When in dark years of partitions Henry Sienkiewicz was writing the ‘Trilogy’, he gave it a significant comment – ‘for spirit lifting’. We live in similarly dark times of new philistinism, which considers itself clever andshows everything in a disgusting way,and derides everything which composes the magnificence of the Polish tradition. Various wise men frown at the Polish martyrdom, a long-term sense of inferiority (!) of a victim etc.

Return to historical times of the Polish power

A book-album ‘Saint Jadwiga the Queen’ has just come out, in the circulation of the Cracow publishing house Rafael, which transfers a reader into the sunny youthfulness of the Polish Republic of Both Nations, a great past, the time of Polish power. The authors are: Fr. Dr. Jacek Urban and two prominent photogrphers – Stanisław Markowski and his son Piotr.

The short life of the Polish queen (about 1374- 99) gave the authors a starting-point to present a wide palette of matters connected with such a personal history of this prominent person as well as the history of Poland and Europe.

This most prominent ruler of Poland was a European woman from blood and bones – both because of an excellent upbringing on the Hungarian court of in Buda and genes – in her veins there was French, Magyar, Polish and Bosnian blood. A promised wife for Habsburg Wilhelm as a six-month-old baby, after dramatic events connected with it – like a revolt in Poland, a revolt of Hungarian lords and even an armed invasion of Wilhelm’s supporters – when she was 10 years old, on 16 October 1384, she was crowned the king of Poland in the Wawel cathedral. Jan Długosz, which is cited by the author of the text Fr. Dr. Urban, wrote about her with admiration: the Heavens gave her such a wonderful and grateful personality’. Two years later, when Władysław Jagiełło arrives in Cracow, this teenage girl is going to have very difficult experiences. Her wedding, as a result of scheming of the Austrians unable to agree with the loss of their ruling over Poland, with a Lithuanian man older than her by tens of yearsis legalised by Rome not earlier than in the year 1388. The christanization of Lithuania, which was, as we remember, a political fundament of this marriage, was done thanks to him and Jadwiga – the king was baptized in Cracow in 1386, the Vilnius baptism of the rulers and the people took place in 1387. It was the beginning of the Polish Republic of the Both Nations, in those and today’s categories the empire (the area of about 900 thousand square kilometres, including Lithuania - 80 thousand square kilometres) and till 1397, when after the death of her sister Maria, Jadwiga waived her rights to the Hungarian crown, she could gave herself the title of the king of the four nations: the Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Russian nations. She received Galicia-Vladimir Russ under the testament of her father Ludwik Węgierski. However,reigning over Russ was not easy, as the Hungarian lords appeared as an obstacle, but finally it turned out to be successful for Poland and her queen: the country gained an important trade road to the Black Sea and the Russian subjects – protection of the Polish empire against invasions of Tatars.

Looking from today’s perspective at the Polish – Lithuanian union concluded in Krewo in 1385, which has survived four centuries, we can say that it could be an example for our European Union. Undoubtedly, political interests of both unionists were playing a role in it, but its binder were the values of the Christian religion. They are rejected in preambles so thoughtlessly, especially in the practice of the EU.

In her short life she managed to become the saint

As a fervent Christian woman, strictly following a personal discipline of Lents and prayers, Jadwiga was an example of a ruler, who understood her role as a service towards the nation. She, the heir of the crown of Arpads dynasty, Piast dynasty and Anjou dynasty, without hesitation gave back her jewels, dresses and even the royal insignia for the sake of restoration of the work of Kazimierz the Great – the foundation of the Cracow Academy. In his homily during the holy mass of beatification on 8 June 1997 John Paul II said that ‘she had been able to connect faithfulness to Christian principles with the consequence in the defence of the Polish raison d’etat’.

Undoubtedly she was mother of this wonderful heritage, developed by her successors, which is called a Jagiellonian idea today, and is emphasized by Fr. Urban. As Poles (and also the inhabitants of Cracow) we owe a lot to this beautiful, saint European lady in the best sense of this word. The aforementioned foundations of the Theological Faculty, the nucleus of the university which was finished by king Jagiełło after Jadwiga died, from her funds. The foundation of a few wonderful churches in Cracow: St. Catherine, Corpus Christi, the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek. Finally – the first Polish translation of psalms (the so-called Florian Psalter). Life on her court, as Fr. Urban writes, was not rich – meat was rarely eaten, wine was on tables only on great occasions. But in her library there were letters of St. Augustine, St. Ambroży, St. Hieronim, St. Gregory the Great, St. Bernard, Revelations of St. Brygida.

The author of the text cared not only about a historical report on the times of St. Jadwiga, he also complemented it in the chapter ‘Patron’ with achievements connected with her name, of long time ago and the modern ones, among the others, establishing the Papal Theological Academy in 1981, setting up the Convent of Nuns of St. Jadwiga the Queen, the Servants of Christ Present by Fr. Prof. Wacław Świerzawski (1990), to the Australian foundation of her name. he also registered Polish towns whose patron she is and, finally, the list of schools of her name.

To see the epoch of Jadwiga the Queen

The book is a great publishing achievement also thanks to the photos of Stanisław and Piotr Markowski. Metaphorically speaking, there is the whole light of the Jagiellonian era and Europe of the times of Jadwiga in them. We are wandering through the signs at Loara, the property of the Anjou dynasty, the capital of Christianity – Rome, through Złota Praga and its churches, through the cathedrals of Vilnus, Lvov, Wawel in Cracow, the church of St. Mark and the church of Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek, we kneel down in front of the ‘black crucifix’ of St. Jadwiga and her sarcophagus from white marble in the Wawel cathedral, we look at Jasna Góra and the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa, the image of Maryja of Piasków Cracow and Our Lady Ostrobramska.To our need of the warm sentiment, there is a ‘foot’ of the queen stamped on the wall of the church of the Carmelites in Pasek, or a white glove from the diocesan museum in Sandomierz. However, that is not all because there are also images of the queen made by artists of XX and XXI centuries: a picture of a student of Matejko ‘Jadiwga the Queen on the Polish throne’, a sculpture of St. Jadwiga by Maciej Zychowicz from Cracow church of her name or ‘Adoration of the cross of St. Jadwiga the Queen’, made with a digital technique by Łukasz Koska. The photos of Stanisław and Piotr Markowski, full of radiating, warm colours, perfectly reflect this unusual epoch in the history of Poland and Europe. We can surely have not only pride from this past, but also strength to survive the dark time which has come to us.

Fr. Jerzy Urban, Stanisław and Piotr Markowski, ‘St. Jadwiga the Queen’, the Publishing House ‘Rafael’, 16 Dąbrowskiego St., 30-532 Cracow, www.rafael.pl


"Niedziela" 43/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl