Queen Jadwiga

In Brief: The miraculous footprint of Poland’s female king

Female king? Jadwiga was ‘king’ of Poland from 1384, until 1399. Although she was a woman, the title ‘queen’ was not enough to assert her sovereignty over the nation. Polish, it seems, lacked a distinction between the titles ‘Queen’ and ‘Queen Regent’. To avoid confusion, we’ll just call her Jadwiga.

What’s this about a footprint?  It is one of many legends and miracles associated with Jadwiga. The story is that she gave jewellery to a starving workman who was building the Carmelite Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on ulica Karmelicka. She left her footprint in the plaster at the site.

So what’s miraculous about that? The plaster had already dried long before Jadwiga stepped on it.

Fair enough. What about the other miracles? There are several – most notably, speaking with Christ and bringing the dead back to life.

Figuratively, yes? As in ‘prayer and CPR’? No, literally. Of course, Jadwiga did pray, most often at Wawel Cathedral. It was there that a figure of Christ on the crucifix is said to have spoken to her. The cross is still in the Cathedral, and Jadwiga’s remains are buried beneath it. As for resurrecting the dead, legend has it that Jadwiga covered the body of a young boy with her cloak, after he drowned in the Wisła. The boy miraculously came back to life.

Impressive stuff! The church thought so too. Jadwiga was beatified in 1986, and the then Pope, John Paul II, confirmed her canonisation, making her a saint in 1997.

Bookend biography: Queen Jadwiga, King of Poland. Born, c. 1373, descendant of the Polish royal house of Piast. Died, July 17, 1399, Kraków.

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