3, 17th century,

According to various traditions, this painting was brought to Pilsen in the ninth century either by wandering musicians or by Sierosław, a disciple of St. Methodius (815–885). Others believe that the story began in the 11th century when this Black Madonna was hung in the castle tower, which was later converted into a chapel. From there the Marian cult spread to the village, which belonged to this settlement. In 1403 the Augustian order took responsibility of the shrine and since 1840 the Carmelites.

Devotion to this icon became particularly intense after a miraculous defense of the city against Tatars in the 18th century. One legend says that at that time some of the inhabitants of Pilsen themselves set a great fire and threw themselves into it so as not to fall into the hands of the enemies. Among the ashes glittered the sacred image, intact and covered with a glorious light . With that, new confidence spread, the enemy was defeated, and the credit given to the Black Madonnan. Her picture was transferred in a solemn procession from the chapel in the castle tower to the parish church.

Several Polish monarchs paid tribute to the Madonna of Pilsen, including Władysław Łokietek, Kazimierz Wielki, Queen Jadwiga, Wladyslaw Jagiello, and Prince Witold. It was Wladyslaw Jagiełło who founded the church and the Augustinian monastery in 1403, and in 1840 the bishop of Tarnów handed it to Carmelites, who are still in charge of the sanctuary. The image of Our Lady of Consolation was placed on pennants and banners, which accompanied Pilsen knights into battle.

At the end of the Middle Ages, during an invasion, Pilsen was burnt twice. The second time the original icon did not survive, but one of the Augustinian brothers had a vision in which Mary asked the happy monk to persuade his confreres to paint the image of her again. Her wish was granted around 1500.

Tragedy struck again on March 18, 1657, during the "Swedish Deluge", a series of wars that lasted from 1655-1660. Hungarian troops led by Rakoczi and assisted by Cossacks attacked. The enemies plundered and set fire to the city. The image was damaged in the lower parts and was placed on the surviving fragment of the wall of the monastery. Once peace returned to Poland, the Black Madonna was restored by the local artist Brzezinski and her cult continued to flourish. 

During the Galician uprising in 1846, the Austrian commander ordered the image burnt. One day, his soldiers brought straw into the church. The next morning the fire was set in the choir. The church was surrounded by a cordon to prevent anyone from extinguishing it. Then the two most beautiful local maidens begged an officer to allow them to collect their treasure hidden in the church. At the last moment they took the picture and hid it in the sacristy. Thanks to the determination of women, the image of the Virgin Mary survived.

Our Lady of Consolation was the backbone during all the hard years of national uprisings and world wars. She gave the power to survive and save dignity, to cheer in tragedy and sorrow. During the Nazi occupation during the bombardment of the town, when most of the houses, the church, and the chapel with the image were destroyed, the Madonna survived in the rubble. After the liberation of Pilsen on February 11, 1945, a solemn worship service was held in front of the painting.

The worship of Our Lady of Consolation continues uninterrupted until the present. This image is coming to many believers who find relief in their sufferings, comfort in misery, and healing in sickness. Many come back here one month later, one year later ... Immense gratitude for graces received from the Lady of Pilsen is expressed in numerous votive offerings submitted by the faithful, written requests and thanks, and a lot of masses that are offered in thanksgiving or supplication to her.

The chronicles of the convent and other books record testimonies of the graces and healings attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Consolation. Here is one example.
Mrs Stanislaus testifies: "in January 1972 my husband had an accident, during which stones fell from the bridge to the water. He suffered a severe head injury, fractured the base of his skull and damaged both hemispheres of the brain. (...) His condition was described as hopeless.
Then I requested a Mass for him before the image of Our Lady of Consolation, because only here I saw help. I prayed before the picture before the surgeryand made a vow to Our Lady of Consolation. For several days his health did not improve, my husband did not regain consciousness. As complications appeared, I also brought in specialists from Cracow. The state of his health was really hopeless. One of the doctors said, "We did what we could, and now as God wills ...". So I asked for another mass before the picture. His condition was critical, the doctor told me that these were the last moments of life. My husband had strong seizures and there was no rescue from the doctors, but he was rescued by the Mother of God. After a few minutes the seizures ceased and my husband began to come to. On the second day he regained full consciousness. The doctors did not believe that he would completely recover, but thanks to the care of Our Blessed Mother my husband happily returned home. During my entire stay at the hospital I prayed to Our Lady of Consolation, also in the church and at home in front of the painting, and at the hospital with my husband. (...)."

The worship of Our Lady of Consolation is very lively. Her feast day is celebrated on the first Sunday after the feast of St. Augustine (August 28th). Crowds of worshipers also gather for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, celebrated on the first Sunday after 16 July and for St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 19th. For each of these celebrations the faithful prepare for three evenings. Special masses dedicated to the Black Madonna are also offered every Monday at 7:30 a.m. and every first Saturday of the month.

This is an edited Google translation of the sanctuary's website. The Poles don't actually call this a Black Madonna, but boy is she black and miraculous!

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