Lonely Planet review
Impressive though it is, the exterior of Monastery of Jasna Góra gives little indication of the grandeur layered behind its walls. Exploring this functioning monastery gives a fascinating insight into its history, and a deep appreciation for its present day relevance. Arrive early and take your time.
You are free to wander around the complex at your own leisure (crowds permitting). Audio guides are available for four routes; the most important covers the main sanctuary and takes 45 minutes.
In the oldest part of the complex, the Chapel of Our Lady (Kaplica Cudownego Obrazu) contains the revered Black Madonna .The picture is ceremoniously unveiled at 06:00 and 13:30 (14:00 Saturday and Sunday) and veiled at noon and 21:20 (13:00 and 21:20 Saturday and Sunday). Be sure to note the walls displaying votive offerings brought by pilgrims. Adjoining the chapel is the impressive basilica (bazylika) . Its present shape dates to the 17th century and the interior has opulent Baroque furnishings.
On the northern side of the chapel, paintings in the Knights' Hall (sala Rycerska) depict key events from the monastery's history; there's also an exact copy of the Black Madonna. Upstairs, the Golghota Gallery contains a series of unique paintings by celebrated local painter and cartoonist Jerzy Duda Gracz (1941-2004) whose evocative works are indicative of the monastery's ability to preserve its historical heritage while maintaining modern relevance.
The 106m belltower, the tallest historic church tower in Poland, offers views over the monastery complex and the expanse of Al NMP. After falling many times over history, the current tower dates to 1906.
The 600th Anniversary Museum contains fascinating artefacts, including the founding documents of Jasna Góra from 1382 and a cross made from the steel of the World Trade Centre, destroyed in New York on 11 September 2001. Particularly moving are rosaries made from bread crumbs by concentration camp prisoners. Lech Wałęsa's 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, donated by its recipient, can be found beyond the Father Kordecki Conference Room.
The arsenal contains military mementos including spoils of battle, offerings from soldiers and an impressive collection of Turkish weapons from the 1683 Battle of Vienna.
The 17th-century treasury (skarbiec) contains votive offerings dating back to the 15th century. Since the 17th century, records have been kept of gifts given to the Madonna.
Depictions of Saint Maximillian Kolbe wearing his Auschwitz uniform can be seen throughout the complex. This Franciscan Priest was canonised by Pope John Paul II for his stalwart devotion during the Holocaust and the sacrifice of his life for another man.
The monastery's gates are open from 05:30 to 21:30.