St Hedwig’s Beads

hedwig oxted1aI was intrigued by the graphic of St Hedwig from the Paternosters site (left) that shows St Hedwig with prayer beads so I decided to look around for more graphics of St Hedwig with beads. The only luck I have had so far is the modern stained glass window to the right. Unfortunately I now can’t find where this modern window comes from.  Does it look to you like those are prayer beads in her hand? Its hard to tell if its prayer beads or a handle to a bag. As a modern window it could have also been inspired by the medieval graphic of her with beads.

So who is St Hedwig? She was a born in Bavarian, 1174, and married a Henry Duke of Silesia and later Duke of Greater Poland at age 12. One of her sisters married King Andrew of Hungrey and another sister became a Benedictine abbess of Lutzingen in Franconia in medieval Germany. Hedwig and Henry had seven children, including Henry the Pious, a duke of medieval Poland, who was killed in the battle of Legnica against the Mongols two years before Hedwig’s death. After the birth and subequent early death of their seventh child, Hedwig and Henry took public vows of chastity. Duke Henry went so far as become tonsured and took the lifestyle of a lay Cisterian brother. Hedwig was renoned for helping the poor and as a patroness of the church. Hedwig and her husband Henry founded and/or supported several monsateries for Augustinians, Dominicans, Francisicans, Cistercians and even Templars.  In 1202 Henry founded a Cisterician convent at Trzebinca, the first religious foundation for women in Silesia, where he was buried in 1238 and she entered a convent upon his death. Their daughter  Gertrude became the first abbess there. She was only there five years before her own death in 1243. Hedwig took the dress and lifestyle of a Cistercian sister but never took her formal vows so that she kept control of her revenue to direct it to the poor. Her pious reputation was such that she was considered a saint in her lifetime. Her daughter Abbess Gertrude was the only one of her seven children to survive her. Two of her grand-daughters by Henry the Pious did eventually become abbesses at St Clara of Trebinca.  St Elizabeth of Thuringia and Mechtilde of Kitzingen were her nieces. She was canonized only 24 years after her death. St Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin was built by Frederick the Great in 1773 and is now the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Berlin.

References: St Hedwig, Wikipedi, and St Hedwig, New Advent website.

A the most complete image of the medieavel illustration I’ve found online but I haven’t been able to find any more specific information about its medieval source. If you know any more about St Hedwig’s beads, this illustration or the stained glass window above, please post a comment.


3 thoughts on “St Hedwig’s Beads

  1. The manuscript is in the Getty Museum – with perhaps a dozen other parchments displaying scenes from the life of St. Hedwig. If you go to the Getty Museum web site and just type St. Hedwig in the search function, all of the parchments should pop up for you to view. The manuscripts were commissioned by ancestors of the saint, sometime in the 13th century. Hope this helps somewhat.

  2. I was lucky to find this blog.
    I have to say that it’s a cool blog! I like how comprehensive each of the entries are. They are well balanced, both informative and entertaining, and the pictures are cool too.

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