dimanche 16 octobre 2016

Sainte EDWIGE (HEDWIGE) de SILÉSIE, duchesse et abbesse cistecienne


Sainte Hedwige

Duchesse de Silésie ( 1243)

ou Edwige. 

Fille du comte de Bavière, elle épouse, à douze ans, le duc de Silésie, chef de la famille royale polonaise, qui réussit à refaire l'unité de la Pologne. Elle est la belle-sœur du roi de France, Philippe Auguste. Avec son mari, elle encourage la fondation des monastères dans le royaume. Mère de famille attentive auprès de ses sept enfants, elle rejoint, à la mort de son époux, sa fille Gertrude qui était abbesse cistercienne à Trebnitz en Pologne et elle y mène dans l'humilité une vie très simple.


Mémoire de sainte Edwige, religieuse. Née en Bavière, mariée à Henri le Barbu, duc de Silésie et de Pologne, elle se dévoua avec beaucoup d’élan à venir en aide aux pauvres et construisit pour eux des hospices. Après la mort de son mari, elle passa les dernières années de sa vie, activement, au monastère de moniales cisterciennes qu’elle avait fait édifier à Trzebnicz en Silésie, et dont l’abbesse était sa fille Gertrude, et c’est là qu’elle mourut le 15 octobre 1243.


Martyrologe romain




Sainte Hedwig von Andechs 

Hedwige, née vers 1179, est la fille de Berthold IV von Diessen, comte d’Andechs et duc de Méranie, comte de Tyrol et prince de Carinthie et d’Istrie, et de son épouse Agnès de Wettin Misnie. Sa sœur Gertrude a épousé André II, roi de Hongrie : de ce mariage est née Élisabeth de Hongrie. Sa sœur Agnès a épousé Philippe Auguste, roi de France. Sa sœur Mechtilde, est devenue abbesse de Kissingen. Hedwige est élevée à l'abbaye des Bénédictines de Kitzingen.

À 12 ans, elle épouse Henri Ier le Barbu, duc de Silésie ; la date précise et le lieu de la cérémonie du mariage d'Hedwige avec Henri le Barbu ne sont pas connus. Elle mit au monde sept enfants, dont quatre moururent en bas âge. 

Après la mort de ses frères et de son père, Henri le Barbu, comme unique successeur, accéda au pouvoir en 1202. Hedwige devint alors duchesse de Silésie. Profondément enracinée dans ce milieu, s'étant familiarisée avec la langue, ayant appris à connaître le pays et ses habitants, elle ne resta pas sans exercer une influence sur l'activité de son mari. Elle prêta son appui à des projets politiques de celui-ci et, par l’intermédiaire de ses frères et sœurs, elle lui facilita des contacts internationaux. Non sans son initiative, sa fille Gertrude fut fiancée à Otto Wittelsbach, et les filles du roi de Bohême, Anne et Agnès, devinrent ses belles-filles. Des effets durables de sa collaboration avec son mari se manifestent à travers de nombreuses fondations d'églises, faites dans le cadre du processus d’aménagement de nouvelles bourgades en Silesie.

La plus célèbre fondation ducale en Silésie fut le monastère des cisterciennes de Trzebnica (en allemand, Trebnitz), fondé en 1202 à l'initiative d'Hedwige. Son frère Ekbert, évêque de Bamberg, y envoya un groupe de moniales du monastère de la Vierge Marie et Saint-Théodore à Bamberg, avec Petrissa, ancienne éducatrice d'Hedwige, comme première abbesse de Trzebnica. Richement dotée par Henri le Barbu, l'abbaye commença vite à rayonner une intense vie religieuse. A partir de 1208, elle se peupla de religieuses polonaises ; en 1212, la fille d'Hedwige, Gertrude, devint cistercienne à Trzebnica et, avant 1232, elle en fut nommée abbesse. Les démarches d'Hedwige amenèrent en 1218 à faire admettre l'abbaye de Trzebnica comme premier monastère féminin dans l`Ordre de Cîteaux.

La dot importante, dont Hedwige disposait librement, lui permirent d'organiser un hôpital ambulant auprès de la cour, destiné aux pauvres, d'entretenir un hôpital pour les lépreux à Sróda, ainsi que d'organiser un hospice. Dans ses domaines, elle réduisit les redevances des paysans, faisant des provisions qui permirent de supporter plus facilement les calamités dues aux inondations et à la famine (1221-1222). Elle influença les décisions de son mari en adoucissant souvent ses jugements, ce qu’elle concevait aussi comme son devoir envers le pays.

Des événements pénibles vécus en 1208-1213 (la succession des décès de ses enfants, des adversités touchant sa lignée, l'exil de ses frères et, surtout, l'assassinat de sa sœur Gertrude, reine de Hongrie), augmentèrent chez Hedwige l'esprit d'expiation et le désir de consacrer sa vie à des actes de charité.
Après vingt années d'union, Hedwige obtint de son mari le consentement à la séparation, confirmée par un vœu solennel. Dès ce moment, elle résida au monastère de Trzebnica, partageant avec les religieuses les devoirs résultant de la règle. Elle prit l'habit cistercien, mais elle ne fit pas de vœux monastiques, même après la mort d'Henri le Barbu, inspirée sûrement par la volonté de disposer librement de ses biens. 

La renommée de la sainteté de sa nièce Élisabeth de Thuringe (morte en 1231, canonisée en 1235) et la spiritualité franciscaine l'incitaient à multiplier des pratiques expiatoires, à soigner les malades, à entourer de soins les prisonniers et les pauvres.

L'invasion des Tartares en 1241, au cours de laquelle périt son fils Henri le Pieux (Henryk Pobozny) dans la bataille de Legnica (Liegnitz), fut vécue par Hedwige à Krosno sur l'Odra, ensemble avec les moniales et sa belle-fille. 

Épuisée par son activité caritative et par une rigoureuse ascèse qui de son vivant déjà lui assurèrent un grand prestige, Hedwige mourut à Trzebnica en octobre 1243.

En se basant sur la date de l’anniversaire célébré au monastère de Trzebnica encore avant sa canonisation, on admet comme date précise de sa mort le 14 octobre. Après la mort d'Hedwige, son culte se propagea vite et des foules toujours plus grandes affluèrent auprès de sa tombe à Trzebnica, venant de Silésie, de Grande-Pologne, de Poméranie, de Lusace et de Misnie. La demande de canoniser Hedwige, présentée par sa fille Gertrude, abbesse de Trzebnica, et par l’épiscopat polonais, fut appuyée par des princes polonais et par le roi de Bohême. 

La mort du pape Urbain IV (Jacques Pantaleon, 1261-1264) retarda la chose mais déjà son successeur Clément IV (Guy Foulques, 1265-1268) canonisa Hedwige le 26 mars 1267, à Viterbe.

Au cours des temps, la fête liturgique fut célébrée à des jours différents du 14 au 17 octobre.

Source principale : missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/(« Rév. x gpm »).



Henri Ier avec sa famille. Assis au centre : Henri et son épouse Edwige. 
Debout, de gauche à droite : Gertrude, Agnès, Henri et Boleslas. Sophie et Conrad assis au premier plan



Née vers 1179, sainte Hedwige était l’un des huit enfants[1] du de Berthold IV, comte de Diesseu-Andechs (Bavière) qui, à partir de 1180, fut prince titulaire de Méranie (Istrie) ; elle était née du son second mariage de son père, conclu après 1176 avec Agnès, fille du margrave de Misnie, Dedon V de Rochlitz. Comme fille aînée, selon la coutume d'alors, elle reçut le nom de sa grand-mère. Son éducation, commencée à Andechs sur le lac Ammer (Ammersee) où se trouvait le château familial, se poursuivit au monastère des bénédictines de Kitzingen sur le Main (diocèse de Wurtzbourg) où elle reçut une bonne formation intellectuelle pour l'époque, ainsi qu'une éducation religieuse soignée. Les mœurs et la langue slaves n'étaient pas étrangères à la famille d'Hedwige, étant donné leurs biens situés en territoires slaves, les mariages des souxerains de Misnie avec les Piast, et les contacts des Andechs avec des Slaves du Sud.
Par suite des changements politiques dans les Balkans, le mariage projeté d'Hedwige avec Toljen Nemanicz, fils du comes serbe Miroslaw, ne put se réaliser. Vers 1190, Hedwige, alors âgée de 12 ans, fut envoyée à Wroclaw, à la cour de prince Boleslas Wysoki (Boleslas le Haut) dont elle devait épouser le fils, Henryk Brodaty[2] (Henri le Barbu). Cette union devait procurer à l'Empereur un nouveau partisan et, en même temps, porter les souverains de la Bohême et de la Hongrie, apparentés avec les Piast de la lignée silésienne, à quitter la coalition de Welfowie, hostile à l'Empereur.
La date précise et le lieu de la cérémonie du mariage d'Hedwige avec Henri le Barbu ne sont pas connus. La première dizaine d'années de son séjour en Pologne s'écoula sous le signe de la vie de famille et de cour. Elle mit au monde sept enfants, dont quatre moururent en bas âge[3]. A la cour de Silésie régnaient les coutumes polonaises. Hedwige fut entourée de Polonais, bien qu’il ne manquât sûrement pas de demoiselles d'honneur et d'hommes d'Église venus de sa patrie.
Après la mort de ses frères et de son père, Henri le Barbu, comme unique successeur, accéda au pouvoir en 1202. Hedwige devint alors duchesse de Silésie. Profondément enracinée dans ce milieu, s'étant familiarisée avec la langue, ayant appris à connaître le pays et ses habitants, elle ne resta pas sans exercer une influence sur l'activité de son mari. Elle prêta son appui à des projets politiques de celui-ci et, par l’intermédiaire de ses frères et sœurs, elle lui facilita des contacts internationaux. On trouve aussi des marques de ses initiatives et d’actions autonomes. En 1229, quand à la suite de la lutte avec Conrad Mazowiecki pour le trône de Cracovie, Henri le Barbu fut fait prisonnier, Hedwige joua le rôle d'intermédiaire et obtint la libération de son mari. Les négociations furent confirmées par le contrat conjugal prévoyant le mariage de ses deux petites-filles avec les fils de Conrad. Non sans son initiative, sa fille Gertrude fut fiancée à Otto Wittelsbach, et les filles du roi de Bohême, Anne et Agnès, devinrent ses belles-filles. Des effets durables de sa collaboration avec son mari se manifestent à travers de nombreuses fondations d'églises, faites dans le cadre du processus d’aménagement de nouvelles bourgades en Silesie.
La plus célèbre fondation ducale en Silésie fut le monastère des cisterciennes de Trzebnica (en allemand, Trebnitz), fondé en 1202 à l'initiative d'Hedwige. Son frère Ekbert, évêque de Bamberg, y envoya un groupe de moniales du monastère de la Vierge Marie et Saint-Théodore à Bamberg, avec Petrissa, ancienne éducatrice d'Hedwige, comme première abbesse de Trzebnica. Richement dotée par Henri le Barbu, l'abbaye commença vite à rayonner une intensense vie religieuse. A partir de 1208, elle se peupla de religieuses polonaises ; en 1212, la fille d'Hedwige, Gertrude, devint cistercienne à Trzebnica et, avant 1232, elle en fut nommée abbesse. Les démarches d'Hedwige amenèrent en 1218 à faire admettre l'abbaye de Trzebnica comme premier monastère féminin dans l`Ordre de Cîteaux.
La dot importante dont Hedwige disposait librement, constituée par les domaines de Zawon et de Jawon et par la châtellenie de Wlen, lui permirent d'organiser un hôpital ambulant auprès de la cour, destiné aux pauvres, d'entretenir un hôpital pour les lépreux à Sróda, ainsi que d'organiser un hospice. Dans ses domaines, elle réduisit les redevances des paysans, faisant des provisions qui permirent de supporter plus facilement les calamités dues aux inondations et à la famine (1221-1222). Elle influença les décisions de son mari en adoucissant souvent ses jugements, ce qu’elle concevait aussi comme son devoir envers le pays.
Des événements pénibles vécus en 1208-1213 (la succession des décès de ses enfants[4], des adversités touchant sa lignée, l'exil de ses frères et, surtout, l'assassinat de sa sœur Gertrude, reine de Hongrie), augmentèrent chez Hedwige l'esprit d'expiation et le désir de consacrer sa vie à des actes de charité. Après vingt années d'union, Hedwige obtint de son mari le consentement à la séparation, confirmée par un vœu solennel. Dès ce moment, elle résida au monastère de Trzebnica, partageant avec les religieuses les devoirs résultant de la règle. Elle prit l'habit cistercien, mais elle ne fit pas de vœux monastiques, même après la mort d'Henri le Barbu, inspirée sûrement par la volonté de disposer librement de ses biens. La renommée de la sainteté de sa nièce Élisabeth de Thuringe (morte en 1231, canonisée en 1235) et la spiritualité franciscaine l'incitaient à multiplier des pratiques expiatoires, à soigner les malades, à entourer de soins les prisonniers et les pauvres.
Au-delà de la dévotion pour le Christ, elle avait un culte particulier pour la Mère de Dieu, ne se séparant jamais de sa petite statuette gothique. De son goût pour la liturgie témoignent de précieuses reliques : le Psautier de Trzebnica[5], enluminé et les « Offices de sainte Hedwige[6]
L'invasion des Tartares en 1241, au cours de laquelle périt son fils Henri le Pieux (Henryk Pobozny)[7], dans la bataille de Legnica (Liegnitz), fut vécue par Hedwige à Krosno sur l'Odra, ensemble avec les moniales et sa belle-fille. Epuisée par son activité caritative et par une rigoureuse ascèse qui de son vivant déjà lui assurèrent un grand prestige, Hedwige mourut à Trzebnica en octobre 1243. En se basant sur la date de l’anniversaire célébré au monastère de Trzebnica encore avant sa canonisation, on admet comme date précise de sa mort au 14 octobre. Après la mort d'Hedwige, son culte se propagea vite et des foules toujours plus grandes affluèrent auprès de sa tombe à Trzebnica, venant de Silésie, de Grande-Pologne, de Poméranie, de Lusace et de Misnie. La demande de canoniser Hedwige, présentée par sa fille Gertrude, abbesse de Trzebnica, et par l’épiscopat polonais, fut appuyée par des princes polonais et par le roi de Bohême. La mort du pape Urbain IV retarda la chose mais déjà son successeur Clément IV canonisa Hedwige le 26 mars 1267, à Viterbe, en fixant sa fête patronale au 15 octobre. L'ouverture de la tombe et l'élévation des reliques eurent lieu le 17 août 1267, suivies le 25 août 1269 par la translation solennelle dans une nouvelle chapelle gothique, fondée par un petit-fils d'Hedwige, Ladislas, archevêque de Salzbourg et administrateur de l'évêché de Wroclaw. A la demande du roi de Pologne, Jean Sobieski, le pape Innocent XI étendit en 1680 le culte d'Hedwige à toute l'Eglise catholique. C'est de cette époque-là que date le sarcophage avec la statue d'Hedwige en albâtre, commandé par l’abbesse Christine Pawlowska de Wierzbno. Au cours des temps, la fête liturgique fut célébrée à des jours différents du 14 au 17 octobre.



[1] Deux frères de sainte Hedwige furent évêques, une de ses sœurs fut abbesse, une autre fut reine de Hongrie et mère de sainte Elisabeth, une troisième, Agnès, fut reine de France et femme de Philippe II Auguste.
[2] Henri I° le Barbu né vers 1168, succéda à son père, Boleslas le Long, en 1202, et mourut en 1238. Il favorisa la culture germanique et les influences allemandes ; après 1230, il commanda en Pologne et à Cracovie.
[3] Boleslas, Agnès, Sophie et Ladislas moururent en bas âge.
[4] Tous moururent avant elle, à l’exception de Gertrude. Née en 1200, elle fut fiancée à Othon de Wittelsbach, palatin du Rhin (1208). Après que son fiancé fut tué (5 mars 1209), elle refusa d’autres fiançailles et entra à Trzebnica dont elle devint abbesse (1229). Elle mourut en 1268.
[5] Bibliothèque de l'Université de Wroclaw.
[6] Bibliothèque Pierpont-Morgan à New York : livre de prières orné de 150 miniatures, contenant aussi le calendrier et des notices nécrologiques de la dynastie des Piast, des Przemyslidzi et des Andechs.
[7] Henri le Pieux, né en 1191, fut duc de Silésie et de Pologne. A l’emplacement de la bataille, sainte Hedwige fonda la prévôté bénédictine de Wahlstatt.
SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/10/16.php



Hedwig (Jadwiga, Avoice), OSB Cist. Queen Religious (RM)

Born in Bavaria c. 1174; died in Silesia, 1243; canonized 1267. Hedwig was one of the eight children born to Berthold IV, the count of Andechs, who ruled over the Tyrol and Istria (Croatia and Dalmatia). Two of her brothers became bishops and two of her sisters became queens. One of them, Gertrude, who married Andrew II of Hungary, was the mother of Saint Elizabeth (of Hungary, my fav!).


As a child she was placed in the Benedictine monastery of Kitzingen in Franconia (see Saint Thecla).
In 1186, when she was 12 years old, Hedwig was married to 18-year- old Henry the Bearded, prince of Poland and future duke of Silesia. She bore him 6 (some say 7) children and the family was closely knit. But from 1209 onwards she and her husband agreed to live in perpetual continence. Hedwig was then 35 and Duke Henry was barely past 40, but he submitted to the austere disciple without complaint or resistance.

After succeeding to his father's dukedom in 1202, and under Hedwig's influence, Henry founded the monastery of Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (near Breslau, now Wroclaw), the first convent of women in Silesia. The convent was built with the labor of those convicted of crimes. It was the first of a large number of such establishments founded by the couple, including houses of Augustinian canons, Cistercian monks, and Dominican and Franciscan friars, by which religion and German culture were spread over their territories.

Henry also founded the Hospital of the Holy Ghost in Breslau, and Hedwig founded a hospital for female lepers.

Following the example of his wife, he was sustained by a great and ennobling piety. He let his beard grow in the manner of Cistercian converts (when his name Henry the Bearded) and greatly reduced his household expenses, devoting the money that he saved to charitable purposes. After their separation Henry never again wore gold, silver, or purple.

There have been few duchesses like her. She was humble, serving the poor and the lepers, pardoning offenses, helping her enemies, and bringing aid to even the most insolent and hardened sinners. She kept barely a hundredth part of her income, giving the rest away with an open hand. Beneath her tattered cloak she wore a hair shirt. She went about with naked feet in all weather, and when, in obedience to her confessor, she bought a pair of new shoes, she carried them under her arms. She scourged herself and subjected her soul and her body to countless mortifications.

Towards the end of her life she had the gift of working cures and making predictions. Several miracles are recorded of her--she fell asleep, it was said, one night while reading the Bible by candlelight; the book caught fire and burned, but was undamaged. A blind man's sight was restored because of her blessing.

As for Henry I, her good and faithful husband, she outlived him by five years. In 1227, Henry engaged in fighting Conrad of Masovia for the land of Ladislaus of Sandomir who had been killed in battle. Henry triumphed and established himself at Cracow, but he was kidnapped during Mass and taken by Conrad to Plock. Hedwig followed and helped bring the two to a peaceful agreement, which included the marriage of her two granddaughters to Conrad's sons. Upon Duke Henry's death in 1238 Hedwig moved into the monastery at Trebnitz. Hedwig did not cry at her husband's death; she consoled the sorrowing nuns instead.

God treats harshly those whom he loves. All her children died before she did, except for one daughter, Gertrude, who was the abbess of the convent of Trebnitz. Two of her sons dishonored the family name by engaging in fratricidal wars, and another son, Henry the Pious who succeeded his father, was killed in 1241 by the Tartars at the battle of Liegnitz. Again, Hedwig comforted the others.

She took the habit of the nuns but not the vows, wishing to administer her property as she wished to help the needy. She predicted her own death, insisting on being anointed before anyone else would acknowledge she was in danger. Worn out by the hardships she had endured, she died in 1243, in her seventieth year.

Riches have never been able to buy entrance into heaven. Hedwig, the duchess with the naked feet and workworn hands, had no need to knock on the gates which, at her approach, swung open of themselves. And someone was on the threshold to greet with open arms the woman who had freely given of her heart, her wealth, and her light, and who had been a supreme example of the life of poverty in the example of God (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).

The policies and foundations of Duke Henry and Saint Hedwig were important in Silesian history through the increase of German influence they brought to the country (Attwater).
She is the patroness of Silesia, and venerated in Franconia.

Depicted in art with the church and a statue of the Virgin Mary in her hands; or washing the feet of the poor; or barefoot with her shoes in her hands; or in a religious habit with the robes and crown of a princess near her (White). Sometimes she is seen holding a picture of the Virgin and Child in her hand or Christ blessing her from the Cross (Roeder).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1016.shtml

St. Hedwig

Duchess of Silesia, b. about 1174, at the castle of Andechs; d. at Trebnitz, 12 or 15 October, 1243. She was one of eight children born to Berthold IV, Count of Andechs and Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. Of her four brothers, two became bishops, Ekbert of Bamberg, and Berthold of Aquileia; Otto succeeded his father as Duke of Dalmatia, and Heinrich became Margrave of Istria. Of her three sisters, Gertrude married Andrew II, King of Hungary, from which union sprang St. Elizabeth, Landgravine of Thuringia; Mechtilde became Abbess of Kitzingen; while Agnes was made the unlawful wife of Philip II of France in 1196, on the repudiation of his lawful wife, Ingeborg, but was dismissed in 1200, Innocent III having laid France under an interdict. Hedwig was educated at the monastery of Kitzingen, and, according to an old biography, at the age of twelve (1186), was married to Henry I of Silesia (b. 1168), who in 1202 succeeded his father Boleslaw as Duke of Silesia. Henry's mother was a German; he himself had been educated in Germany; and now through his wife he was brought into still closer relations with Germany. Henry I was an energetic prince, who greatly extended the boundaries of his duchy, established his authority on a firm basis, and rendered important services to civilization in the realm. For this purpose he encouraged to the utmost the spread of the more highly developed civilization existing in the German territories adjoining his to the west, so that Silesia became German in language and customs.


Hedwig now took a prominent part in the beneficent administration of her husband. Her prudence, fortitude, and piety won for her great influence in the government of the land. In particular she gave her support to new monastic foundations and assisted those already in existence. It was chiefly through the monasteries that German civilization was spread in Silesia. Henry and Hedwig endowed munificently the Cistercian monastery of Leubus, the Premonstratensian monastery of St. Vincent, and the foundation of the Canons of St. Augustine at Breslau. The following monasteries were established: the Augustinian priory of Naumburg on the Bober (1217), later transferred to Sagan, the Cistercian monastery of Heinrichau (1227), and the priory of the Augustinian Canons at Kamenz (1210). St. Hedwig brought the Dominicans to Bunzlau and Breslau, the Franciscans to Goldberg (1212) and later to Krossen. The Templars established a house at Klein-Oels. Henry was also the founder of the Hospital of the Holy Ghost at Breslau (1214), and Hedwig tended with disinterested charity the leper women in the hospital at Neumarkt. At the instance of his saintly wife, the duke then founded at his own expense, and on ground donated by himself the convent of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz (1202), and generously endowed it. This was the first house of religious women in Silesia. The first nuns came from Bamberg and took possession of their new monastery early in 1203. The first abbess is said to have been Petrussa, succeeded by Bl. Gertrude, a daughter of Henry and Hedwig, who at an early age had been betrothed to Otto von Wittelsbach. After he murdered the German King Philip of Swabia (1208), the betrothal was annulled and Gertrude entered the Abbey of Trebnitz (before 1212), where she later became abbess.

For some years after her marriage, Hedwig resided chiefly at Breslau. She had seven children. A son, Boleslaw, and two daughters, Sophia and Agnes, died at an early age; Henry succeeded to his father's title; Conrad died while still a young man, in consequence of a fall from his horse (c. 1214); and Gertrude embraced the religious life. On Christmas Day, 1208, another son of Hedwig's was baptized, probably not identical with the above-mentioned Boleslaw, who had died before this time. On the suggestion of Hedwig, after the birth of this last child, she and her husband led a virgin life (1209), and pronounced a vow of chastity before the Bishop of Breslau. Duke Henry took the tonsure and allowed his beard to grow, like the Cistercian lay brothers (whence his sobriquet of "the Bearded"). From this time forward Hedwig spent much of her time at the Abbey of Trebnitz, where, on the death of her husband (1238), she took up her permanent abode, that she might devote herself unreservedly to exercises of mortification and piety as well as to works of charity. She transferred to the abbey her inheritance of Schawoine. Hedwig had had many trials and tribulations. In the year 1227 her husband, with Duke Lesko of Sandomir, was treacherously set upon by Swantopolk, Duke of Pomerania, and severely wounded. Hedwig immediately hastened to Gonsawa, where the bloody deed had taken place, to care for her husband. Lesko had been killed, and war now broke out between Henry of Silesia and Conrad of Masovia over the possession of Cracow. Conrad was defeated, but succeeded in surprising Henry in a church attending Divine service and led him captive to Plock (1229). Hedwig forthwith went to her husband's assistance, and her very appearance made such an impression on Conrad of Masovia that he released the duke.

Of Hedwig's children, only Gertrude survived her; Duke Henry II fell at Wahlstatt (1241) in a battle against the Tatars. After her husband's death, Hedwig took the grey habit of the Cistercians, but was not received into the order as a religious, that she might retain the right to spend her revenues in charities. The duchess practised severe mortification, endured all trials with the greatest resignation, with self-denying charity cared for the sick and supported the poor; in her interior life of prayer, she gave herself up to meditation on supernatural things. Her piety and gentleness won for her even during life the reputation of a saint. She was interred in the church attached to the monastery, and was canonized by Clement IV, 26 March, 1267, and on 25 August of the same year her remains were raised to the honours of the altar. Her feast is celebrated 17 October; she in honoured as the patroness of Silesia.

With St. Hedwig as patroness, R. Spiske, later canon at Breslau, founded, in 1848, a pious association of women and young girls, from which developed the congregation of the Sisters of St. Hedwig, established in 1859, at Breslau, under the Rule of St. Augustine, and constitutions approved by the bishop. Their chief aim is the education of orphaned and abandoned children; they also conduct schools for little girls and trade schools. Their activity extends chiefly over Germany and Austria, but they also have a house in Denmark. The sisters number about three hundred, with mother-house at Breslau.

Sources

Acta SS., Oct., VIII, 189-267; STENGEL, Scriptores rerum Silesiacarum, II (Breslau, 1835—), 1 sqq; SEMKOWICZ, Monumenta Poloniæ historica, IV (Lemberg, 1884), 510-651; POTTHAST, Bibliotheca hist. med. ævii, II, 1362-63, with bibliography; Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, ed BOLLAND., I, 562; GÖRLICH, Das Leben der hl. Hedwig, Herzogin von Schlesien (Breslau, 1843; 2nd ed., 1854); WOLFSKRON, Die Bilder der Hedwigslegende (Vienna, 1846); KNOBLICH, Lebensgeschichte der Landespatronin Schlesiens, der hl. Hedwig (Breslau, 1860); LUCHS, Ueber die Bilder der Hedwigslegende (Breslau, 1861); BECKER, Die hl. Hedwig, Herzogin von Schlesien und Polen (Freiburg im Br., 1872); JUNGNITZ, Die hl. Hedwig (Breslau, 1886); IDEM, Das Breslauer Brevier und Proprium (Breslau, 1893), 24 sqq.; BAZIN, Ste Hedwige, sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris, 1895); MICHAEL, Geschichte des deutschen Volkes vom 13. Jahrh. bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, II (Freiburg im Br., 1899) 225 sqq.; BRAUNSBERGER, Rückblick auf das katholisches Ordenswesen im 19. Jahrhundert (Freiburg im Br., 1901).

 Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Hedwig." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 16 Oct. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07189a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.



From her exact life extant in Surius, and D’Andilly, Saints Illustr. See also Chromer, Hist. l. 7, 8; Dlugoss, Hist. Polonicæ, l. 6 et 7, and F. Raderus, Bavaria Sancta, t. 1, p. 147.

A.D. 1243

THE FATHER of this saint was Bertold III. of Andechs, marquis of Meran, count of Tirol, and prince (or duke) of Carinthia and Istria, 1 as he is styled in the Chronicle of Andechs, and in the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. 2 Her mother was Agnes, daughter of the count of Rotletchs. St. Hedwiges had three sisters and four brothers. Her eldest sister, Agnes, was married to Philip Augustus, king of France; Gertrude, the second, to Andrew, king of Hungary, by whom she had St. Elizabeth; the third was abbess of Lutzingen in Franconia. As to her brothers, Bertold died patriarch of Aquileia, and Elebert, bishop of Bamberg: Henry and Otho divided between them their father’s principalities, and became renowned generals. St. Hedwiges, by a distinguishing effect of the divine mercy in her favour, was from her cradle formed to virtue by the example and lessons of her devout mother, and of those that were placed about her. In her infancy she discovered no marks of levity, and all her inclinations were turned to piety and devotion. She was placed very young in the monastery of Lutzingen, in Franconia, and only taken thence, when twelve years old, to marry Henry, Duke of Silesia, descended of the dukes of Glogau in that country; to which match she only consented out of compliance with the will of her parents. In this state, by the fidelity with which she acquitted herself of all her respective duties towards God, her husband, her children, and her family, she was truly the courageous woman described by the wise man, 3 who is to be sought from the utmost boundaries of the earth: making it her study in all things only to please God, and to sanctify her own soul and her household, she directed all her views and actions to this great end. With her husband’s free consent she always passed holydays, fast-days, and all seasons of devotion in continence. She bore her husband three sons, Henry, Conrad, and Boleslas; and three daughters, Agnes, Sophia, and Gertrude. After the birth of her sixth child, she engaged her husband to agree to a mutual vow of perpetual continence, which they made in presence of the bishop of the place; from which time they never met but in public places. Her husband faithfully kept this vow for thirty years that he lived afterwards; during which time he never wore any gold, silver, or purple, and never shaved his beard; from which circumstance he was surnamed Henry the Bearded; and so he is constantly called by Dlugoss, Chromer, and other Polish and German historians.The nobility of Greater Poland having expelled their Duke Ladislas Otonis, conferred on Henry that principality in 1233. Hedwiges endeavoured by all the means in her power to dissuade him from accepting that offer; but was not able to prevail. Henry marched thither with an army, and quietly took possession of that and some other provinces of Poland, and though Boleslas the Pious was Duke of Cracow and Sendomir, both he and some other lesser princes of that country stood so much in awe of Henry’s superior power, as never to dare to have any contest with him. From that time he is styled Duke of Poland. Out of partial fondness he was once desirous to leave his dominions to his second son, Conrad; but Hedwiges supported the cause of Henry, which was that of justice. The two brothers, with their factions, came to an open rupture, and notwithstanding their mother’s desire to reconcile them, a great battle was fought, in which Henry entirely routed his younger brother’s army, who died soon after in retirement and penance. This happened several years before the death of their father, and was one of those crosses by which the duchess learned more bitterly to deplore the miseries and blindness of the world, and more perfectly to disengage her heart from its slavery. Whether in prosperity or adversity her whole comfort was in God, and in the exercises of religion. The duke, at her persuasion, and upon her yielding into his hands her whole dower for this purpose, founded the great monastery of Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz, three miles from Breslaw, the capital of Silesia; upon which he settled the town of Trebnitz, and other estates, endowing it for the maintenance of one thousand persons, of which, in the first foundation, one hundred were nuns; the rest were young ladies of reduced families, who were to be here educated in piety, and afterwards provided with competent portions to marry advantageously in the world; or, if they were inclined to a monastic state, they were at liberty to profess it in this or in any other nunnery. This building was begun in 1203, and was carried on fifteen years without interruption, during which time all malefactors in Silesia, instead of other punishments, were condemned to work at it, and the severity of their servitude was proportioned to their crimes. The monastery was finished, and the church dedicated in 1219. The duchess practised in her palace greater austerities than those of the most rigid monks, fasted and watched in prayer, and wherever she travelled, had always thirteen poor persons with her, whom she maintained, in honour of Christ and his apostles, waiting upon them herself upon her knees at table, where they were served with good meat, before she took her own coarse refection. She often washed the feet and kissed the ulcers of lepers, and having an extreme desire to hear that amiable sentence from Christ at the last day: I was in prison and you visited me, &c., she exhausted her revenues in relieving the necessitous. The simplicity which she observed in her dress whilst she lived with her husband, showed, that if respect to him and his court obliged her to wear decent apparel, she was yet an enemy to vain or gaudy ornaments, which amuse a great part of her sex, and much more to all decorations and artifices of dress, with which many ladies study to set themselves off to advantage: a certain mark of vanity, or a pleasure they take in themselves, and a dangerous desire of pleasing others. This passion, which banishes from the breast where it reigns the spirit of Christ, and his gospel, cherishes the root of many vices, and without design spreads snares to entangle and destroy unwary souls, cannot find place in one whose conduct is regulated by, and whose heart is penetrated with, the spirit of Christian modesty.

St. Hedwiges, after her separation from her husband, carried her love of humility and penance much further in this respect, and wore only clothes of plain grey stuff. Her desire of advancing in perfection put her upon leaving the palace with her husband’s consent, and fixing altogether at Trebnitz, near the monastery, often retiring for some days into that austere house, where she lay in the dormitory, and complied with all the penitential exercises of the community. She wore the same cloak and tunic summer and winter; and underneath a rough hair shift, with sleeves of white serge, that it might not be discovered. She fasted every day, except Sundays and great festivals, on which she allowed herself two small refections. For forty years she never ate any flesh, though subject to frequent violent illnesses; except that once, under a grievous distemper in Poland, she took a little, in obedience to the precept of the pope’s legate. On Wednesdays and Fridays her refection was only bread and water. With going to churches barefoot, sometimes over ice and snow, her feet were often blistered, and left the ground stained with traces of her blood; but she carried shoes under her arms, to put on if she met any one. Her maids that attended her to church, though well clad, were not able to bear the cold, which she never seemed to feel. She had a good bed in her chamber, but never made use of it, taking her rest on the bare ground: she watched great part of the night in prayer and tears, and never returned to rest after matins. After compline she prolonged her prayers in the church till very late; and from matins till break of day. At her work, or other employments she never ceased to sigh to God in her heart as a stranger banished from him on earth, and returned often in the day to the church, where she usually retired into a secret corner, that her tears might not be perceived. The princess Anne, her daughter-in-law, who usually knelt next to her, admired the abundance of tears she saw her frequently shed at her devotions, the interior joy and delights with which she was often overwhelmed during her communications with heaven, and the sublime raptures with which she was sometimes favoured. The same was testified by Herbold, her confessor, and by several servant-maids. At her prayers she frequently kissed the ground, watering it with her tears, and in private often prayed a long time together prostrate on the floor. She continued in prayer during all the time it thundered, remembering the terrors of the last day. Her tears and devotion were extraordinary when she approached the holy communion. She always heard mass either kneeling, or prostrate, with a devotion which astonished all who saw her; nor could she be satisfied without hearing every morning all the masses that were said in the church where she was. 4

That devotion is false or imperfect which is not founded in humility and the subjection of the passions. St. Hedwiges always sincerely looked upon herself as the last and most ungrateful to God of all creatures, and she was often seen to kiss the ground where some virtuous person had knelt in the church. No provocation was observed to make her ever show the least sign of emotion or anger. Whilst she lived in the world, the manner in which she reprimanded servants for faults, showed how perfectly she was mistress of herself, and how unalterable the peace of her mind was. This also appeared in the heroic constancy with which she bore afflictions. Upon receiving the news of her husband being wounded in battle, and taken prisoner by the Duke of Kirne, she said, without the least disturbance of mind, that she hoped to see him in a short time at liberty and in good health. The conqueror rejected all terms that could be offered for his freedom; which obliged Henry, our saint’s eldest son, to raise a powerful army to attempt his father’s rescue by force of arms. Hedwiges, whose tender soul could never hear of the effusion of Christian blood without doing all in her power to prevent it, went in person to Conrad, and the very sight of her disarmed him of all his rage, so that she easily obtained what she demanded. The example of our saint had so powerful an influence over her husband, that he not only allowed her an entire liberty as to her manner of living, and exercises of piety, but began at length, in some degree, to copy her virtues; observed the modesty and recollection of a monk in the midst of a court; and became the father of his people, and the support of the poor and weak. All his thoughts were directed to administering justice to his subjects, and making piety and religion flourish in his dominions. He died happily in 1238: upon which melancholy occasion all the nuns at Trebnitz expressed their sense of so great a loss by many tears and other marks of grief. Hedwiges was the only person who could think of the deceased prince with dry eyes, and comforting the rest, said: “Would you oppose the will of God? Our lives are his. We ought to find our comfort in whatever he is pleased to ordain, whether as to our own death, or as to that of our friends.” The serenity of mind, and composure of features, with which on that occasion she urged the unreasonableness of an ungoverned grief, and the duty of resignation to the divine will, showed, still more than her words, how great a proficient she was in the virtues which she recommended, and how perfectly the motives of faith triumphed in her soul over the sentiments of nature. From that time she put on the religious habit at Trebnitz, and lived in obedience to her daughter Gertrude, who, having made her religious profession in that house when it was first founded, had been before that time chosen abbess. Nevertheless, St. Hedwiges never made any monastic vows, that she might continue to succour the necessitous by her bountiful charities.

One instance will suffice to show with what humility and meekness she conversed with her religious sisters. Out of a spirit of sincere poverty and humility she never wore any other than some old threadbare castaway habit. One of the nuns happened once to say to her: “Why do you wear these tattered rags? They ought rather to be given to the poor.” The saint meekly answered: “If this habit gives any offence I am ready to correct my fault.” And she instantly laid it aside and got another, though she would not have a new one. Three years after the death of her husband she sustained a grievous trial in the loss of her eldest most virtuous and most beloved son Henry, surnamed the Pious, who had succeeded his father in the duchies both of Greater and Lesser Poland, and of Silesia. The Tartars with a numberless army poured out of Asia by the north, proposing nothing less to themselves than to swallow up all Europe. Having plundered all the country that lay in their way through Russia and Bulgaria, they arrived at Cracow in Poland. Finding that city abandoned by its inhabitants who carried off their treasures, they burnt it to the ground, so that nothing was left standing except the church of St. Andrew without the walls. Continuing their march into Silesia they laid siege to the citadel of Breslaw, which was protected by the prayers of St. Ceslas or Cieslas, prior of the Dominicans there, and the barbarians, terrified by a globe of fire which fell from the heavens upon their camp, retired towards Legnitz. Duke Henry assembled his forces at Legnitz, and every soldier having been at confession, he caused mass to be said, at which he and all his army received the holy communion. 5 From this sacred action he courageously led his little army to fall upon the enemy, having with him Miceslas Duke of Oppolen in Higher Silesia, Boleslas, Marquis of Moravia, and other princes. He gave wonderful proofs both of his courage and conduct in this memorable battle, and for some time drove the barbarians before him: but at last, his horse being killed under him, he was himself slain not far from Legnitz, in 1241. His corpse was carried to the princess Anne, his wife, and by her sent to Breslaw, to be interred in the convent of Franciscans which he had begun to found there, and which she finished after his death. The grandchildren of our saint were preserved from the swords of these infidels, being shut up in the impregnable castle of Legnitz. St. Hedwiges herself had retired with her nuns and her daughter-in-law, Anne, to the fortress of Chrosne. Upon the news of this disaster she comforted her daughter the abbess, and her daughter-in-law the princess, who seemed almost dead with grief. Without letting fall a single tear, or discovering the least trouble of mind, she said: “God hath disposed of my son as it hath pleased him. We ought to have no other will than his.” Then, lifting up her eyes to heaven, she prayed as follows: “I thank you my God, for having given me such a son who always loved and honoured me, and never gave me the least occasion of displeasure. To see him alive was my great joy: yet I feel a still greater pleasure in seeing him, by such a death, deserve to be for ever united to you in the kingdom of your glory. Oh, my God, with my whole heart, I commend to you his dear soul.” The example of this saint’s lively faith and hope most powerfully and sweetly dispelled the grief of those that were in affliction, and her whole conduct was the strongest exhortation to every virtue. This gave an irresistible force to the holy advice she sometimes gave others. Being a true and faithful lover of the cross, she was wont to exhort all with whom she conversed, to arm themselves against the prosperity of the world with still more diligence than against its adversities, the former being fraught with more snares and greater dangers. Nothing seemed to surpass the lessons on humility which she gave to her daughter-in-law Anne, which were the dictates of her own feeling and experimental sentiments of that virtue. Her humility was honoured by God with the gift of miracles. A nun of Trebnitz who was blind, recovered her sight by the blessing of the saint with the sign of the cross. The author of her life gives us an account of several other miraculous cures wrought by her, and of several predictions, especially of her own death. In her last sickness she insisted on receiving extreme unction before any others could be persuaded that she was in danger. The passion of Christ, which she had always made a perpetual part of her most tender devotion, was the chief entertainment by which she prepared herself for her last passage. God was pleased to put a happy end to her labours by calling her to himself on the 15th of October, 1243. Her mortal remains were deposited at Trebnitz. She was canonized in 1266 by Clement IV., and her relics were enshrined the year following. 6 Pope Innocent XI. appointed the 17th of this month for the celebration of her office. 7

The constancy of this saint at the loss of friends proceeded not from insensibility. The bowels of saints are so much the more tender as their charity is always more compassionate and more extensive. But a lively apprehension of eternity, and of the nothingness of temporal things makes them regard this life as a moment, and set no value on any thing in it but inasmuch as God, his love or holy will, and our immortal glory may be concerned in it. Lewis of Granada tells us, in the life of the venerable servant of God, John of Avila, that the marchioness of Pliego, when she saw her eldest son delight in nothing but in retirement and devotion, used to say, that no other pleasure in this world can equal that of a mother who sees a dear child very virtuous. The same author mentions another lady of quality, likewise a spiritual daughter of that holy man, who, when she lost her most pious and beloved son, said she was not able to express her joy for having sent so dear a saint before her to heaven. If our grief on such occasions is ungoverned, we have reason to fear that our faith is weak, which makes such slender impressions on our souls.

Note 1. Chromer, (l. 7,) Baillet, and some others, style him Duke of Carinthia, Marquis of Moravia, &c. But Moravia, which, as appears from Bertius, (Rerum German.) was at that time possessed by another family, is substituted by mistake for Meran. The town of Meran, situated near the castle of Tirol, from which that name was afterwards given to the county, was a famous principality created before the reign of Frederic Barbarossa; by failure of heirs male, its dominions were afterwards divided between the Venetians, the dukes of Bavaria and Austria, the lord of Nuremberg, and other neighbouring princes. The castle of Andechs (now called the Holy Mountain, on account of the great number of saints’ bodies there interred) is situated opposite to Diessen, (probably Strabo’s Damasia,) now famous for a monastery of Regular Canons of St. Austin, in part of the ancient Vindelicia, now in Bavaria. The most religious and illustrious family of the counts of Andech is famous in the Martyrologies of Bavaria and Austria for the great number of saints it has produced: as, B. Rathard, a most pious priest, who first built the church of St. George at Diessen, in the reign of Lewis Debonnaire, in 850. Batho, now called Rasso, count or governor of Eastern Bavaria or Austria, celebrated for his extraordinary piety and devotion, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, many religious foundations, and several glorious victories over the barbarians, who from Pannonia invaded the eastern and southern provinces of Germany. He died on the 17th of June, 954. St. Otho, bishop of Bamberg, who, by his zealous preaching and missions, converted a considerable part of Pomerania to the faith. He died on the 5th of July, 1189. (See his life written by one who was his contemporary, in Canisius, Antiq. Lect. t. 2, and Gretzer, l. de Sanctiis Bambergensibus.) This saint was son to Bertold II. count of Andechs. His sister St. Mechtildes was abbess of Diessen. (See her life by Engelhard, abbot of Lanchaim, in Canis. Lect. Antiqu. t. 5; also Chronicon Andescense, et Chronicon Hirsaugiæ.) St. Hedwiges and St. Elizabeth of Hungary (Nov. 19) are of this family. Bertold III. is called by some authors, marquis, by others, count of Maran; the title of margrave or marquis, for a governor or prince of marshes or frontier provinces, was at that time seldom made use of. [back]

Note 2. See Lazius and Raderus, t. 3, passim. [back]

Note 3. Prov. xxx. 10, &c. [back]

Note 4. Whence this distich:

In solâ missâ non est contenta ducissa;

Quot sunt presbyteri, tot missas optat haberi.

 [back]

Note 5. Chromer, l. 6; Dlugoss. l. 7, ad an. 1241, p. 677. [back]

Note 6. Dlugoss, Hist. Polon. l. 7, pp. 781, 783, t. 1. [back]

Note 7. Another St. Hedwiges, daughter of Lewis king of Hungary, (who was also elected king of Poland,) was chosen sovereign queen of Poland, in 1384, and was eminent for her immense charities to the poor, her liberality to churches, monasteries, and universities; her humility and aversion to pomp or gaudy apparel; her meekness, which was so wonderful that, in so exalted a station, she was utterly a stranger to anger and envy. She read no books but such as treated of piety and devotion; the chief being the Holy Scriptures, Homilies of the Fathers, Acts of Martyrs and other Saints, and the meditations of St. Bernard, &c. She married Jagello, grand duke of Lithuania, in 1386, on condition he should be baptized, and should plant the faith in his duchy, which became from that time united to Poland. She died at Cracow in 1399. On her miracles see Dlugoss, (l. 10, p. 160,) Chromer, and other Polish writers who gave her the title of saint, though her name is not inserted in the Martyrologies. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/10/171.html

Sant' Edvige Religiosa e Duchessa di Slesia e di Polonia

- Memoria Facoltativa

Andescj, Baviera, 1174 - Trzebnica, Polonia, 15 ottobre 1243

Nata nel 1174 nell’Alta Baviera, fu duchessa della Slesia, sposa di Enrico I detto il Barbuto. La sua condizione nobile non le vietò di vivere a fondo la propria fede, dando prova di profonda devozione ed esprimendo in diversi modi la carità verso gli ultimi e l’intenzione totale di porre tutta la sua persona a servizio degli altri. Provata da diverse sventure familiari e addolorata dalla rivalità tra i due figli, seppe mostrare sempre la mitezza e la saggezza di chi vive un profondo desiderio di pace. Stile che applicò nella vita di corte e nella politica estera. Quando il marito fu fatto prigioniero di guerra ne ottenne la liberazione. Si adoperò per migliorare le condizioni di vita dei carcerati e usò gran parte delle sue rendite per i poveri. Praticò un’austerità personale volta a una mortificazione offerta come segno concreto per chi viveva chiuso nel peccato e nell’egoismo. Principessa e penitente, sposa fedele e madre dolorosa, sovrana giusta e benefica, Edvige morì nel 1243 e subito venerata come santa, sia dai fedeli germanici che da quelli slavi. (Avvenire)

Etimologia: Edvige = ricca guerriera, o fortuna in battaglia, dal tedesco

Martirologio Romano: Santa Edvige, religiosa, che, di origine bavarese e duchessa di Polonia, si dedicò assiduamente nell’assistenza ai poveri, fondando per loro degli ospizi, e, dopo la morte del marito, il duca Enrico, trascorse operosamente i restanti anni della sua vita nel monastero delle monache Cistercensi da lei stessa fondato e di cui era badessa sua figlia Gertrude. Morì a Trebnitz in Polonia il 15 ottobre.

(15 ottobre: Nel monastero di Trebnitz nella Slesia, in Polonia, anniversario della morte di santa Edvige, religiosa, la cui memoria si celebra domani).

I genitori Bertoldo e Agnese, di alta nobiltà bavarese, la preparano a un matrimonio importante, facendola studiare alla scuola delle monache benedettine di Kitzingen, presso Würzburg. E a 16 anni, infatti, Edvige sposa a Breslavia (attuale Wroclaw, in Polonia) il giovane Enrico il Barbuto, erede del ducato della Bassa Slesia. Quattro anni dopo, Enrico succede al padre Boleslao e così lei diventa duchessa.

Questo territorio slesiano fa parte ancora del regno di Polonia, ma si sta germanizzando.I suoi duchi, già dal tempo di Federico Barbarossa (morto nel 1190) gravitano nell’orbita dell’Impero germanico; la feudalità locale è invece di stirpe polacca, come la maggioranza degli abitanti, ai quali però si sta mescolando una forte immigrazione di tedeschi. Edvige mette al mondo via via sei figli: Boleslao, Corrado, Enrico detto il Pio, Agnese, Sofia e Gertrude. E si rivela buona collaboratrice del marito nel difficile governo del ducato: guadagna la simpatia dei sudditi polacchi imparando la loro lingua, promuove l'assistenza ai poveri, come fanno e faranno molte altre sovrane; ma con una differenza: lei vive la povertà in prima persona, giorno per giorno, con le regole severe che si impone, eliminando dalla sua vita tutto quello che può distinguerla da una donna di condizione modesta. A cominciare dall’abbigliamento. I biografi parlano degli abiti usati che indossa, delle calzature logore, delle cinture simili a quelle dei carrettieri.

È poco fortunata con i figli, che non avranno rapporti affettuosi con lei, e che moriranno quasi tutti ancora giovani, tranne Gertrude. Suo marito, Enrico il Barbuto, muore nel 1238, e gli succede il figlio Enrico il Pio, che già nel 1241 viene ucciso in combattimento contro un’incursione mongola presso Liegnitz (attuale Legnica).

Disgrazie in serie, dunque. Ma i biografi dicono che lei le affronta ogni volta senza lacrime. Forse perché è tedesca.E fors’anche perché è molto legata all’ambiente monastico del tempo, con tutto il suo rigore. (Alle molte preghiere e pie letture, Edvige accompagna anche penitenze fisiche durissime). Eppure, quando si ritrova sola, non pensa di “fuggire dal mondo” subito, entrando in monastero. No, prima bisogna pensare ai poveri, come dirà alla figlia Gertrude, non per motivi di buona politica, ma perché i poveri sono “i nostri padroni”. E questo linguaggio richiama «la spiritualità degli Ordini mendicanti e in particolare quella dei Francescani, tra i quali Edvige, negli ultimi anni della sua esistenza, scelse il proprio confessore» (A. Vauchez, La santità nel Medioevo, ed. Il Mulino).

Entra infine nel monastero cistercense di Trebnitz (l’attuale Trzebnica) fondato da lei nel 1202. E qui vive da monaca. Anzi, da monaca superpenitente. Muore anche da monaca, chiedendo di essere sepolta nella tomba comune del monastero. Tedeschi e polacchi di Slesia sono concordi nel chiamarla santa: nel 1262, sotto papa Urbano IV, incomincia la causa per la sua canonizzazione, e nel 1267 papa Clemente IV la iscrive tra i santi. Il corpo sarà in seguito trasferito nella chiesa del monastero.

Autore: Domenico Agasso