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Saint Jadwiga of Poland (1374-1399)

For those times, she was very tall. She stood 180 cm tall and was stunningly beautiful. She rode horseback and knew how to hunt. In 1387, she even led a knight's expedition to Russia. She was not an idolized saint from pious pictures, but a fascinating woman of flesh and blood.

At the age of four, she was engaged to eight-year-old Wilhelm Habsburg. But in 1384, Jadwiga left her motherland of Hungary and sat on the Polish throne. The men of Małopolska decided to marry the young queen off to pagan prince Jagiełło of Lithuania. But Wilhelm was not going to give up. He came to Krakow and charmed the already eleven-year-old queen. In order to come between the lovers, Jadwiga was locked up in Wawel Castle. For such a dictum – according to Jan Długosz – the queen grabbed an ax and began hacking at the locked gate. But in the end, she agreed to marry Jagiełło. Why?

The answer is the famous Black Crucifix in Wawel Cathedral, before which Jadwiga prayed and sought consolation. Once, the crucified Jesus was to reveal Himself to the girl and say, "Do what you see." That is, sometimes only by sacrificing oneself could others be saved. Jadwiga married the much older Jagiełło in order to bring baptism to Lithuania – and to strengthen Poland through a valuable alliance.

To her subjects, she was the embodiment of mercy. When she visited the church building erected just outside the city walls, she noticed that one of the masons is sad. He could not afford a physician and his wife lay seriously ill. If she were to die, the father would be left alone with their young children. In a spontaneous reflex, Jadwiga tore the pure-gold buckle off her boot. She did not notice that her bare foot rested on the limestone.  Her footprint can still be seen on the wall of the Carmelite church. She also bequeathed all her jewels to renovate the run-down Krakow Academy, now known worldwide as the Jagiellonian University.

At only 25 years of age, Jadwiga died along with her daughter shortly after a complicated delivery. But the residents of Krakow never forgot about the woman who could soften even stone.


The places associated with Saint Jadwiga of Poland (1374-1399):