Czestochowa plays a crucial role for the Roman Catholic Poles, being a kind of spiritual capital to them. The cult status of the Jasna Gora monastery, one of the most important pilgrimage destinations of the Christian world, has grown along with the distinguished history of the site. It has become a symbolic mainstay of Polish identity and the Roman Catholic religion, as the Swedes, Russians and Germans besieged the hill of Jasna Gora, who were all of different faiths.
The Czestochowa sanctuary is also an outstanding monument of 15th century architecture, with later Renaissance and Baroque alternations. The number of pilgrims and tourists arriving to the city amounts to 5 million a year. Most of them limit themselves to visiting the church and the monastery, since the rest of the town, apart from the historical center, is less interesting.
The Communist authorities made a big effort to turn Czestochowa into an industrial center to outweigh the religious importance of the city, and they succeeded to a large extent. Apart from the most representative street (Avenue of St Virgin Mary) that starts at the foot of the Jasna Gora, Czestochowa seems rather unattractive and provincial. However, it is worth your time to drop into the Museum of Matches. Located in an old factory, this unique attraction is incomparable with any other with Europe.
History of Czestochowa
The name of the city was first mentioned in 1120, but it had already been founded in the 11th century. The origin of the term ‘Czestochowa’ is connected with the name Czestoch (or Czestobor, Czestomir), who may have been its founder. In the 14th century, it gained the status of a city, since 1502 under the Magdeburg Law.
Intense development began with the arrival of the Pauline Order from Hungary in the late 14th century, which established the monastery on the top of Jasna Gora Hill. Two years later, the monks received the icon of the Black Madonna, which soon began to draw in many pilgrims. The first brick-and-stone sanctuary emerged in the 15th century, converted into a fortress by the construction of the defensive walls in the 17th century.
Role of the Monastery
The Pauline monastery played an important role during the Swedish invasion in 1655. It was referred to as the “Deluge”, when for several months around 4,000 Swedes besieged Jasna Gora with its 250 defenders. They eventually failed to conquer the hill. The determination of the winners spread to the rest of the country, which earlier had appeared to barely resist the invaders. In the 18th century, Jasna Gora was again a place of battle, serving as a fortress for anti-Russian Bar Confederation insurgents. They were led by Kazimierz Pulaski, a later hero of the American War for Independence, where he was mortally wounded during the battle of Savannah.
After the German occupation
After the Second Partition of Poland, Czestochowa became part of Prussia. During the Napoleonic Wars, it was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw established by the Emperor of France. Following 1815, Czestochowa was within the borders of the Polish Kingdom, dependent on Russia. The 19th century brought rapid growth to the city. In 1819, construction began on today’s main street and thoroughfare, Avenue of St Virgin Mary. The opening of the Warsaw - Vienna railway in 1846 also stimulated the development of the city, linking it with the rest of Europe. Many new factories and manufactures emerged.
After the German occupation during World War I, the town became part of the independent Poland. It lost its importance as the steelworks and mines of the nearby city of Katowice, newly incorporated into Poland, proved to be more efficient. In 1939, Nazis captured the town and annexed it to the General Government. During World War II, practically the entire Jewish community of about 40,000 people were killed.
The Red Army that entered Czestochowa in January 1945 saved the Pauline monastery, which had been mined with bombs by Germans. After the war, industrialization of the city continued. The steelworks of Czestochowa, originally built in the 19th century, expanded and renamed after Boleslaw Bierut, the first President of Communist Poland. Today, the city remains an important industrial and academic center.
Geography of Czestochowa
Czestochowa is in southern Poland, 140 km from Krakow, on the Warta River and its confluence with the Konopka and Stradomka Rivers. In terms of administrative divisions, it belongs to the Silesian province, being its second city after Katowice, but geographically Czestochowa belongs to the Krakowsko-Czestochowska Upland, the lovely region spreading between the two cities. The average height of the upland is 350-450 m above sea level. Its main attraction is the Eagles' Nests Trail, the string of castles built on top of the nearby Jurassic rocks and hills, known as Olsztyn, Ogrodzieniec, Ojcow and Pieskowa Skala. They once formed a line of fortifications together with Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, which was once a defensive point.
Cemetery Of The Lusatian Culture
The people of the so-called Lusatian culture used the cemetery in Czestochowa-Rakow at the beginning of the Early Iron Age, i.e. circa 750-550 BC. The cemetery is one of the oldest prehistoric burial sites discovered and studied by excavations in the Silesian Voivodeship, and the “Archaeological Reserve” created here includes a reconstructed part of the ancient cemetery. In fact, it's the only archaeological site structure of this type in Poland.
Location and description
The cemetery is in Czestochowa-Rakow, directly at Pokoju Avenue, between B. Leśmiana Street and W. Łukasińskiego Street, about 630 m to the west of the Warta River. The Archaeological Reserve, Branch of the Częstochowa Museum, is at Łukasińskiego Street 20.
85 graves were identified at this site, including 44 natural burial graves and 25 pit graves containing only ashes, so without urns. Bi-ritualism (the use of both inhumation and cremation) distinguished the Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland Group from the other groups of the Lusatian culture. Many graves in the Czestochowa-Rakow cemetery were accompanied by stone structures in the form of fencing or stones covering the graves. In the natural burial graves, the bodies were placed in an extended position, approximately on the north-south axis, with the head oriented towards the south. The artifacts found in the graves included bronze and iron jewelry, tools and weapons. The graves also contained various clay vessels, which most likely contained food and drink.
The site was discovered incidentally in 1955, when constructing an overpass by Pokoju Avenue, and it was then that the first archaeological excavations were undertaken. In the years 1960-1961, Włodzimierz Błaszczyk carried out the main series of excavation works at this site, and a project to create an “archaeological reserve” and an exhibition center — in which part of the cemetery is now displayed — was developed.
Archaeologists date the burial site in Czestochowa-Rakow at the Early Iron Age, i.e. circa 750-550 BC. The people of the Lusatian culture used the cemetery, who belonged to the so-called Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland group and the Czetochowa-Gliwice subgroup.
It is worth adding that the maximum period of existence of the Lusatian culture falls between c. 1350 and c. 400 BC. This cultural unit is classified as belonging to the so-called urn-field culture, which derives its name from its characteristic burial rite. The dead were cremated and their ashes placed in clay urns which were then buried in graves. Burial sites were often large (containing even several thousand graves) and used for a long time. Hence, it needs to be pointed out that the site described here is not a typical cemetery of the Lusatian culture, which reflects the personal, Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland character of this area.
Currently, the part of the site in which excavations were conducted is occupied by the Archaeological Reserve, Branch of the Częstochowa Museum. The exhibition centre provides information about the history of the archeological site and the Lusatian culture and houses original grave elements and movable artefacts — grave goods.