The Saint Queen

Wawel 3

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“Plenty are the treasures that Wawel Cathedral hides within. (…) The Cross of Queen Jadwiga remains a particular testimony among these treasures. Guard this treasure with special care, like the generations before you” John Paul II requested in 1987.
The sarcophagus where the body of St Jadwiga used to be deposited stands opposite the entrance to the Sigismund Chapel, and the wooden Sceptre and Apple (Orb) – the royal insignia from her grave are displayed in cabinets nearby. The wooden Gothic Black Crucifix next to the entrance to the cathedral’s sacristy is famous for graces. According to tradition, crucified Christ spoke to Jadwiga kneeling before Him, advising her to marry Prince Jagiełło, much older than her, and hailing from the pagan Lithuania.
“She was of highly alluring face, yet even more alluring were her ways and virtues”, chronicler Jan Długosz wrote in praise of the Queen’s piety, mortification, and generosity to the poor. She inherited the throne from her father, and at the age of only ten was crowned King (!) of Poland in Kraków in 1384. She was known for deep religiousness and sensitivity to the vicissitudes of human fate, for her great works of mercy, and for bringing aid to those in need. She made donations to churches, notably Wawel Cathedral, and provided for hospitals that at the time were rather institutions that tended to the sick, old, and destitute. Thanks to her efforts and lobbying (also at the papal court) to have the Academy of Kraków (today’s Jagiellonian University) refounded and the prestigious Faculty of Theology established within it, she bequeathed it all her jewels and gems in her will. Precisely the reason why, when she died, she was buried with the insignia of royal power made of wood and leather.
Devotion to Jadwiga began from the moment of her death, yet the place of her burial in Wawel Cathedral remained unknown for centuries. In 1949, after scientists examined her mortal remains, they were deposited in a sarcophagus by the Sigismund Chapel, which had been made earlier, in 1902, in white Carrara marble by sculptor Antoni Madeyski. He put the figure of the Queen with hands pressed in prayer, and a dog, symbolising faithfulness, at her feet on the slab, and a frieze with Eagles and the coats of arms of the House of Anjou along the sides. In 1987, the mortal remains of Jadwiga, at the time already recognised as relics, were moved to a new reliquary made of bronze. It stands in a niche of the Altar of the Crucified Lord at the foot of the Black Crucifix, where she prayed. The Polish monarch was only beatified in 1979 and canonised in 1997 by the Polish Pope, John Paul II.

Wawel 3
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