Saint of the Day|
St. Cunegund survived the trial by fire, literally and otherwise
Unscathed by fire, steadfast in faithfulness
By Tony Staley
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
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
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
She was buried in Bamberg next to Henry.
St. Cunegund was canonized in 1200. We celebrate her feast on
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