As part of the observances, pilgrims from throughout the country have descended on the Jasna Góra shrine in the southern city of Częstochowa, home to the nation’s venerated Black Madonna icon.
The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated by Catholics for centuries. In Poland, it has a distinctive flavour, with the culmination of a time-honoured pilgrimage season.
Centuries of tradition
The tradition of annual pilgrimages to the Jasna Góra shrine goes back centuries. Every year pilgrims follow dozens of trails, some of which are several hundred kilometres in length.
One trek starting in Świnoujście in the northwest of the country is over 600 km long and takes pilgrims more than three weeks to complete. Most of the groups converge at Jasna Góra for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15.
The Black Madonna is considered Poland’s most important icon. A small painting of the Virgin Mary on a wooden panel, it has hung in the Pauline monastery in Częstochowa since 1384. It is venerated by Roman Catholics and Christians from across the world.
The Jasna Góra monastery is a place of special historical and spiritual significance for the Polish people. Its heroic defence during a Swedish invasion in 1655 made it a national symbol. It was also a symbol of national identity when the country was under foreign rule from 1795 to 1918 and became so again during the communist era after World War II.
Last year, Jasna Góra was visited by a total of 4.3 million pilgrims and tourists from many countries.
The Jasna Góra monastery in the southern Polish city of Częstochowa, home to the country's revered Black Madonna icon. Photo: Aw58 [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
Ninety-three percent of Poles declare themselves to be Catholic, according to Roman Catholic Church officials.