Black Madonna Shrine

Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos, Pacific, Misuri, Združene države Amerike

Website of the Sanctuary

+1636 938 5361

Every day: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka

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. See top 15 Catholic shrines in the world.

See also the Jasna Góra Monastery and the famous image of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

Among the Franciscan Missionary Brothers who that year emigrated from Poland to the St. Louis area was Brother Bronislaus Luszcz. He was a man driven by an overwhelming faith and love for Our Blessed Mother Mary.

See more Catholic Shrines and pilgrimages in North America

The Grottos of the Black Madonna Shrine

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 Grottos

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.

Other Grottos and Sites on the Property

  • 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

The Walking Tour

A self-guided tour of the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos is available, and brochures for such visits are available free of charge. These brochures contain the following information. As you exit the chapel to the right, continue through the gateway pillars, down the steps, and onto the pathway. Please do not climb on the grottos or take any rock or decoration from them.

There are eight stops on the self-guided walking tour:

  • Stop 1 The Bridge
  • Stop 2 St. Francis Grotto
  • Stop 3 St. Joseph Grotto
  • Stop 4 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto
  • Stop 5 Gethsemane Grotto
  • Stop 6 Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto
  • Stop 7 Assumption Grotto
  • Stop 8 Nativity Grotto

A variety of other grottos and sites on the property are described later in this website information.

Stop 1: The Bridge – As you walk on the bridge, pause and look to your left. Before you is the Crucifixion Gethsemane Grotto. The crucifix is a local landmark. During winter, hikers use it as a point of reference as they walk through the woods. Over the years, it has led many a lost soul to safety. To your right is a section of cleared land and a solitary statute. It was here in the summer of 1960 that Brother Bronislaus suffered a heat stroke. The statue represents his final project — a grotto to Our Lady of Fatima.

Stop 2: St. Francis Grotto – Porcelain birds and small animals represent the friendship St. Francis had with all creatures. The rabbits and lambs were made by pouring concrete into cupcake molds. Inscribed on the bronze tablet is the famous “Peace Prayer of St. Francis.” This prayer was so beloved by Eleanor Roosevelt and Adelai Stevenson that they instructed it be inscribed on their tombstones.

Stop 3: St. Joseph Grotto – Notice the use of costume jewelry in the various patterns and the colored glass set into the sides of the grotto. When light passes through the jars, a stream of colored light would shine forth. The flower pots contain “flowers” that were once the light fixtures for the old monastery. These flower pots were constructed from Jell-O molds, laying one on top of the other. Some of the flowers were made from paper cupcake molds. Continuing up the stairs, you reach a flower garden with a statue of a boy playing with a dog. This was Brother Bronislaus’ favorite statue. Perhaps it reminded him of his youth.

Stop 4: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto – It was here that Brother Bronislaus passed away. He had been sick with the Asian flu, and hadn’t fully recovered his strength when he returned to his work. On August 12, 1960, he was overcome by the summer sun. Leaving a trail of tools from the Fatima statue, he made his way to this grotto. His body was discovered by members of the community. They knew something was amiss when the failed to arrive for evening prayers.

Stop 5: Gethsemane Grotto – The Mount of Olives, where Our Lord and Savior pleaded, “Can you not pray with me for even just one hour?” While Jesus agonized in the garden, Peter, James and John slept. In this grotto, colored jars were used again to enhance the decoration. When it was first built, the jars would filter sunlight and illuminate the sleeping apostles.

Stop 6: Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto – You have now come to the first grotto built by Brother Bronislaus. A perfectionist, he worked on this grotto for years — tearing it down and rebuilding it several times. Though not as ornate as the other grottos, it has some fascinating features. The white altar stone is from the original monastery chapel. Prior to the present statue, a picture was placed there. A deposit box with a coin drop can be found built into the base of the grotto. Donations were made for lighting small vigil candles at the base. The statue of St. Francis reaching up to Christ Crucified is called the “Vision of St. Francis.” Vandals smashed the glass and stole the statue that Brother Bronislaus had set there. The current statue was donated in 1997.

Stop 6a: The Wall – As you continue on your tour, look at how the wall ends and how bushes begin. The wall once stretched all the way across, ending at a gateway pillar. In the late 1960s, a drunken driver lost control of his car and plowed into the wall. The damage was irreparable, and it was decided to plant bushes to cover signs of the destruction.

Stop 7: Assumption Hill – Turning to your right, you will continue to the Assumption grotto. The pathway is lined with six small grottos. These represent the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin, also known as the Franciscan Crown Rosary. The first is The Annunciation, second The Visitation, third The Birth of Our Lord, fourth The Adoration of Jesus by the Magi, fifth The Finding of Jesus in the Temple, and sixth Resurrection of Our Lord. These smaller grottos culminate in the Assumption Grotto, which is Stop 7a on your tour.

Stop 7a: Assumption Grotto – With six smaller grottos leading to it, the Assumption grotto represents The Assumption of Mary into Heaven. This is the largest of the grottos on the property, and it marks the former entrance to “The Way of the Cross,” a two-mile trek through the woods. Descending the hill, you are invited to cross over the grass to the Crucifixion Outlook.

Stop 8: Nativity Grotto – Following the path, you will come to the only natural grotto on the property. It has been enhanced by the creativity of Brother Bronislaus. This is a favorite of many visitors and, during the Christmas season, pilgrims have been known to offer gifts, just like the Magi.

The Walking Tour Concludes – Returning to the Chapel, you are walking on the future “Life Memorial Walkway.” Further information is available in the gift shop. The three bells before you are the last bells struck by the Stuckstede Bell Company. The foundation on which they rest is from the old bell tower that stood next to the Cedar Wood Chapel. The bell tower was saved from fire, only to be torn down after years of decay.

Around the Chapel and parking lot are 14 stations, statues of St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Grace and, behind the gift shop, there is a statue of Our Lady of Czestochowa. You are invited to stay and meditate in the Chapel or enjoy a picnic lunch in the pavilion.

Open Air Chapel

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.

he 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.

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.

Open to the public, mass generally has been celebrated on Sundays and holidays at 10 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 Amazing Painting: A Brief History of Our Lady of Czestochowa

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.

The Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka

 

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. 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.

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