Let me tell you about the importance of the Virgin Mary in the spiritual life of Poles, it’s as clear as day and deeply ingrained. From the Baltic to the Tatra Mountains, we often come across smaller or larger Marian sanctuaries, where people have experienced special graces for centuries, praying in front of a miraculous image or statue of the Holy Virgin.
However, it is worth to say that the history of some of these places did not start with an image that gained popularity among believers, but with the apparition of Mary herself.
Seven Places in Poland Where Mary Appeared
In Poland, there are at least seven such places. Although not all apparitions were officially confirmed by the Apostolic See, the growing devotion there always won the approval of the local bishop.
Such approval means that, even if the fact of the Virgin Mary’s apparition is not certain in a given case, it is at least probable, and the accompanying events clearly indicate God’s intervention in the lives of specific people.
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Apparitions in Janów Lubelski (near Kraśnik)
At the beginning of November 1645, a man named Wojciech Boski, a cooper from the village of Ruda, was on his way to morning prayers at the church in Biała. Mary appeared to him holding two burning candles in her hands, accompanied by two angels.
She asked that God be worshiped at that place through her intercession. This vision repeated itself on December 8. The local priest initially treated Wojciech Boski’s accounts with reserve.
At the same time, the residents of Janów erected a chapel at the site of the apparitions and began to gather there for prayer. The following year, two fishermen fishing at night in a pond near Ruda saw a procession of angels at the site of the previous apparitions.
In this situation, the priest notified the bishop, who sent a special commission to investigate. The commission concluded that it was God’s action, recommending a cross to be erected at the site.
The cross was erected, and the residents of Janów could admire the extraordinary brightness coming from it. Shortly after, the Zamoyski family funded a church and a monastery and handed them over to the Dominicans.
They placed an image of the Virgin Mary in the church, which can be admired there to this day. After the dissolution of the order as part of reprisals following the fall of the January Uprising, the diocesan priests took over the church and it remains so today.
Apparitions in Płonka Kościelna (near Białystok)
In Płonka, there was an image first. Mary herself drew attention to it, asking twice that she be worshipped in this depiction. She conveyed her request to the daughter of a poor widow, eighteen-year-old Katarzyna, who was a maid for the local nobility.
She appeared to her twice in 1673, holding a cross and the Holy Scripture in her hands. At first, people were hesitant to believe Katarzyna, but soon the residents of Płonka noticed a brightness surrounding the image in their parish church at night.
Moreover, a beautiful fragrance was said to emanate from the altar and the sound of bells could be heard, even though the church’s bells were motionless. Healings began to occur at the image.
It only took five years for their authenticity to be confirmed by a bishop’s decree, which also allowed the public worship of the local image of the Assumption of Mary.
Like in Janów, Mary didn’t make any particular promises here. She only asked for prayer. Miracles began to happen almost incidentally.
The Encounter in Matemblewo (Gdańsk)
Today, Matemblewo borders the Tri-City area, specifically the Brętowo district of Gdańsk. In the second half of the 18th century, however, it was a forest center, with a road leading to the city from Matarnia, a village 10 kilometers away.
Picture this: on a snowy winter night, a carpenter from Matarnia set off on foot to Gdańsk to fetch a doctor for his wife, whose health had rapidly deteriorated. The brutal cold and snowstorm prevented him from reaching his destination.
Exhausted and freezing, he fell to the ground, praying desperately for his wife’s and his own survival.
That’s when, if you can believe it, a beautifully pregnant woman appeared before him, informing him that his wife had safely delivered their baby and urging him to return home.
He made it back by the skin of his teeth, finding that the pregnant lady was right. The Cistercians from nearby Oliwa proved to have a tad more faith than the priests from Janow and Plonka and promptly erected a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Matemblewo forest upon hearing the carpenter’s story.
Even today, women from the Tri-City area and its surroundings pray there for the gift of conception and safe childbirth.
Mary’s Appearance in Lichen
Now, if you want another tale, let’s go back to 1813 when Mary first appeared to a soldier named Tomasz Kłosowski, who had been wounded in the Battle of Leipzig.
She promised him safety and a return to his homeland, instructing him to find the image he saw duering his vision. Tomasz survived, returned home, and fulfilled Mary’s request by placing the image in a tree chapel.
Fast forward about four decades, and Mary appeared again, this time to a poor shepherd named Mikołaj Sikatka, asking for the image to be moved to a more fitting location and calling for prayer and conversion.
People didn’t believe Mikołaj until a cholera epidemic, as predicted by Mary, struck. It was then that the locals realized that prayer by her miraculous image brought healing and salvation.
As a result of numerous healings, the bishop of Kalisz decided to move the image to the Church of St. Dorothy in Lichen. Today, it houses Poland’s largest church, with throngs of pilgrims visiting the sanctuary.
Mary’s Vision on Wiktorówki (Zakopane)
Here’s an interesting fact about the Tatra Mountains. In 1860, Mary appeared to Marysia Murzańska. This young shepherdess, who was tending her flock on Rusinowa Polana, ventured into a forest owned by Wiktorówki in search of lost sheep.
There, she met a beautiful lady who promised to help her find the sheep and asked her to encourage adults to repent and perform penance.
A shepherd, to whom Marysia told her encounter with the lady, nailed an image of the Virgin Mary to a spruce tree there. A small chapel was soon built at the site of the apparition. For half a century, only lumberjacks and shepherds prayed there.
Over time, pilgrims also began to visit the Queen of the Tatras. Since 1958, the chapel, which has been expanded over time, has been the hub of tourist ministry run by the Dominicans.
Revelations in Gietrzwałd Warmiński
Allow me to explain a tale that dates back to the 16th century in Gietrzwałd Warmiński. There, an image of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Lady of Angels was already revered in the local church.
Yet, it was not until 1877 that Gietrzwałd gained significant prominence. That’s when Mary appeared to 13-year-old Justyna Szafrańska and 12-year-old Basia Samulowska. Imagine this, Mary presented herself 160 times in three months.
Her commands? Daily rosary prayer, the erection of a chapel with her figure and a stone cross. She reminded everyone of the importance of the Holy Mass. Now, I think it’s worth saying that during a time of forced Germanization, Mary spoke to the girls in Polish.
This encouraged the local priest to have the young visionaries ask Mary about the future of their homeland and the Church.
Mary’s response was straightforward – the fate of Poland depends on the conversion of its inhabitants, and she called for entrusting all matters to her through the rosary.
Revelations in Siekierki (Warszawa)
If you find yourself in Siekierki, Warsaw, you need to know about the apparitions that began in May 1943. Mary first appeared to a 7-year-old girl named Władzia.
These apparitions lasted until 1945, even during the Warsaw Uprising, and then reappeaqred twice in 1949. Here, Mary not only called for prayer but taught it herself. She gave the young visionary the text of the chaplet and litany, and even taught her to sing a hymn in her honor.
In a series of recurring apparitions, she revealed herself as a tender Mother concerned about each of her children. She sympathized with human misfortunes and fears amidst the war turmoil.
She strongly urged trust in God and entrustment to Her motherly care. I think it is worth to say, she particularly called for the conversion of human hearts.