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Biliński, Wojciech: Central Europe's Mutual Saints




Saint Andrew Swierad (ca. 980-1031/2)

We know very little about the early years of this saint. He was likely born in the Malopolska Province in south-east Poland, probably in a place called Tropie on the Dunajec River, in a peasant family. He received the name Swierad, originating from the ancient Slavonic Wszerad, meaning someone who is always happy with everybody.

After 1018, he left his homeland and moved to Hungary. At about the same time Duke Boleslaw Chrobry (the Brave) ceded his rule over Slovakia's Nitra to the Hungarian king, Stephen I. The Hungarian sovereign supported the Catholic priests who stayed on his territory. Swierad settled in the St. Hippolitus Benedictine monastery on Zobor Mountain in the vicinity of Nitra and took on the monastic name of Andrew. He was considered a saint even during his lifetime by the local Slovak people. The centre of his cult was the basilica in Nitra, where his remains were placed. His canonization took place in Esztergom on 17 July, 1083. Nowadays he is worshipped by the Slovaks, Poles and Hungarians.

Saint Melchior Grodziecki
(ca. 1582-1619)

He was born in Cieszyn to a noble family. After he completed his education at the local parish Catholic school around 1595, he went to study at the Jesuit College in Vienna. Later he lived in Brno (as a novice), Klodzko (musical education), Budějovice, Prague (philosophical studies), Klodzko again (professor of grammar), Prague again (theological studies), and Brno yet again. In 1603 he took his first vows, and in 1614 he was ordained a priest.

In 1618 he went to Košice. Together with other Jesuits - a Hungarian named Stephen Pongracz and a Croat named Mark Kriz - he worked as a missionary at the emperor's army garrison stationed in the town. As Grodziecki had a good command of Latin, Polish, Czech, German and Slovak, he was offered the post of military chaplain. When, in the summer of 1619, Košice surrendered to the Transylvanian army that was rebelling against the emperor, its commander,  György Rákoczy, imprisoned the Catholic priests and a court sentenced them to death. In March 1620, thanks only to the intercession of the Catholic wife of the Hungarian Kingdom palatinate, the remains of the assassinated priests were placed in Alsö-Sebes (Nižná šebastová) near Prešov, and in Hertník near Bardejov. Since 1635, the sarcophagus with the bodies has been in St. Ursula's monastery in Trnava, whereas the silver cases with their skulls are exhibited in the local Jesuit church. On 15 January, 1905, Pope Pius X declared Melchior Grodziecki, Mark Kriz and Stephen Pongracz the blessed, while on 2 July, 1995, Pope John Paul II made them saints.

Saint Jadwiga the Queen
(ca. 1373-1399)

Jadwiga (Hedwig) was a daughter of King Ludwig Hungarian (the Great), king of Poland and Hungary, and of Elisabeth of Bosnia. In 1378 she was betrothed to the Habsburg scion, William of Austria. After her father's death, her mother decided that she should take the Polish throne instead of her elder sister, Maria, because the Polish noblemen were rather reluctant to accept Maria's husband, Sigismund of Luxembourg. After her arrival in Poland Jadwiga was crowned, and under the pressure of the Kraków court she broke her engagement. The Polish magnates saw a chance to strengthen the country through a union with Lithuania, and the marriage of Jadwiga with Lithuanian ruler WΠadyslaw II Jagiello, who took the name Wladyslaw as the Polish king, was to serve this purpose. The wedding took place in 1386 and the marriage initiated the Jagiellon dynasty, one of the most powerful in Europe at the time, which ruled Poland until 1572, as well as Hungary (1440-44 and 1490-1526), Bohemia (1471-1526) and Lithuania (1377-1434 and 1440-1572). Queen Jadwiga Angevin helped christianize Lithuania and supported the peaceful settlement of the conflicts between Poland and the Teutonic Knights. She was an educated woman and gathered around her the intellectual elite of the country, as well as helping to restore the Kraków Academy. After her death she was considered saintly, which was confirmed by her worship and canonization in 1997 by Pope John Paul II on the Kraków Blonia. She could be the patron saint of united Europe as she had French, Italian, Bosnian, Hungarian and Polish blood, and her political achievements also influenced Lithuania and Kievan Rus.

Saint Adalbert-Vojtěch-Wojciech
(ca. 955-997)

Vojtěch-Wojciech (Adalbert) from the Czech Slavnik family is one of the main patron saints of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, and was canonized two years after his death, in 999. He was related to the Czech Premyslid family and the Emperor Otto II from the Saxon dynasty. He was brought up in Germany (studied in Magdeburg), and since he knew politics well, in 983 he became the bishop of Prague. He was one of the fathers of the idea of Christianizing Central Europe, but in his own country he did not gain any support. Due to conflicts in Bohemia he was forced to leave his diocese twice and go to Italy. He played an important role in Hungary, (later on worshipped as Bela) where he stayed several times at the court of Duke Geza. He baptized and confirmed the duke's son, Vajka, who during his christening took the name István, and later, in 1000, was crowned the first king of Hungary. After his death he became a saint, and is now known around the world as Saint Stephen. Adalbert, as his mentor and spiritual guide, had a great impact in his young years in shaping his personality and views. He also undertook the mission of going to the emperor's court to sue for the hand of the German princess Giselle on behalf of István.
 
In 997, based on an agreement with the Polish King Boleslaus the Brave (Boleslaw Chrobry) and the emperor Otto III, he went to Poland to undertake a mission to Christianize the Prussians. In the same year he died the death of a martyr. His remains were buried in Gniezno, which in 1000 became the seat of a new archbishopric. The first archbishop there was Wojciech's close associate, Radzim (Gaudenty), while another member of his retinue, Anastasias, became head of another new archbishopric in the Hungarian Esztergom.

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