The history of the Sanctuary and of the miraculous image of our Lady of Koden is strictly related to the Sapieha family. Nevertheless, the whole story begins much earlier.

A legend dating back to the times of Apostles tells us about the foundation of the image of the Gregorian Madonna. By operation of the Christ’s last will on the Cross, Mary became the Mother of the Church. She stayed with the comunity of confessors of Jesus up to the moment of her Assumption. One of the Lord’s disciples who has probably made her image was Saint Luke the Evangelist. According to tradition, he carved in wood the statue of the Blessed Mother which – in the first centuries of the Church – found her way to Constantinople, the capitol of the Christian Orient. It was there that the Benedictine monk Gregory Anitius, the Pope’s representant at the caesarian court, prayed before our Lady of Saint Luke. When he became the successor of Saint Peter as Gregory I, he brought the statue to Rome.

In the 6th century, the bishop Leander from the Spanish Seville was staying in Rome. He had known Gregory the Great since the latter had performed the function of the  papal nuncio in Constantinople. A great piety of the bishop Leander and his care for the orthodoxy of the Spanish people have made him ask the Holy Father to give to Spain the miraculous statue of the Gregorian Madonna. It is not difficult to imagine Gregory’s sorrow because of the separation with his beloved statue. Therefore, after Leander’s long persuasions, the Pope decided to transfer the statue, but first, he had taken care for making its copy, asking for this Augustine of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk,  a great missionary of the  British Islands and the founder of the episcopal capitol in Canterbury. Gifted with a talent for painting, based on the sculpture which was to be transferred to the Spanish Guadalupe, he painted the image of the Blessed Mother. Up to the 17th century, the image was stored in Rome, in the Home of Popes.

In 1629, the prince Mikolaj (Nicolas) Pius Sapieha, the fourth owner of Koden, starts the construction of  a brick-built temple on the town’s market, close to the wooden St. Anna’s parish church.. When the temple was being built, he fell severely ill. The consequences of his disease probably included a paresis of the body, a total indifference towards all, an  indisposition towards life. The construction of the temple was interrupted. Following his wife’s persuasions, Nicolas made a pilgrimage to Rome to ask for the grace of health. The heritor of Koden who had studied in the West in his youth and who had known the Eternal City, eagerly agreed to leave, regardless of the fatigue of his road. His venture was difficult not only for logistic reasons, but, in the first place, because Nicolas was practically paralyzed.

When the suite arrived to Rome, Sapieha was invited to the audience with the Holy Father Urban VIII, and he took part in the Holy Mass said in the private chapel of the Pope. It was there that, for the first time, Nicolas Sapieha saw the image of the Gregorian, i.e. Guadeloupian Blessed Mother. The Eucharist said by Urban VIII in front of this image has totally changed the life of the pilgrim from Poland. Nicolas Sapieha experienced the grace of being completely healed. We can only imagine joy and gratefulness which filled his heart. He felt a warm desire to take the miraculous image with him to Koden and to place it in the church under construction. Arguably, Nicolas requested the Pope to give him this image. Nevertheless, as we learn fromulterior events, the Holy Father must have refused him. So, Nicolas Sapieha makes a decision to commit a  sacrilegious deed which, simultaneously, exposes his great love to the Gregorian Blessed Mother. He makes a decision to steal the image treacherously and to run away with it secretly to Koden. So, a poursuit is following Nicolas in order to stop the impudent pilgrim. Nevertheless, the heritor of Koden was a consummate strategist. He anticipates the Pope’s movement and he makes the decision to  mislead the poursuit. On September 15 1631, Nicolas Sapieha arrives in Koden with Mary’s image. Given that the construction of the church has not been completed, the image was placed in the castle’s chapel of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, Sapieha was reached by the Pope’s anger. For his sacrilege, Urban VIII punished him with  excommunication. Eversince, Sapieha could not receive the Sacraments; he was weighed down with the proscription of overstepping the threshhold of any temple; after his death, he could not be buried in blessed ground.

Nevertheless, excommunication is a correctional punishment which has to coax the sinner into conversion. In 1636, Sapieha makes a second voyage to Rome. The aim of the penitential pilgrimage was to take away the papal  anathema. Searching for the causes of such a decision of the Pope, we can indicate Sapieha’s participation, in 1635, in the extraordinary session of the Parliament; deputees discussed the question of the planned marriage of Wladyslaw IV, King of Poland, with Elisabeth, the niece of the Stuart King Charles I. Probably, Sapieha was against because he saw in this marriage a chance of reinforcing the influence of the Reformation as the princess was Luteran. The Archbishop Honorat Visconti, the apostolic nuncio in Poland, was involved in taking away the punishment. Probably, the Pope Urban VIII cancelled the punishment and offerred the image to Sapieha. In the 20th century, Zofia Kossak[-Szczucka] described this story in a literary manner in her novel “Błogosławiona wina” (“The Blessed Fault”).

Jan Fryderyk (John Frederick) Sapieha, the nineth heritor of Koden, requested the Vatican to carry out the papal coronation of the image of our Lady of Koden. In 1723, the image of the Blessed Mother was crowned with papal crowns. It was the third coronation of an image on the territory of ancient Poland.

In the times of partitions of Poland, the tsar [Alexander II] punished Koden because its inhabitants had taken part in the January Uprising. In 1864, in Koden, there was a  skirmish in which the tsar’s troop was smeared. Koden lost the town charter. Furthermore, all the Catholic parishes were decommissioned, and Catholic priests were banished; the inhabitants were burdened with heavy contributions for the tsar’s army; the Russian language was introduced to schools and offices. The annexationist took away the image of our Lady of Koden and carted it away to Czestochowa. For 52 years, the image has been present in the chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Basilica of Jasna Gora (The Luminous Mount).

After the renaissance of the diocese of Siedlce, the bishop Henryk Przezdziecki suggested to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to start the pastoral care in the parish and in the sanctuary of Koden. In 1927, the conventuals arrived in Koden. At once, they began to prepare the St. Anna’s church to take the image of our Lady of Koden who came back home after her exile on September 3 1927 and who is staying with us until today.