Though Częstochowa has medieval origins, the Polish city’s main attraction for travelers is the Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra, the nation’s holiest shrine. Within this hallowed sanctuary, the painting of the Black Madonna is said to have miraculous powers, even saving the monastery from a Swedish invasion in 1655. In truth, it was the valiant monks and townspeople who warded off the Swedes during the 40-day siege, changing the course of Polish history. But the divine power of the painting, known to have bled when lashed by the sword of a thief 200 years earlier, had been well established. The image’s history before its arrival in Poland is equally shrouded in mystery. Some believe that St. Luke himself painted it on a cedar table belonging to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Later, St. Helena discovered it and delivered it to her son, Constantine the Great, in his newly conquered city of Constantinople. It could have passed through many hands before, according to legend, Prince Ladislaus was traveling past Częstochowa in 1384. His horse suddenly stopped and refused to go on. The prince later was told in a dream that he must leave the painting here. During your visit, you may see many pilgrims approaching the shrine on their knees. Certainly, this is not required of all visitors. But etiquette does call for a reverential silence.