National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa

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National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (or simply Czestochowa), known also as the American Czestochowa is a Polish-American Roman Catholic shrine near Doylestown, Pennsylvania, founded in 1953. It houses a reproduction of the Black Madonna icon of Częstochowa, Poland. The heart of Poland's third prime minister, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, is also preserved there.


In 1953 a Polish Pauline monk, Father Michael M. Zembrzuski, purchased a tract of land near Doylestown with the intention of building a chapel dedicated to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa at Jasna Góra, Poland's most important religious icon, to reconnect Polish-Americans with their Polish Catholic roots. A barn was converted into the first chapel; it was moved to a new site and dedicated on June 26, 1955.

The chapel was reorganized as a shrine to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the Polish nation in 1966. It was dedicated on October 16, 1966 by Archbishop (later Cardinal) John Krol and President Lyndon B. Johnson. The centerpiece of the new shrine was a church building designed by the Polish-American architect George Szeptycki housing the replica of the Black Madonna painting.

In subsequent years other facilities have been added to the site, including a Polish-American cemetery (including monuments to Poland's third prime minister Ignacy Paderewski, the Polish-Lithuanian hussars, and the victims of the Katyń massacres), a monastery, and a visitor center. The lower church interior was remodeled to resemble the interior of the Jasna Góra shrine in Poland housing the original painting. There is also an outdoor pathway with the Stations of the Cross.

Since 1987, around the second week in August, there is an annual walking pilgrimage to the shrine from Sts Peter and Paul Church in Great Meadows, New Jersey crossing the border into Pennsylvania and going to the shrine at Doylestown, akin to the walk to Częstochowa from other parts of Poland. There are three groups that walk in the pilgrimage, a Polish group, a Polish youth group, and an American group, with a Spanish group sometimes joining the American group. Usually, about 2,000 pilgrims take part.

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