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 has grown along with the site's famous history.
It became a symbol of Polish identity and the Roman Catholic religion, as the Swedes, Russians and Germans besieged the hill of Jasna Gora, all with different faiths.
The Czestochowa sanctuary is an outstanding monument of 15th century architecture, with later Renaissance and Baroque changes. The number of pilgrims and tourists visiting the city amounts to 5 million a year. They visit the church and the monastery, since the rest of the town, apart from the historical center, is less interesting.
The Communist authorities tried to turn Czestochowa into an industrial center to overshadow its religious importance. 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 unattractive and provincial. Yet it's worth your time to drop into the Museum of Matches. Located in an old factory, this attraction unique in Europe.
History of Czestochowa
The city was first mentioned in 1120, but founded in the 11th century. The origin of the term ‘Czestochowa’ connects with the name Czestoch, 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. They founded the monastery on the top of Jasna Gora Hill. Two years later, the monks received the icon of the Black Madonna. It soon began to draw in many pilgrims. The first brick-and-stone sanctuary emerged in the 15th century. It changed into a fortress after 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 got named “Deluge”, when for several months around 4,000 Swedes besieged its 250 defenders. They failed to conquer the hill. The winners' determination spread to the rest of the country, which earlier hardly resisted the invaders. In the 18th century, Jasna Gora was again a place of battle. It served as a fortress for anti-Russian Bar Confederation insurgents. Kazimierz Pulaski led them. He was a later hero of the American War for Independence.
After the German occupation
After the Second Partition of Poland, Czestochowa became part of Prussia. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Emperor of France incorporated it into the Duchy of Warsaw. 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 city's development, linking it with the rest of Europe. Many new factories 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 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 perished.
After World War II
The Red Army that entered Czestochowa in January 1945 saved the Pauline monastery, then mined with bombs by Germans. After the war, industrialization of the city continued. The 19th century steelworks of Czestochowa expanded. 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. It belongs to the Silesian province, being its second city after Katowice. 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 Lusatian culture used the cemetery in Czestochowa-Rakow at the beginning of the Early Iron Age. The cemetery is one of the oldest prehistoric burial sites discovered and studied in the Silesian Voivodeship. 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, at Pokoju Avenue, west of the Warta River. See the map under his article for directions.
There are 85 graves identified at this site, including 44 natural burial graves and 25 pit graves containing only ashes. Bi-ritualism distinguishes the Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland Group from the other groups of the Lusatian culture.
Many graves in the Czestochowa-Rakow cemetery have stone structures in the form of fencing or stones covering the graves. In the natural burial graves, the bodies lay in an extended position, more or less 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 contain various clay vessels, which most likely contained food and drink.
The site is an incidental discovery from 1955, when constructing an overpass by Pokoju Avenue. 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.
Archaeologists date the burial site in Czestochowa-Rakow at the Early Iron Age. The people of the Lusatian culture used the cemetery. They belonged to the so-called Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland group and the Czestochowa - Gliwice subgroup.
It's worth adding that the largest period of existence of the Lusatian culture falls between 1350 and 400 BC. This cultural unit classifies as belonging to the so-called urn-field culture. Its name derives from its characteristic burial rite. After burning the dead, 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. So this site isn't a typical cemetery of the Lusatian culture, which reflects the personal, Upper Silesia-Lesser Poland character of this area.
Today, the part of the site in which excavations take place is in use by the Archaeological Reserve. The exhibition center provides information about the history of the archaeological site and the Lusatian culture. It houses original grave elements and movable artifacts.