03 Mar Saint Cunegundes, Virgin, Empress
Today is the feast day of Saint Cunegundes, Ora pro nobis.
St. Cunegundes, virgin, was Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Saint Cunegundes was the daughter of Sigefried, the first Count of Luxemburg, and Hadeswige, his pious wife. From her cradle her virtuous parents instilled into their daughter the most tender sentiments of piety.
When she was of an age to marry, they chose for her spouse Saint Henry, Duke of Bavaria, who at the death of the Emperor Otto III was named King of the Romans and crowned on the 6th of June, 1002. Queen Cunegundes was crowned at Paderborn on Saint Laurence’s day. She and her husband, guarded perpetual virginity in their marriage.
Together the couple carried out many pious works and practiced prayer and mortification. In the year 1014 she went with her husband to Rome and received the imperial crown with him from the hands of Pope Benedict VIII. With Saint Henry’s consent, before their marriage she had made a vow of perpetual virginity. Calumniators afterwards made vile accusations against her, and the holy Empress, to remove the scandal of such a slander, trusting in God to prove her innocence, walked over red-hot ploughshares without being hurt. The Emperor renounced and condemned his own too scrupulous fears and credulity, and from that time on they lived in the strictest union of heart, working together to promote piety and God’s honor in every sphere.
Going once to make a retreat in Hesse, she fell dangerously ill, and made a vow to found a monastery, if she recovered, in a place then called Capungen, now Kaffungen, near Cassel, in the diocess of Paderborn, which she executed in a stately manner, and gave it to nuns of the Order of St. Benedict. Before it was finished St. Henry died, in 1024. She earnestly recommended his soul to the prayers of others, especially to her dear nuns, and expressed her longing desire of joining them.
She had already exhausted her treasures and her patrimony in founding bishoprics and monasteries, and in relieving the poor. Whatever was rich or magnificent she thought better suited churches than her palace. She had therefore little now left to give. But still thirsting to embrace perfect evangelical poverty, and to renounce all to serve God without obstacle, on the anniversary day of her husband’s death, 1025, she assembled a great number of prelates to the dedication of her church of Kaffungen; and after the gospel was sung at mass, offered on the altar a piece of the true cross, and then put off her imperial robes, and clothed herself with a poor habit: her hair was cut off, and the bishop put on her a veil, and a ring as the pledge of her fidelity to her heavenly spouse.
When her last hour was drawing near, perceiving that they were preparing a cloth fringed with gold to cover her corpse after her death, she ordered it to be taken away; and she could not rest until the promise was given that she would be buried as a poor religious in her habit. She died on the 3rd of March, 1040. Her body was carried to Bamberg and buried near that of her husband. She was solemnly canonized by Innocent III, in 1200.
Image: Saint Cunigunda, artist: Master of Meßkirch (7)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff