The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/29 – The Swedish Army invades Poland

King Carl Gustav (Charles Gustavus) of Sweden had blood relations with Polish Royalty and for this reason, claimed that Poland should be joined to his Kingdom. In 1655, the Swedish Army of Carl Gustav launched a dreaded attack on Poland. The whole Country was occupied, apart from Czestochowa, which was besieged for six weeks. King Gustav’s plans proposed the implementation of a Calvanist regime upon a Catholic country. 20,000 Swedish men invaded Poland and 3,000 of them besieged 300 Poles guarding Jasna Gora’s Sanctuary, the men at Jasna Gora were outnumbered ten to one. The defenders consisted of monks, villagers, and a handful of nobles and soldiers. Speaking of the monastery with its famous Image of the Virgin and Child, the Calvinist General Miller (Mueller) declared: “We shall flatten this hen house in three days.”(1) If it were not for the supernatural intervention of Our Lady of Czestochowa, King Gustav might have achieved this his diabolical plans. The defenders prayed ceaselessly to uphold their Faith, country and king. Their defense was successful in granting enough time for the Polish Army to re-group and fight off the invaders. In 1656, the Blessed Virgin of Czestochowa was proclaimed ‘Queen of the Crown of Poland.’ In the same year, King Jan Kazimierz (John Casimir) of Poland in Lemberg placed his kingdom under her protection.

According to the Abbot of the Sanctuary of Jasna Gora, on February 10, 1654, the tower of the fortress was struck by lightening. On July 9, 1654, a solar phenomenon was witnessed by many, a cross was seen within the sun, which was transformed into a heart, was pierced by a sword, a hand with a mace appeared beside it and this in turn, became a scourge surrounding the sun. According to the Abbot, Father Augustine Kordecki, this was a sign from God that he was about to chastise the Polish people for forsaking Him and his Ten Commandments. In 1655, the King of Sweden Karl Gustav, descended from the North to scourge Poland. Practically all the nobility betrayed their King, Jan Kazimierz, and accepted the Swedish King as the protector of the Polish Crown. Karl Gustav annexed Krakow and 3,000 soldiers were sent to capture the Monastery Fortress of Jasna Gora. Previous to the arrival of this force, a smaller contingent headed by a Catholic count arrived at the monastery, asking the Pauline monks to hand over their monastery to him a Catholic. The superior abbot declined the offer and refused to succumb to the General’s forceful attempts. On receiving such a refusal the Catholic General (Count of Wrzeszczewicz) attacked certain properties of the monastery and joined forces with the incoming Swedish troops headed by General Miller. King Jan Kazimierz was in Opole, in Silesia trying hard to re-group the Polish army, in the meantime the monastery received the assistance of twelve cannons from Stanislaw Warszycki from Krakow. General Miller positioned his nineteen heavy guns and his 3,000 men around the monastery fort. Within the fort there were 70 non-combatant religious, 5 nobles and their few servants and 160 infantrymen, mostly villagers. A prior from another monastery, the monastery of Wielunvised, advised Father Augustine Kordecki to accept the enemy’s requests, as he had done, and not risk material damage to the monastery. In plain words one abbot advised the other, to surrender to the Calvinist Swedish. Father Kordecki did not rely on the garrison’s strength, but in the help of the Blessed Virgin. In his own words he said that the Queen of Heaven: “…in such an extreme necessity would not fail them with her help.”(2) His first step in the preparation for the defense, was to celebrate Mass before the altar of the Blessed Virgin of Czestochowa and carried a procession with the Blessed Sacrament along the walls where he blessed one by one the cannons, the cannon balls, the gun powder and bullets.

The siege commenced on November 18, the Swedes took their positions and scrutinized the fort guessing where the cannons had been placed, in the mean time General Miller sent an envoy to convince the Pauline monks to surrender. He attempted at showing kindness by saying: “…let us settle this matter peacefully, hand over the fort so that we avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”(3) Father Kordecki had a different idea and replied by firing the cannons towards the Swedish positions. This first bombardment lasted till evening; the Swedes entered the village huts of Czestochowa, which were set on fire by the defenders. Yet again General Miller attempted at dissuading the monks by sending repeated envoys, with the messages that defending the fortress was utterly unreasonable when all the country had been conquered. That Sunday marked the Feast of Our Lady, and the monks conducted solemn ceremonies and a procession with the Blessed Sacrament. The Swedes had to wait for the reply of the monks until the ceremonies were over and when the reply did come; it was another refusal for surrender. The Calvinists were infuriated and bombarded Jasna Gora with incendiary grenades, for three consecutive days. In this crucial hour, the maternal help of Our Lady became manifest, a mysterious hymn was heard high above, coming from the tower. This occurred daily, the hymn emanated from the tower. On beholding such a wondrous sign the defenders were for obvious reasons encouraged and the attackers were ever more enraged. The Swedes furthered their strategy and initiated the sapping and the digging of ditches around the walls, however, they abandoned this plan. Strange occurrences became ever more manifest, the grenades would bounce off the walls and one in particular directed against the chapel, where the Icon was kept, recoiled back over the fortified wall spreading flames through the air.

One of the nobles, Sir Piotr Czarniecki, Commandant of Kiev, defending Jasna Gora sallied at night with a handful of soldiers and succeeded at getting behind the Swedish positions, killing the commandant of the artillery and many others, also snatching two cannons bringing them back to the fort. In the meantime as the Swedes became aware of the theft, the defender’s battery shot mercilessly at them. General Miller sent an envoy to Krakow, to ask for more soldiers and powerful cannons that could pulverize the walls. A Polish noble sent by Miller addressed the Monks from outside, saying that it were a great pretension for a monastery to resist the Swedish army and that the aim of a religious order is to abstain from temporal matters. He said, “Why should you engage in war like manners, monks whose rule demands meditation and peace. Think of your actions lest the weapons you bear instead of your holy rosaries, will lead you down to hell.”(4) Father Kordecki had also to overcome conflicts within the monastery, convincing all the defenders that this was the best action to follow and if they indeed surrendered, they would have betrayed their Faith, the Blessed Virgin, freedom, their country and king. Other negotiations for the surrender of the monastery proved fruitless for the Swedes, two captured messengers from the monastery were threatened with death, nonetheless, they were consequently released.

The Protestants enraged by the continuos refusal of surrender by the Catholic monks, bombarded Jasna Gora relentlessly, albeit they did not go close to the walls for fear of the fort’s battery. On the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) a certain Polish noble, who was supposed to bear a message to the besieged Poles, gave them the news that the Swedes were suffering their first defeats, especially due to revolts following their arrogant and violent behavior of burning churches, violating women, murdering priests and sacking the properties of the rich. On December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the defenders received news that the Tartars, under the Khan had joined forces with their King Jan Kazimierz and that the Swedes never keep their pledges and that they were exceptionally vile and ruthless, for nothing was sacred to them, nor were they capable of keeping any political oath. On hearing this the besieged Poles strengthened their resolve and were ever more convinced and obstinate that their military defense was the just action to follow.

During the siege, the Pauline monks celebrated Our Lady’s Feasts; a Swedish soldier had arrived from the village of Redzin where he had blasphemed the Blessed Virgin unceasingly. On arriving at the battle scene, a cannon ball shot from the fort, ricocheted off the hard surface of the iced snow, striking the soldier and decapitating him. The bombardment resumed so aggressively, that it was evident that hell itself was “vomiting its full force” at the Icon of Our Lady and Child of Czestochowa. Notwithstanding the constant barrage, very few defenders died. The incessant bombardment persisted for a few days, but the Swedes suffered from the terrible cold of Winter and wherever fires were lit, the defender’s battery pounded upon them with blessed cannon balls.

The Swedish forces attempted numerous times at assaulting the fort but were frequently repelled; they resorted to devilry and witchcraft and concealed their equipment in a black cloud. When the prior realized this, he prayed ardently to God to clear the darkened air with exorcisms and bless the weapons of the unconquered garrison. The darkness cleared and the cannon shots struck their enemies. At one critical point, the defender’s cannon balls reached General Miller’s tent destroying his table, while the enemy commanders were banqueting; they scrambled out of the tent, beaten by the Blessed Virgin and Child. The terrible guns from Krakow arrived and General Miller employed their use immediately. As the morrow marked the solemnity of the Nativity of Jesus Christ Father Kordecki disregarded the cannons but suggested a truce. However, the Swedish General replied that a truce was possible only if the besieged surrendered. The next day, that would be December 25, 1655, Christmas Day, the Pauline monks concluded their ceremonies; General Miller opened fire with his terrible guns upon the Fortress of Our Lady. What a profane disgrace! The cannon balls pierced the monastery reaching the staircase and internal walls. Many incendiary bombs were thrown, together with explosive devices containing metal splinters, which inflicted much damage. Father Kordecki negotiated with the defenders keeping his party united, albeit the dissension and fear and the idea set on the part of a small faction to open the gates to the Swedes. As a general rule, internal intrigues are always present in every siege. To overcome the dissension the soldiers received their pays.

When all seemed doomed, a terrible noise was heard. One of the massive guns blew up killing many in its blast. General Miller sent an envoy, once again asking the monks to swear fidelity to King Karl Gustav of Sweden, if not the Swedes would eradicate all villages and towns located in the radius of three miles. The beleaguered garrison refused this menacing offer. The defenders kept on celebrating the usual ceremonies. On hearing their chanting the Swedes were so taken aback that they decided to abandon their quest. Finally, the siege was raised on December 27.

The following might explain the real reasons for the surrender of the Swedes. Thirty-eight days of siege had passed and the ammunitions and victuals were running out. Later testimony by General Miller himself revealed that the only reason why the Swedish Commander decided to withdraw was, the sudden appearance of a noble lady with sword, who menacingly ordered him to retreat. Her expression he found so terrifying and frightening that he could not bear to think that she would appear once again to him. The rumor spread amongst the Swedes that Miller lifted the siege due to a maiden, who was sent by the monks, threatening the General that if the siege were not lifted, he would suffer the loss of his entire army. At Piotrkow, Miller asked the Dominicans to hand him a picture, copy of the Icon of Czestochowa to see whether the lady who appeared was Our Lady. He later said, “The Icon is not comparable to the maiden who appeared before me, for there is nobody comparable on earth, undoubtedly not of this world, her face had in it something divine, suffused in light, and it terrified me, she frightened me with her majestic countenance from the beginning.”(5)

The Swedes admitted at sighting a Lady on the fortress’ walls directing the defenders, pointing the cannons and toiling with the defending ranks. The defenders did not behold the Lady who was constantly assisting them. The besieging Swedes had attempted at digging tunnels towards the walls, but were surprised to unexpectedly witness the apparition of an old man who advised them to retire, as they wouldn’t complete their task even if they had seven years of labor at their disposal. The venerable old man was identified as being Saint Paul of the Desert. This was also admitted by Sir Aleksy Sztrzalkowski, who swore on his word of honor to the Pauline monks, on having seen the said apparitions. Another testimony of a certain Lady Jadwiga Jaroszewska who told the monks that she was encouraged by a venerable old man, that God would shortly make manifest His Mercy and the Swedes would raise the siege. The Friar appeared to her in vision and was celebrating Mass at an altar to the East side of the church; in fact that was the altar consecrated to Saint Paul of the Desert.

Two gentlemen named Jan Wiechowski and Maciej Wegierski, attested on the manner how the Swedes had recounted having seen Our Lady and an old man appearing side by side upon the walls beating back the Swedish missiles. The supernatural evidence of Our Lady’s miraculous intervention is revealed further by Father Blazej Wadowski, the Prior of the Pauline monks of Weiruszov who testified that at the residence of a citizen of the town of Wieruszow, two Swedish commanders named Jorge Eichner and Arens Lukman, who were invited for dinner, said certain blasphemies against the Blessed Virgin saying: “What sort of sorceress and witchcraft is performed at Czestochowa, who covered by her blue mantle exits the monastery and walks along the walls and rests upon the bastions and whose mear sight fills us with terror and induces us to shield our faces and look down to the ground to protect our eyes from the pain of her gaze?” Swedish military personnel of various ranks confirmed these events and proclaimed that the monks were ogres and recounted on the manner they bewitched a soldier who aimed for the church and was paralyzed from head to toe, such that his hand and arm remained elevated forward as when he aimed and fired the projectile. This soldier was sent to Leszno for he now was useless to the army.

Retreating Swedish soldiers passing through the village of Golina, conferred that often they witnessed a Lady dressed in a white mantle who would exit the monastery or cloister and point a sword towards them. Forty soldiers lost their lives in this manner as they were terrified by the vision. Two Polish brothers who were fighting with the Swedes pointed their carbines towards the Lady; one was paralyzed while the other had the rear part of the barrel riveted into his face. The retreating Swedes also said that the monastery was at times covered in cloud and fog that when aiming at the monastery, it would appear higher and the projectile would be fired over it, other times the monastery would appear lower and the projectile would not reach the walls, for the cannons were aimed too low. Many a time when the aim was right and the cannon ball reached the monastery, it would ricochet and bounce off with tremendous force and return to the Swedish camp at great velocities. When the large cannon blew up, it was reported that the cannon ball had bounced off the walls of the monastery and recoiled back all the distance, upon the cannon destroying it and its operators.

On January 6, 1656, the Khan of the Tartars entered into agreement with the King of Poland and together they fought back the retreating Swedes, who lost their battles. King Jan openly expressed his views, that God was showing His Mercy, as some Christians rejoiced at the undoing of Poland and others refuse to help, the Lord aids His Church by the help of who is outside the Church and will not allow the kingdom to fall. At Lwow the King proclaimed, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen and Mother of Poland (at the time including Lithuania, parts of Ukraine and Byelorussia). The King declared: “Great Mother of God and Most Holy Virgin! I, Jan Kazimierz II, by the grace of Thy Son, the King of Kings, and by Thy Grace, I, the King, casting myself on my knees at Thy Most Holy feet, take Thee today as my Patroness and Queen of my dominions, and I recommend to Thy special protection and defense, myself and my Polish Kingdom, the Nation of Lithuania, and the Principalities of Ruthenia, Prussia, Mazuria, Zmudzia, Inflanta, and Czernichow, as well as the armies of both nations and all my people. I cry humbly, from this pitiful and devastated state of my Kingdom, for Thy mercy and assistance against the enemies of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, and, grateful for the immense benefits conferred by Thee, I sense with the nation, a commanding desire to serve Thee zealously, and, in my name and in that of the administrators and of the people, I promise to Thee and to Thy Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, I will spread Thy glory though all the countries of our Kingdom. Finally, I promise and vow to obtain from the Holy See, since it is only through thy powerful intercession and through the mercy of Thy Son that I shall obtain victory over our enemies, and particularly over the Swedes, that this day be celebrated annually and forever and consecrated to Thee and Thy Son in acknowledgment of these graces, and I will dedicate myself with the Bishops of the Crown so that my promised be kept by my peoples. As I see, to the great sorrow of my soul, that all the adversities which have fallen upon my Kingdom in the last seven years, the epidemics, the wars, and other misfortunes, were sent by the Supreme Judge as a punishment for the groans and for the oppression of the peasant. I promise and vow, after the conquest of peace, in union with all the states, to use all means to free my people from all-unjust burdens and oppressions. Grant, Oh most loving Queen and Lady, that I obtain the grace of Thy Son to do all that I propose, to which Thou Thyself have inspired me!”(6)

During the Swedish Wars the town of Chelmno was for many months besieged by the Swedish troops. When the food reserves proved insufficient and the town was threatened with starvation, the councilors planned on surrendering the town. As a sign of resistance to the Swedish onslaught, the townswomen baked a large loaf of bread, which was then fired from the biggest cannon towards the Swedish station. The townspeople took an ox and marched with it along the defense wall. The animal mooed so piercingly; that it made an impression to a large number of cattle kept in the town. The Swedish soldiers were astounded by these apparent proofs of the town’s prosperity and resilience, in spite of their prolonged siege, enraged they carried out a fierce attack on the town of Chelmno. The cannon balls did no harm to the town walls and to their horror, they witnessed the Blessed Virgin Mary, strolling serenely on the fortifications. A consequence of this vision witnessed by all the troops, was the fear and panic Our Lady created, for the Swedes were terrified by these miracles. They broke their camp and fled. Several cannon balls were said to have been caught within the fortified walls without exploding. Stone cannon balls were later mounted within the town’s walls and are still present to this day in commemoration of this miracle.

Later that year, once again solar phenomena were witnessed at Jasna Gora and this time it was interpreted, as symbolizing the victory and as a visible manifestation of the appeasement of the Divine Anger. It therefore comes by no surprise, that 27 years later, King Jan Sobieski, en-route to defend Vienna in 1683, marched towards Czestochowa to pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Even less surprising the fact that the protection was granted to himself and his troops and defeat was delivered to the Ottomans.

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