The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa has been intimately associated with Poland for the past six hundred years. Its history prior to its arrival in Poland is shrouded in numerous traditions which trace the icon's origin to St. Luke who painted it on a cedar table top from the house of the Holy Family.
One of the oldest documents from Jasna Góra states that the picture travelled from Jerusalem, via Constantinople and Belz, to finally reach Częstochowa in August 1382 by Władysław Opolczyk, Duke of Opole. The Black Madonna is credited with miraculously saving the monastery of Jasna Góra from a 17th-century Swedish invasion, The Deluge.
The Siege of Jasna Góra took place in the winter of 1655 during the Second Northern War / The Deluge — as the Swedish invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is known. The Swedes were attempting to capture the Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa. Their month-long siege however, was ineffective, as a small force consisting of monks from the Jasna Gora monastery led by their Prior and supported by local volunteers, mostly from the szlachta (Polish nobility), fought off the numerically superior invaders, saved their sacred icon and, according to some accounts, turned the course of the war.
This event led King John II Casimir Vasa to "crown" Our Lady of Częstochowa ("the Black Madonna") as Queen and Protector of Poland in the cathedral of Lwów on April 1, 1656. Another story concerning the Black Madonna of Częstochowa is that the presence of the holy painting saved its church from being destroyed in a fire, but not before the flames darkened the fleshtone pigments.
The story concerning the two scars on the Black Madonna's right cheek is that the Hussites stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the icon. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites tried to get away but their horses refused to move. They threw the portrait down to the ground and one of the plunderers drew his sword upon the image and inflicted two deep strikes. When the robber tried to inflict a third strike, he fell to the ground and squirmed in agony until his death. Despite past attempts to repair these scars, they had difficulty in covering up those slashes (as they found out that the painting was painted with tempera infused with diluted wax). In commemoration of the attack, two slashes on her right cheek were made by a pen.
Another story states that, as the robber struck the painting twice, the face of the Virgin Mary started to bleed; in a panic, the scared Hussites retreated and left the painting. Because of the Black Madonna, Częstochowa is regarded as the most popular shrine in Poland, with many Polish Catholics making a pilgrimage there every year. Often, people will line up on the side of the road to hand provisions to the pilgrims as those who walk the distance to Częstochowa walk the entire day and have little means to get things for themselves.
As evidenced from the icon on the right, it appears Orthodox Christians were not unaware of the Black Madonna. They too venerate her. In Vodou, it is believed that a common depiction of Erzulie has its roots in copies of the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, brought to Haiti by Polish soldiers fighting on both sides of the Haitian Revolution from 1802 onwards. In her Petro nation aspect as Erzulie Dantor she is often depicted as a scarred and buxom woman, holding a child protectively in one hand and a knife in the other. She is a warrior and particularly a fierce protector of women and children. In Santeria, this image is referred to as Santa Barbara Africana.
Ukrainians also have a special devotion for the Madonna of Częstochowa.