Św. Jadwiga Andegaweńska, Król Polski (1374-1399)
The only woman on the throne of Poland. Young, beautiful, smart… - she could have everything what a soul desires! She chose the good of her subjects and country, which she reigned over. This choice gave Poland stability and prosperity for the next few hundred years. But Queen Jadwiga was mainly known for her gentleness, courage, wisdom and care for her subjects.
Jadwiga Andegawenska was born on February 18, 1374 in Buda (presently: Budapest). She was the daughter of the monarch of Hungary and Poland – Louis and Elizabeth of Bosnia – in her veins flowed the blood of French, Polish, Hungarian and Bosnian ancestors.
In the XIVth century the political situation in Eastern Europe was fairly tense. Monarchs enlarged the areas of their countries after victorious battles, or through marriage bonds, which included marrying their children with the descendants of chosen allies. King Louis thought like this. Having three daughters, the oldest, Katarzyna – he wished to give the Hungarian crown, the middle daughter, Mary – Poland, and the youngest – Jadwiga he predestined to “form an alliance” with Austria, where the Habsburgs ruled.
Polish politicians did not agree to the husband of Mary – Zygmunt of Luxemburg, having the Polish crown and proposed that young Jadwiga be put on the throne. She also was to marry the Lithuanian prince, which would contribute to the strengthening of the border with the Teutonic Knights, which constantly had their toll on Polish rulers; it would lead to the Baptism of the Lithuanians. Small, but a princess aware and mature for her age, she wasn’t very happy with this turn of events. Thrown into deep water, Jadwiga brought with her to Wawel a special help in difficulties: a crucifix (A Black Crucifix, also called the Cross of Jadwiga). The Crucified One was her Confidant, Advisor and Comforter until the end of her life. October 16, 1384, 10-year old Jadwiga became crowned as the Queen of Poland.
A Torn Heart
Despite her coronation, her engagement with William continued to be important, and Prince William was not indifferent to the queen, and she wished to be married to him. It was very difficult for Jadwiga to accept the decision of politicians, apparently she even tried to flee from Wawel… To the help of a desperate, lonely queen came the Bishop of Krakow. He explained to her that marrying the Lithuanian prince Jagiello would be a priceless offering for the Christianization of Europe.
Jadwiga went to the Cathedral complain to Christ, asking him for help. As she continued praying – apparently Jesus himself spoke to her from the cross. DO WHAT YOU SEE, He said. The decision, although difficult was evident for Jadwiga. On February 15 the roughly 30 year old prince Jagiello was baptized and took the name Wladyslaw. Three days later the marriage took place, and next Wladyslaw Jagiello was crowned as the king of Poland.
Jadwiga was a tall and beautiful girl with red hair. In Europe she was famous not only for her beauty but also with wise diplomacy and deep devotion. Besides the Polish and Hungarian languages she also knew Latin, German and Italian. She had a strong personality and confident character.
She really cared for the fostering of faith in Lithuania. For this purpose she organized a special collegium at the University of Prague, in which future Lithuanian princes were formed. There was “something” in her that won people over. She reconciled Jagiellonians who were in conflict (dynastic problems in Lithuania). She knew about politics and personally met with the leaders of hostile nations to negotiate and agree with the conditions of the project.
In addition to concern for politics, the good of her subjects was close to her heart: she funded many hospitals and churches. Tied with the construction of one of them – the Carmelite church of the Blessed Virgin Mary “na Piasku” (see: map) – there is a legend. A certain day, when the queen came to the construction site, she noticed that one of the workers was very sad.
This really moved her and she asked him for the reason of his sadness. He answered her with his difficult family situation: his wife, the mother of three kids, was very sick and close to death. Despite his work in construction, he wasn’t able to afford the treatment. Queen Jadwiga, moved by the man’s misery, leaning over pulled a slipper from her foot and unfastened from it a golden buckle, which she offered him. In this same moment, her bare foot leaned against a stone covered with lime, leaving an impression of her foot on it. When she left, the bricklayer noticed the impression and placed it into the wall of the church. To this day you can admire the impression of the foot of Queen Jadwiga. Surrounded by wire, it can be seen in one of the corners of the church of the Carmelites, at ul. Karmelicka.
Benefactor of the Academy of Krakow
Queen Jadwiga really cared for her relationship with Jesus and did a lot to bring Him closer to her relatives and subjects. She prayed a lot, practiced mortification. She also cared for the spread of the Word of God, funding a translation of the Holy Bible and the writings of the fathers of the church for Wawel Cathedral. She wished that the Lord would be praised there with the psalms without ceasing, so she established a special Psalterist college of sixteen people who praised God night and day. To strengthen the fundamentals of the faith in the Kingdom of Poland, she bequeathed her fortune to the renewal and expansion of the impoverished Academy of Krakow. She obtained the Pope’s permission to open a Department of Theology, which greatly hastened evangelization in the whole area of the vast kingdom in the Polish, Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands.
The Department had a great influence on raising the profile of the university, which from then on really counted in Europe, and whose revival had great meaning in the history of Poland. It is here (from the XIXth century called the Jagiellonian University) that Pawel Wlodkowic, Mikolaj Kopernik, St. John Cantius, Stanislaw Wyspianski, Karol Wojtyla and the current President of Poland Andrzej Duda studied, to name a few.
“Let us hurry to love people…”
Jadwiga and Wladyslaw reigned together for almost 13 years. Despite the large difference in their age they really understood each other. Wladyslaw really loved Jadwiga, who despite the difficult beginnings of their relationship, with time also loved him. They had great respect and trust for each other. The king wished for a child, an heir. Jadwiga gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Bonifacia, but after three weeks the little princess died. Following her, two days later, because of childbirth complications – the 25-year old Jadwiga departed. Her death was a shock for the kingdom and was widely heard about in Europe. The Queen was buried in the Cathedral in Wawel. Jagiello, even though he married three times afterward, until the end of his life wore the ring given to him by his beloved Jadwiga.
A Uniqueness that Remained with Time
People who remembered the goodness and uniqueness of the queen came to the Cathedral, so as to in prayer thank God for the gift of her life. They also believed in her holiness and asked for her intercession in their affairs. Numerous votive offering at her tomb witness that her intercession was effective. In a short time after her death, the efforts for her beatification began, but various problems – first financial, then also political – made it that this process became possible only in the XXth century. John Paul II beatified and later on June 8, 1997 canonized her in Krakow’s Blonia. This was also an important historical event: the first canonization Mass on Polish land. We remember Saint Jadwiga on June 8. She is a patron of Poland.