The Black Madonna Shrine
Welcome to this section of the Brothers' website -- and a wide variety of information on the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. If you are interested in a particular subject, you may click on any of the following headings to find appropriate information. Alternatively, you may wish to scroll through the entire section, which is presented in this order. Additionally, you may use the menu to find other information on the Franciscan Missionary Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and their work.
Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Ozarks, the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos offer a galaxy of dazzling mosaics and multi-colored rock sculptures. Dedicated to the Queen of Peace and Mercy, the Shrine is a shining example of what one man of faith can achieve. The grottos, which are constructed of Missouri tiff rock, are set in a countryside atmosphere that refreshes the body and soul.
The origins of this religious setting trace back to 1927. Among the Franciscan Missionary Brothers who that year emigrated from Poland to the St. Louis area was Brother Bronislaus Luszcz, pictured at left. He was a man driven by an overwhelming faith and love for Our Blessed Mother Mary.
In his native Poland, Mary is revered as the Queen of Peace and Mercy, and Her most famous shrine is at the Jasna Gora (Bright Hill) monastery in the town of Czestochowa. The people lovingly refer to Mary as Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna.
As a young man, Brother Bronislaus would sit by the road and watch pilgrims as they passed through his village on their way to Mary's shrine. Overcoming tremendous hardship, some of them walked for hundreds of miles, sleeping by the road, to reach their destination. The memory of these people -- the difficulties they overcame and the love and devotion they had for Mary -- remained with him throughout his life.
Brother Bronislaus wanted to share his faith with others by spreading the Glory of Our Lady of Czestochowa. So, in 1937, he began his lifetime labor of love. Clearing the thickly wooded land, he built a beautiful cedar wood chapel and hung a portrait of Our Lady above the altar. The chapel soon became a center of religious devotion, with numerous pilgrimages, prayer services and masses being offered.
Then, one Sunday evening in 1958, an arsonist started a fire on the altar. The Brothers tried to douse the ensuing inferno, but flames consumed the chapel, leaving a pile of cinders. Today, however, the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos continue to serve as an important site for the religious who visit.
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos is located in the countryside about eight miles outside Eureka, Missouri -- approximately a 40-minute drive from West St. Louis County. The grounds are open to the public on the following schedule:
May - September 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
April and October 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
November - March 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos receive no financial support from any parish or diocese, relying instead on the good graces of those who visit. While admission to the site is free, charitable donations are greatly appreciated, and many visitors are more generous in their support of the Brothers' work in maintaining and improving the site. The Brothers offer their prayers to all who make contributions to their efforts.
Take Interstate 44 to the Eureka exit. Turn south onto Highway 109 and drive to Highway FF. Turn right onto FF and drive to Highway F. Turn left onto F. Drive to St. Joseph's Road and turn right. The entrance to the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos will be on your left.
Click on the map to go to Google maps.
If you are driving to the Shrine and using a GPS device, the physical address is:
Black Madonna Shrine
265 St. Joseph Hill Road
Pacific, MO 63069
The Walking Tour
Self-guided tours are popular with many people who visit the Shrine and Grottos individually and in small groups. A description of the walking tour is available by clicking here. Additional information is available at the site.
Guided Tours and Pilgrimages
The Franciscan Missionary Brothers host numerous tours and pilgrimages each year. A variety of programs are available -- from simple lectures and grotto tours to full-day religious pilgrimages with catered luncheons.
If you would like to bring a group to the Shrine and Grottos, please use the contact information on this website to let us know -- and to find out more about such wonderful group visits.
Open to the public, mass generally has been celebrated on Sundays and holidays at 8:30 a.m. However, due to a shortage of priests, you should confirm dates and times by calling 636.938.5361. Services are held in the Sacred Heart Chapel, located on the property near Our Lady of Angels Monastery. Entrance to the chapel is accessible from the rear parking lot of the St. Joseph's Hill building. Further information is available to visitors at the Shrine and Grottos.
NOTE: There are no public services on weekdays.
The Shrine Gift Shop
Offering a wide selection of religious items, the Shrine Gift Shop also makes information on the Shrine and Grottos available to visitors.
The gift shop is open daily throughout the year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Videotaped History and Tour
Dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa in the mid-1960s, the open-air Chapel of the Hills replaced the earlier cedar, wooden chapel. It was built by the novices and postulants of the Franciscan Missionary Brothers.
The mosaic wall of the Chapel was created by Frederick Henze, a well-known artist. He wanted to do something to beautify Mary's Chapel -- in memory of his friend, Bronislaus. Henze also created the icon of the Madonna above the altar, as well as the angels above the candle racks, and the icons of St. Helena and St. Luke the Evangelist.
The painting on the Chapel's easel was commissioned by Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, the former Primate of Poland, to replace the painting destroyed in the cedar chapel. It was placed on the altar at Jasna Gora for a novena of masses, touched to the original, blessed by the Cardinal, and then shipped to the Brothers. The painting arrived only weeks prior to the death of Brother Bronislaus.
The glass-encased icon in the Chapel previously was hung over the high altar of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church. The church was razed as part of Interstate 55 construction. St. Louis Archbishop, Cardinal John Carberry, donated it to the Shrine in the mid-1960s. Originally, the painting was brought to Missouri by Polish settlers. It is believed to be between 200 and 300 years old.
The various pictures and statues in the Chapel have been donated over the years by generous friends of the Franciscan Missionary Brothers.
It is doubtful whether any other representation of Our Blessed Mother with Her Divine Child possesses a more ancient and glorious history than the painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa -- the Miraculous Image.
Tradition holds that St. Luke painted it on the top of a cypress-wood table that came from the home of the Holy Family. At the request of the faithful, Mary sat for the portrait. When it was finished, she was pleased, saying that "My grace shall accompany it." Thus began the wonderful history of the painting.
Venerated for nearly 300 years while hidden in Jerusalem, the painting was discovered by St. Helen while she was searching for the True Cross. She brought it back to Constantinople and presented it to her son, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. Constantine built a chapel for the portrait, where it remained for five centuries.
Miracle upon miracle was attributed to the intercession of Mary by persons praying before the portrait. Over the years, many enemies laid siege to Constantinople. The chapel became a center of hope for the people of the city. During one attack, the city seemed ready to fall, but the people rallied to the painting, and Constantinople was saved. Another time, the city was under attack, and the chapel caught fire. Everything was destroyed except a small section of wall upon which hung the painting of Mary and Jesus. The intense heat and soot from the fire had darkened the already dark olive features of the Madonna and Child.
Eventually, the painting was given by the Byzantine Emperor to a Ruthenian nobleman. The portrait was taken to Kiev and in stalled in the Royal Palace of Belz. It remained there for the next 579 years.
In 1382, the painting was damaged by invading Tartars. An arrow pierced the Miraculous Image, leaving a scar that is still visible on the neck of the Madonna. Concerned with the portrait's safety, Prince Ladislaus Opolski decided to move it to one of his castles in Upper Silesia.
On the brow of a hill called Jasna Gora ("bright hill") -- and within a few paces of the town of Czestochowa -- the horses drawing the wagon with the painting stopped. No amount of coaxing or goading could make them go on. Mary appeared to Ladislaus and told him that this spot was to be Her new home. The Miraculous Image was placed in a chapel and given to the care of the Basilian monks of the Greek Rite. A few years later, Prince Ladislaus gave its care to the Latin Rite Hermits of St. Paul, who are still there to this day.
The remarkable history of the painting continued. It figured prominently in the heroic and successful defense of Poland against invaders who were enemies of the Catholic Church. Over time, the monastery at Jasna Gora became a monastic fortress -- and the focal point for Polish nationalism.
In 1655, the monastery held out against a mighty Swedish army. In 1683, it was the Turks who attacked. And, in 1920, the Bolsheviks. As a result of these and other historical events, Our Lady of Czestochowa was crowned as Queen of Poland. Feast is observed on May 3.
Throughout the centuries, the painting did not escape desecration and mutilation. In 1430, Hussites looted the monastery. Pillaging whatever they could find, they loaded all of the treasures of Jasna Gora into wagons. Horses pulling the wagon with the painting refused to move. The Hussites threw the portrait off the wagon, and the horses began to pull it forward. One of the raiders -- seeing the jewels and gold covering the painting -- slashed at it with sabers. Having cut twice into the right cheek of Mary, he prepared to strike it for a third time -- and fell dead. The other raiders fled for fear of Divine Retribution.
Repeated efforts by skilled artists to patch the scars failed. Each time the facial cuts reappeared. It is believed to be the will of Mary that the scars should remain as a sign to any who would desecrate Her Shrine.
In 1909, vandals tore off the gold crown and "overdress" of pearls. This sacrilege was repaired and the portrait was restored with the help of Pope St. Pius X, who furnished a new crown. Pope after Pope has granted spiritual favors to pilgrims visiting the Shrine, enriching it with many privileges. Today, a painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa adorns the altar of the Pope's private chapel at Castol Gondolfo.
"Black Madonna" is a nickname. It refers to skin tones in the portrait of Mary and Jesus. They and St. Joseph lived in a hot climate. Hence, their skin tone would be dark brown or olive in order to survive the intensity of the sun and avoid skin cancer.
Not until the Renaissance were there paintings of Jesus and Mary with alabaster skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Previously, all religious artwork reflected the olive skin, with black or brown hair and eyes attributed to the Holy Family and the Apostles.
Contributing to the portrait's blackened appearance is the fact that the painting is nearly 2,000 years old. When St. Luke painted the portrait of Mary with Christ, he did so with crude oil paints, which naturally dull and darken with age.
Additionally, the painting has survived a major fire -- the one in Constantinople referred to earlier. Beyond that, tens of thousands of pots of incense have been burned near the painting while it was in the Eastern Orthodox Church. And, millions of wax candles have been placed before it as people make their prayerful offerings.
These and other factors have resulted in darkening the Miraculous Image -- the portrait now referred to as "The Black Madonna."
Webster's Dictionary defines a grotto as a cave or an artificial recess or structure made to resemble a natural cave.
The grottos at the Black Madonna Shrine are constructed of native Missouri tiff rock, which came from Potosi, a mining community 30 miles southwest of the site. Materials used in ornamentation -- such as sea shells and costume jewelry -- were contributed by visitors or sent from foreign missions. Brother Bronislaus built the grottos by hand, without the use of power tools.
The following is abbreviated information about structures on the property. Additional information is contained in the "The Walking Tour" section, which you can access by clicking here. Pictures of the grottos can be viewed in "The Photo Gallery" section, which is presented further down in this information.
The Bridge -- A viewing platform that begins walking tours.
St. Francis Grotto -- Features the renowned "The Peace Prayer."
St. Joseph Grotto -- The statue of a boy playing with his dog was Brother Bronislaus' favorite.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto -- It was here that Brother Bronislaus passed away.
Gethsemane Grotto -- A representation of the Mount of Olives.
Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto -- The first grotto built by Brother Bronislaus.
Assumption Grotto -- The largest of the grottos, it leads to Crucifixion Overlook..
Nativity Grotto -- The only natural grotto has been enhanced through creativity.
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos are part of the 300-acre Franciscan Mission. Also located on this property are:
St. Joseph's Hill -- A former nursing home operated by the Brothers.
Our Lady of the Angels Monastery -- Where some of the Brothers reside.
Sacred Heart Chapel -- Open to the public.
The Cemetery -- Located forward left of the gazebo.
Crucifixion Grotto -- Situated between the studio and the nursing home.
St. Francis Grotto -- A second grotto named for the Brothers' patron Saint
Photos of many Shrine sites are available in a photo gallery.
The video tour and history of the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos is presented in the following five parts:
Additional information on the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos is available
by contacting the Franciscan Missionary Brothers.
There are several ways to do this:
By Phone: 636-938-5361
By E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Black Madonna Shrine
PO Box 181
Eureka, MO 63025
If you are driving to the Shrine and using a GPS device, the physical address to use is:
Black Madonna Shrine
265 St. Joseph Hill Road
Pacific, MO 63069
The Franciscan Missionary Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
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