Cunigunde (d. 1040?)

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Cunigunde (d. 1040?)

Saint and Holy Roman empress. Name variations: Cunegunda; Cunigunde of Hungary; Cunigunda of Luxemburg; Kunegunde or Kunigunde. Died on March 3, 1039, or 1040 (some sources cite 1030 or 1033) in Germany; interred at Bamberg; daughter of Siegfried of Luxemburg (c. 922–998), count of Ardennes (r. 963–998), and possibly Hedwig of Eberhard (930–992); granddaughter of Cunigunde of France (c. 900–?); married Henry II (972–1024), Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany (r. 1002–1024), in 1002 or 1003; children: some sources claim that she was the mother of Agatha of Hungary who married Edward the Atheling (more likely, however, Agatha was the daughter of Cunigunde's brother-in-law Bruno, bishop of Augsburg).

Around 1002 or 1003, Cunigunde, daughter of Siegfried of Luxemburg, married the Holy Roman emperor Henry II. Though Henry had longed to be a monk, the prior Richard of Verdun convinced him that he would better serve God as a ruler. Cunigunde was his ideal mate. Wrote Anna Brownell Jameson in Legends of the Monastic Orders, Cunigunde "not only set an example of piety and charity but of industry, working continuously with her hands when not engaged in prayer."

The marriage of Cunigunde and Henry was a mystical union, one of love and respect; both vowed to remain chaste throughout their life together. After several years, Cunigunde was accused by scandalmongers of adultery. Henry, though convinced of his wife's purity, was upset by the malicious rumors. According to legend, in an attempt to refute these accusations, Cunigunde requested a "trial by ordeal" and walked unhurt over burning ploughshares (hot irons). In doing so, she was immediately vindicated.

After Henry's death in 1024, Cunigunde entered the Benedictine Convent at Kaufungen, near Cassel, as a nun. She died there on March 3, in 1039 or 1040. Henry was canonized in 1152. Pope Innocent III canonized Cunigunde in 1200. Effigies of Cunigunde and Henry, lying side by side under a canopy in their imperial robes, can be found in the Cathedral of St. Stephen at Bamberg. Scenes of the royal couple are engraved on the pedestal: Cunigunde paying architects with her dower to build the church in Bamberg; Cunigunde walking over the fiery ploughshares; Henry leaving Cunigunde at the time of his death. The story of St. Cunigunde lives on in German poetry, art, and in numerous ballads and legends.

Eileen O'Pasek , Northport, New York

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Cunigunde (d. 1040?)

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