The Courtly Lives - St Hedwig St. Hedwig
Written by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski

St. Hedwig and Henryk I

St Hedwig/Jadwiga was born in 1174 in Bavaria at Castle Andechs (family of Diessen-Andechs), and died October 14, 1243, in a Cistercian Convent; and was buried at Trebnitz. Her relics are in Kloster Andechs. She was born to Count Berthold III Count of Tirol, and Prince of Carinthia and Istria (of Andechs-Merania). Her mother was Agnes, daughter of the Count of Rotlelchs. St Hedwig had three sisters and four brothers.

  1. Bertold - died patriarch of Aquileia.
  2. Elebert - bishop of Bambery
  3. Henry - inherited his father's land and became a renowned general
  4. Otho - inherited his father's land and became a renowned general.
  5. Agnes married Phillip Augustus, King of France.
  6. married Andrew, King of Hungary, and her daughter was St. Elizabeth of Hungary
  7. her third sister? was an abbess at Lutzingen in Franconia.

Hedwig was educated in the Benedictine Convent at Lutzingen, in Franconia. At the age of eighteen (18) she married Henry I (Henryk I Brodatega), "the Bearded," of the Dukes of Glogau/Prince of Silesia. In 1233, Henry was Duke of Greater Poland.

Henry was born in 1163, and died March 19, 1238. Henry was the eldest son (another account places his birth at 1191) of his line. He died in battle with the Mongols on April 9, 1241. Before his death he had been the prisoner of the Duke of Kirne. Some say Hedwig enjoyed being Queen and helped rule alongside her husband. However, like her descendant, Jadwiga of Anjou, she saw this as a great way to help the poor.

Hedwig and Henry had three sons and three daughters:

For some years after her marriage, Hedwig resided chiefly at Breslau.

  1. Henry
  2. Conrad died, from a fall from his horse, in 1214.
  3. Boleslaus died at an early age.
  4. Agnes died at an early age.
  5. Sophia died at an early age.
  6. Gertrude became a nun.

After the birth of their last child, she and her husband vowed continency. Henry kept his vow for thirty years, and he never shaved his beard. Some say that it is a wonder they had any children, since she had an aversion to sex. Hedwig forbid sex during Lent, on all Sundays, holy days, and during her pregnancies. She had a great zeal for religion and she lived like a hermit within the court of her husband. She eventually donated her entire fortune to the church and the poor. After Henry died, in 1238, she entered the Cisterian convent of Trebnitz, which she helped found. She was the aunt of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia (Hungary), so saints ran in her family. Hedwig/Jadwiga was canonized on March 25, 1266/7. Her day is October 17th.

Legends: Hedwig blesses the Crucifix at Trebnitz, three miles from Breslaw, Silesia's capital. Hedwig goes barefoot in the winter and her feet are not a pretty sight. She only wears shoes at the behest of her husband, Henry. In fact, he was embarrassed by her feet, and sent her a pair of shoes, commanding her to never appear in public without them. So Hedwig carried them with her, but never wore them on her feet. She was said to have enjoyed washing the feet of nuns. She gave poor girls money for their wedding trousseaus. When Henry burned down a village, during a military campaign, she asked him to give the village money for compensation for their losses. Hedwig often brought candles to prisoners in their dark cells, so they could read.

Hedwig/Jadwiga was the patron saint of Berlin, Silesia, Oland, Wroclaw, Cracov, Trebnitz, Andechs, and the Diocese of Gorlitz.


Sources:

Butler's Lives of Saints on CD-ROM. Gervais, OR.: Harmony Media Inc., 2001.

Hoever, S.I. Cist., PhD, Rev. Hugo, Lives of the Saints: For Every Day of the Year. New York: Catholic Book Publications, 1989, 431.

Koenig-Bricker, 365 Saints. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995

Jockle, Clemens, Encyclopedia of Saints. London: Alpine Arts Collection Ltd., 1995, 193.

Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rodgers, Saints Preserve Us! New York: Random House, 1993, 134.

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