Hedwig of Anjou, St.
HEDWIG OF ANJOU, ST.
Polish: Jadwiga; also known as Hedwig of Lithuania, queen of Poland, married woman; b. 1374 in Buda (now part of Budapest), Hungary; d. July 17, 1399, at Krakow, Poland.
Hedwig was the younger daughter of King Louis I of Hungary and Poland and Elizabeth, princess of Bosnia. At age nine she was betrothed to Duke William of Austria, whom she came to love; however, the Polish parliament vetoed this alliance. She demonstrated her obedience in refusing to elope with the young duke. Upon the death of her father and with the consent of the Polish nobility, ten–year–old Hedwig ascended to the throne of Poland in 1384. Her marriage at age 12 to Grand Duke Wladyslaw Jagiello of Lithuania (thereafter King Ladislaus II of Poland) began a 400–year alliance between Poland and Lithuania and contributed to the growth of Christianity throughout the region. As part of the marriage contract, Jagiello became a Christian, destroyed pagan temples, and required the baptism of the Lithuanian people. The queen used her position to further evangelization by urging a moral reform upon her subjects. In 1397, she received permission from Pope Boniface IX to establish the Theology Faculty of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. She founded several hospitals at Biecz, Sandomierz, Sacz, and Stradom, and she defended the rights of peasants against the Polish nobility. Queen Hedwig combined contemplation and action. She was a woman of extraordinary piety, personal asceticism, and charity, especially to the poor. Often she would kneel in meditation at the feet of the Crucified Christ on the Black Cross in Wawel cathedral to learn God's generous love from Christ himself. At age 25, she died giving birth to her first child, who did not survive. In 1896 Hedwig was beatified by Pope Leo XIII. In his impassioned homily at her canonization on Blonia Esplanade in Krakow, Poland, on June 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II praised Hedwig for her evangelization of Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Belarus, her heroic charity, and sense of justice rooted in Gospel values. The body of this patron of Poland is now venerated in the cathedral of Krakow, Poland.
Feast: July 17 (formerly Feb. 28 in Poland).
Bibliography: L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed., no. 26 (1997): 3–5, 7. o. halecki, Jadwiga of Anjou and the Rise of East Central Europe, ed. t.v. gromada (Boulder, Colo. 1991). w. kluz, Jadwiga królowa Polski (Warsaw 1987). b. przybyszewski, Blogoslawiona Jadwiga królowa (2d ed. Krakow 1996), tr. as Saint Jadwiga, Queen of Poland, tr. b. macqueen (Rome 1997). l. rydel, Królowa Jadwiga (Warsaw 1984). j. stabÍnska, Królowa Jadwiga (3d ed. Krakow 1997).
[k. i. rabenstein]