Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos in Eureka, Missouri

Black Madonna Shrine—Bronislaus Luszcz 

outside of Eureka, MO 
Created 1938-1960 
Grottos and shrine to honor Our Lady of Czestochowa 
Open to the public

The weather was just about as good as it gets for a summer day in Missouri…luckily there were no storms in sight. And finally I made it to a small town outside of St. Louis, Eureka, home of the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. I have heard a lot about the Franciscan Missionary Brothers retirement and nursing home…and the handmade stone grottos and shrines created by one Brother Bronislaus Luszcz. In 1927, he emigrated from Poland to the St. Louis area to assist in the building of the nursing home.

In his native Poland, Mary is the Queen of Peace and Mercy, and the most famous shrine is in Czestochowa, at the Jasna Gora monastery.  According to the website for the Francisan order; “‘Black Madonna’ is a nickname. It refers to skin tones in the portrait of Mary and Jesus. They and St. Joseph lived in a hot climate. Hence, their skin tone would be dark brown or olive in order to survive the intensity of the sun and avoid skin cancer.”

Millions of candles, aging oil paints, time, fire… all contributed to the darkening of the portrait,  now referred to as “The Black Madonna.”  A reproduction of the painting is in the open air chapel. 

In 1937, wanting to share his faith and memories of the pilgrims passing through his town, Brother Bronislaus began his hand-making his creations out of native Missouri tiff rock and ornamentations such as shells, costume jewelry, ceramic figurines, etc.. Beginning with the Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, he created over massive 7 grottos in the course of twenty years.

On August 12, 1960, Brother Bronislaus was overcome by the summer sun. He had been ill with the flu, and hadn’t fully recovered when he returned to his work. He made his way to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto, where his brothers found his body, after his failure to attend evening prayers created cause for concern.