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Poor Clare and patroness of Poland and Lithuania; born in 1224; died 24 July, 1292, at Sandeck, Poland. She was the daughter of King Bela IV and niece of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and from her infancy it pleased God to give tokens of the eminent sanctity to which she was later to attain. With extreme reluctance she consented to her marriage with Boleslaus II, Duke of Cracow and Sandomir, who afterwards became King of Poland. Not long after their marriage, the pious couple made a vow of perpetual chastity in the presence of the Bishop of Cracow; and Cunegundes, amidst the splendour and pomp of the royal household, gave herself up to the practice of the severest austerities. She often visited the poor and the sick in the hospitals, and cared even for the lepers with a charity scarcely less than heroic. In 1279, King Boleslaus died, and Cunegundes, despite the entreaties of her people that she should take in hand the government of the kingdom, sold all her earthly possessions for the relief of the poor and entered the monastery of the Poor Clares at Sandeck. The remaining thirteen years of her life she spent in prayer and penance, edifying her fellow religious by her numerous virtues, especially by her heroic humility. She never permitted anyone to refer to the fact that she had once been a queen and was foundress of the community at Sandeck.
The cultus of Blessed Cunegundes was approved by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690; in 1695 she was made chief patroness of Poland and Lithuania by a decree of the congregation of Rites, confirmed by Clement XI. Her feast is kept in the Order of Friars Minor on the 27th of July.
STEPHEN M. DONOVAN