The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 25, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

St. Cunegund survived the trial by fire, literally and otherwise

Unscathed by fire, steadfast in faithfulness

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

Many people believe that at some time in their lives, they have faced trial by fire, that is, they are plunged into some harrowing situation where they have to make decisions or act immediately, even if they feel unprepared.

Fortunately, for most of us, no matter how difficult the situation, trial by fire is just an expression. For St. Cunegund, it was a reality - or at least an unverified legend.

It seems that early in her marriage to Duke Henry of Bavaria, some gossips at court questioned her fidelity, arousing the duke's curiosity. She responded by accepting the fire ordeal, which meant she had to put her hand into a flame. People going through any type of a trial by ordeal were allowed three days for any wound to heal itself. If it did so, it was considered proof that God was protecting them because of their innocence. Cunnegund was unscathed, putting an end to the gossip.

Cunegund was the daughter of Siegried of Luxemburg and Hedwig. On their wedding day, Henry gave her a crucifix made in the East, which is said to be identical to one now in Munich.

Henry succeeded Emperor Otto III as King in 1002, becoming Henry II. Two months later, Cunegund was crowned as queen. In 1013, he went to Rome, where Pope Benedict VIII crowned him as the Holy Roman Emperor.

Cunegund convinced Henry to found the monastery and cathedral at Bamberg, which Pope Benedict consecrated. During a long illness, Cunegund promised that if she recovered she would found a Benedictine convent at Kaufungen, Hesse, which was nearly completed when Henry died in 1023.

Cunegund had her niece, Judith or Jutta, named abbess at the convent. She was quite fond of the young woman and had overseen her education.

But soon, Judith was found to be living anything but an exemplary religious life. She was the first one for meals and the last one in the chapel.

One Sunday, Judith skipped the procession into church. Cunegund found her feasting with some of the younger sisters and angrily scolded her niece and struck her. It's said that Judith's face bore the marks of Cunegund's fingers until her death, which served to convert her and others in the community.

In 1024, on the anniversary of Henry's death, Cunegund invited several prelates to bless the recently completed convent church. She became a nun at the end of the ceremony and lived as the lowliest member of the community. She spent her time in prayer, reading and visiting the sick until her death in 1033 or possibly 1039.

She was buried in Bamberg next to Henry.

St. Cunegund was canonized in 1200. We celebrate her feast on March 3.

As we prepare to start the fourth season of Renew 2000, her trial by fire reminds us we should bear no grudges when we're wronged.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and World Book Encyclopedia

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