Cunigunde of Luxembourg

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Saint Cunigunde of Luxembourg, OSB
Heilige Kunigunde.jpg
Saint Cunigunda; painting by the Master of Meßkirch, c.1535/40, housed at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
Empress Consort and (later) Regent of the Holy Roman Empire
Born c. 975
Died 3 March 1040
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Canonized 29 March 1200, Rome by Pope Innocent III
Major shrine Bamberg Cathedral, Bamberg, Germany
Feast 3 March
Attributes An empress in imperial robes, sometimes holding a church.
Patronage Patroness of Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, and the Archdiocese of Bamberg, Germany

Saint Cunigunde of Luxembourg, OSB (c. 975 – 3 March 1040 at Kaufungen), also called Cunegundes, Cunegunda, and Cunegonda and, in Latin, Cunegundis[1] or Kinigundis, was the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Saint Henry II. She is a Roman Catholic saint and the Patroness of Luxembourg; her feast day is 3 March.

Life[edit]

Statue of St. Cunigunde as Holy Roman Empress, in Bamberg.

St. Cunigunde was one of eleven children born to Siegfried I of Luxembourg (922 – 15 August 998) and Hedwig of Nordgau (c. 935 – 992). She was a seventh-generation descendant of Charlemagne. She married St. King Henry in 999.[2] It is said that she had long wanted to be a nun,[3] and that her marriage to St. Henry II was a spiritual one (also called a "white marriage"); that is, they married for companionship alone, and by mutual agreement did not consummate their relationship. It has been claimed that Cunigunde made a vow of virginity with Henry's consent prior to their marriage.[4] The truth of this is debatable; while the couple were both certainly childless, it is supposed that later hagiographers mistakenly construed the fact to imply a virginal marriage; this may also be seen in the case of Edward the Confessor.[5]

During their marriage, her husband, Henry, then only Duke of Bavaria, was crowned as King of Germany ("Rex Romanorum") on 9 July 1002 in Mainz, in present day Germany, by Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz. After her husband was crowned as King of Germany, she was crowned as his Queen (consort) of Germany[6] on 10 August[4] 1002[7] in Paderborn, in present day Germany, also by Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz. Later her husband was also crowned as King of Italy ("Rex Italiae") on 14 or 15 May 1004 in Pavia, Italy, but no evidence has been given of her being crowned as his queen consort of Italy.

It appears that Cunigunde was active politically. As the closest adviser of her husband, she took part in Imperial councils. She is also reported to have exerted an influence on her husband in his endowments of land to the Church. These included the cathedral and monastery at Bamberg, Bavaria, in present day Germany.

Cunigunde traveled with her husband to Rome for his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor ("Romanorum Imperator") as was the tradition for the King of Germany, and was crowned as Holy Roman Empress[8] with him on 14 February 1014 in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, receiving together with Henry the Imperial Crown from the hands of Pope Benedict VIII. During her reign she suffered from a grave illness and made a vow that if she were to regain her health, she would found a Benedictine monastery at Kassel. Upon her recovery, she kept her oath and work began on the building;[3] however, Henry died in 1024 before it was finished. Upon his death, Cunigunde was obliged to assume the office of Regent of the Empire. This she did with her brother, and later handed over the Imperial insignia when Conrad II was elected to succeed her late husband on 8 September 1024.

Religious life and death[edit]

As a widow, St. Cunigunde was left comparatively poor, owing to the enormous wealth given away by her and Henry in charitable works.[9]

In 1025, exactly one year after the death of her husband, St. Cunigunde retired to Kaufungen Abbey, in Hesse, Germany, where she entered the monastery of Benedictine nuns she had founded there. At the dedication of the monastery, she offered a relic of the True Cross, removed her regalia, and donned the habit of the nun. There she remained at the monastery, performing charitable works, caring for the sick and devoting her time to prayer. She died 3 March 1040. She was buried at Bamberg Cathedral beside her husband, but may have been buried elsewhere first and then re-interred at the Cathedral in 1201 after her canonisation.[7]

Canonisation and veneration[edit]

Emperor Henry II and Empress Cunigunde's tomb by Tilman Riemenschneider.

St. Cunigunde was canonised by Pope Innocent III on 29 March 1200, thirteen years after the canonisation of her husband St. Henry II in July 1147. To prepare a case for canonisation her biography was compiled. This and the Papal bull for her canonisation relate several instances of miracles purported to have been worked by the Empress.[5]

One of these relates how, when calumniators accused her of scandalous conduct, her innocence was signally vindicated by divine providence as she walked over pieces of flaming irons without injury, to the great joy of her husband, the Emperor.[9] Another tells of St. Cunigunde falling asleep one night and being carried into bed. Her maid also fell asleep and a candle set the bed on fire. The blaze awoke both of them and upon Cunigunde executing the Sign of the Cross the fire immediately disappeared, saving them from burning. A final legend tells of one of Cunigunde's nieces, Judith, the abbess of Kaufungen Abbey. A frivolous young woman, Judith preferred feasting and carousing with the young sisters to the Sabbath rituals. Cunigunde remonstrated with her, to little effect. Finally the saint became so vexed with her niece that she slapped her across the face; the marks remained on her face for the rest of her life, serving as a warning to those of the community who would not take their vows or observances seriously.

St. Cunigunde is widely venerated. Among likely many others, she is the namesake of St. Cunegunda Church, Detroit, Michigan, USA. She is the Patroness of Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, and the Archdiocese of Bamberg, Germany.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martyrologium Romanum, 3 March, #8 (2005)
  2. ^ "Saint Kunigunde", New Catholic Dictionary, Saints.SQPN.com, 7 October 2012, [1]
  3. ^ a b Bentley, James (1993). A calendar of saints : the lives of the principal saints of the Christian Year. London: Little, Brown. p. 45. ISBN 0-316-90813-4. 
  4. ^ a b Garden of Mary, "St. Cunegundes, Empress", taken from Pictorial Lives of the Saints: with Reflections for Every Day in the Year, [2]
  5. ^ a b c Farmer, David Hugh (1997). The Oxford dictionary of saints (4. ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-19-280058-2. 
  6. ^ Speculatively, her title would have been "Queen of the Romans" ("Regina Romanorum").
  7. ^ a b c "Saint Cunegundes", Saints.SQPN.com, 11 February 2014
  8. ^ It is speculated that her title in Latin would have been "Romanorum Imperatrix". The Latin word for "holy" was not included in the masculine title until later and so she would not have officially used it.
  9. ^ a b Lives of the Saints: For Every Day of the Year edited by Rev. Hugo Hoever, S. O. Cist., Ph. D., New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., (1955), p. 93

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Theophanu
Queen consort of Germany
1002–1024
Succeeded by
Gisela of Swabia
Empress consort of the
Holy Roman Empire

1014–1024
Preceded by
Gisela of Burgundy
Duchess consort of Bavaria
998–1005
Succeeded by
Gunhilda of Denmark