The little town Marija Bistrica (literally Mary Bistrica) lies on the slopes of Mount Medvednica, about 15 km North-West of Zagreb. 16th century, about 5 ft., wood.
photo of the Black Madonna unveiled by "Holy Card Lover"
the Black Madonna with Child,
Our Lady of Bistrica,
Queen of Croatia
How happy is a devotee’s heart when a Black Madonna has a whole town named after her and her own flag! Her village of about 1,000 and municipality of about 7,500 inhabitants is a famous place of pilgrimage, visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. Her willingness to grant miracles is attested to by countless plaques of thanksgiving that fill the walls of her basilica’s courtyard.
As the Queen of Croatia Our Lady of Bistrica has more than just a small town to herself, she has a whole, albeit small country. It was at the end of the 18th century that she became a symbol of national identity, like what the Black Madonna of Czestochowa is to the Poles or Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Dear Dark One, to the Mexicans. At that time she was given the title Most Faithful Advocate of Croatia, which later was superseded by 'Queen of Croatia'.(*1)
The legendary history of the Black Madonna of Bistrica:(*2)
1499: She is created by an anonymous artist and placed in nature in a little chapel on Vinski Hill.
1545: Turkish invasions threaten her survival and the local priest brings her into town and hides her in the church wall under a stained glass window. Soon after, he dies, taking the secret of her hiding place to his grave.
1588: Intending to come out of hiding, the Madonna lets a bright light shine from her place in the wall, and her children uncover her.
1650: Once again the Black Madonna has to hide from her enemies. This time the villagers bury her in the ground.
1684/5: As before, she is rediscovered.(*3)
1710: the Croatian parliament vows to fund a new altar in the church, which is done in 1715.
1750: Pope Benedict XIV grants plenary indulgence (remission of sins) to pilgrims who go to confession and receive the Eucharist in Marija Bistrica.
1879 to 1882: a new church is built to replace the old one, with arcades around it decorated with 22 paintings of the miracles granted by Marija Bistrica. During the construction a fire destroys all of the church except the statue and the main altar.
1923: Pope Pius XI grants the rebuilt church the status of a minor basilica.
1935: Antun Bauer, the archbishop of Zagreb, officially crowns the statue Queen of Croatia.
1938-1960: Blessed Aloysius Stepinac, a great lover of this Black Madonna, is archbishop of Zagreb and leads annual pilgrimages to her as long as he can. The last one takes place on July 8, 1945 and draws 40-50,000 faithful. Then the Soviets forbid such events.
October 3, 1998: 500,000 Croatians are in attendance as Pope John Paul II visits Marija Bistrica to beatify Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, who had defended the Jews during the Nazi occupation and publicly criticized Communist crimes under Soviet occupation.(*4)
Very significant is the moon bearing a woman's face under this Madonna's feet. For a full explanation read the section on "Psychological Explanations" in the introduction.
*1: Vjekoslav Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States
*2: Much of this information comes from the Wikipedia article on "Marija Bistrica".
*3: There is a slight discrepancy between Wikipedia and "holycardlover's" blogspot on Our Lady of Bistrica . Both seem believable and I've tried to reconcile them as best I could.
*4: “Aloysius Stepinac“ article on Wikipedia.