When Christmas Is not a Time for Peace.

Well, I think spending your Christmas time in a quiet and secluded place with a very close community inspired by the religious feeling which, allegedly, fuels the celebration (or that way it was, once), people whom with to share a praying moment and a pious enjoyment of thy Glory could be considered, at least by a great number of people, the best possible Christmas to live.

Otherwise, it could happen that your quiet and secluded place would be under constant bombardment, with a fierce enemy at the gates, food running low, and without an army to rescue you. That would not be peaceful merriment, for sure. And it could be even worse: the army at the gates could be a rabble of heretics (that, from your point of view) and you could be a simple monk, and the keeper of your nation’s most sacred relic. Then you’re dreaming of a white Christmas would turn a complete nightmare…

I was forgetting something: there are good and bad news. The good news is that you live in a monastery that, in fact is a fortress. Enter the bad news: the enemy’s strength is ten times yours; they are a hired army of German Lutherans, hardened mercenaries, ungodly veterans; the Polish Commonwealth (your country, by the way) is losing the war, the king has exiled in Silesia, And you are, more or less, the last strong point defending the Commonwealth banner. Well, it is not as bad as it looks: your Prior, Augustyn Kordecki, a farsighted man, has let in some recruits from the local nobility and, above all, has bought muskets and ammo. But, I know you are asking yourself would all this be enough? Ah, my friend, your faith is lacking. Trust in God, Whose ways are mysterious.

So here we are: Advent came and is leaving, negotiations ended with no result. You did great at first, a successful sally brought down two cannons, Swedes and Germans got nervous, your cannon was superior and your aim more accurate. Then they brought in heavy siege artillery, 24-pounders, and seriously damaged the northern walls and a bastion. But your sorties still bore fruit and on December 14 you destroyed a 24-pounder and got some relief. Only to enrage the enemy, who doubled its efforts and resume bombardment and started digging a tunnel to undermine the old building. By this time, though, you were masters of sortie and again defeated the Swedish army on the 20, with the leadership of Stefan Zamoyski one of the noblemen helping the Commonwealth in its hour of need. This time, the result was devastating for the besiegers: two cannon destroyed and almost every miner dead. Now, all the hardships, the fear, the self-questioning is being let aside. God is among you, saving you now that the time Thy son was born is about again, helping you, giving you courage and luck, even, for sure, was God’s own hand who made another 24-pounder exploded while barraging mercilessly your tired walls. You are winning, my friend.

I can only imagine what is now crossing General Burchard Müller von der Luhnen’s mind. He is out there, beholding the walls. In silence, thinking, questioning himself too. Why? They are just some dozens of monks and a few soldiers. Why? We should have been inside for weeks now. Why am I here, at the gates, in the snow, waiting for a clue to overcome the Polish. Why are they fighting like that? He must be thinking of Divine intervention, but, no, that cannot be. He is a professional soldier. There is no space for superstition in a battlefield, or it is? It seems there is nothing more he can do now. Christmas Eve is here and still nothing gained. Soldiers are unsettled and morale is ebbing. Well, maybe a handsome ransom could be mustered, just for all the trouble. And, after all, the war is almost over, and this is just a monastery…
So a ransom was asked for. And denied. As Prior Kordecki put it, “I would have paid before the fighting began, now the monastery needs the money for repairs”. Ah, there is a leader of men if you need one, the new warrior-monk, a true Templar´s heir. And, finally, at dawning the 27th December 1655, the Swedish army started to withdraw with a last bitter look to the high walls that, with God’s help, had defeated them.

That’s how History goes. A little religious community was preparing for Christmas when war called at the door. Through the smell of powder and the sound of thunder, the hunger and the cold, they resisted a professional army and allegedly, started and gave impulse to the resistance. From then on, the Polish would gain momentum till the final defeat of the invaders. Probably the siege of Jasna Gora was not the only reason, but surely it was a sign that helped to restore national pride and, maybe, as it showed that the Swedish were in fact vulnerable gave the small guerrillas still operating and the beaten rests of the polish army a new hope of victory. And, in a longer span, the siege, and the intervention, if ever there was, of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, contributed to the Polish national spirit and is still nowadays a strong reference for all the Polish people. The Madonna was still there when Poland was quartered, and under the communist rule, and today keeps on moving every soul when on visit.

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