Saint Wojciech of Poland
The Main Patron of Poland (approx. 956-997)
Feast day: April 23
Also known as: Adalbert of Prague
He was born in 956 in Libya. He was the son of the Czech prince Sławnik from the Sławnikowicz family, related to, among others, the Saxon Otton dynasty. According to contemporaries, Sławnik's estates were considered almost a state - the Prague chronicler Kosmas calls it a principality in his "Czech Chronicle". Their location between the Czech Republic and Poland was the cause of constant disputes with other powerful families, including: Přemyslids, which in turn led to the murder and destruction of the Sławnikowicz family. Wojciech was one of the younger children of the princely couple Sławnik and Strzyżysawa.
Bruno van Kwerfurt translates his name as "the comfort of warriors". According to Jan Kanapariusz, the author of The Oldest Life of a Martyr, written at the end of the 10th century, the child's extraordinary beauty meant that his parents destined him for the world, but in his youth he became seriously ill and then they made a vow that if he recovered, they would give him to the service of God. So it happened. In John Kanapariusz we read: “The boy, growing in age and wisdom, is in due course taught in a Christian spirit; but he did not leave his father's house until he had memorized the psalter."
In 972, Wojciech began studying liberal sciences with Archbishop Adalbert, the first Archbishop of Magdeburg, previously a bishop in Ruthenia. He gave him the sacrament of Confirmation, named him Adalbert, and then sent him to the Magdeburg Cathedral School in Magdeburg, under the direction of the famous Benedictine Otryk. Wojciech studied well, learned Latin, German and the language of the Vielets, he read the Church Fathers and ancient writers. He avoided amusement and whenever he could, he made pilgrimages to places associated with the holy martyrs, such as St. Maurice, St. Stephen, and St. Ambrose.
And at night he walked around the poor and blind. Magdeburg, recently the capital of the ecclesiastical metropolis, grew rapidly. As a scholar, Adalbert witnessed solemn liturgies and important events. He took in knowledge and improved his courtly manners. In 981, after a short stay with his parents, he left for Prague, where he was ordained a priest by Bishop Dytmar, a German by descent, the first Ordinary of the Prague diocese founded just eight years earlier. Shortly afterwards the bishop died, who was seriously ill, and before his death - as Jan Kanapariusz writes - he had a terrible vision in which he saw the vanity of his worldly and lavish life. The dying bishop's words were to frighten young Wojciech—who was then living the life of a noble knight—that he decided in an instant to change his life. That same night - writes Kanapariusz - he abandoned his luxuries, dressed his hair in sackcloth and walked through the churches with his head strewn with ashes, distributing everything he had to the poor.
Shortly afterwards, in 983, 27-year-old Wojciech Adalbert was appointed Bishop of Prague. He entered his capital barefoot. He was known for his modesty, mercy and love of poverty. He slept on the bare ground, never went to bed full, rose early, prayed fervently and did not spare his legs, and regularly visited the homes of the poor, prisons and especially slave markets. Prague was on the east-west route and from here slaves were delivered to the Muslim countries. This practice was one of the worst ills of Wojciech, who strongly condemned him, which aroused the reluctance of those who made huge profits from it.
One night Wojciech is said to have had a dream in which he heard Christ's lament: "Here I am sold again, and you are sleeping?" This scene is presented in one of the Gniezno Doors' rooms. Wojciech also strongly called for a change in life and the abandonment of bad habits, both for the nobles and the clergy, but he was not obeyed. Distressed, he went to Rome, to Pope John XV (985-996) and on his advice decided to leave his homeland and go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, having previously distributed all his fortune to the poor. It is said that the money for the pilgrimage would be donated by Empress Theophano, who was then in Rome, wife of Otto II and mother of Otto III, but he also distributed this to the needy.
The idea of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land did not materialize in the end. After a conversation with St. On the Nile, a Greek analyst, then a great spiritual authority, Wojciech went to the Monastery of St. Boniface and Alexei on the Aventine Hill and there, together with his brother Radzy Gaudenty, donned the Benedictine habit. . As a monk, Wojciech performed all, even the lowest, duties. It included water supply for the monastery kitchen. Two years later, his compatriots asked about the Prague bishop. The Pope, "guided not so much by his own will as by God's law," ordered him to return. There the bishop found the old relaxation of morality. His situation was further complicated by disputes with the Przemyślids.
Unable to do anything, he returned to the Roman monastery on the Aventine Hill (995 or 996). There he befriended 17-year-old Otto III, who was then in the Holy City, whom he later met in Mainz, when he had to return to Prague for the second time. However, he did not reach the capital. It was prevented by the siege and fall of Libice and the murder of his relatives. The news of this reached Wojciech, probably in the monastery on the Aventine. Therefore, he went from Mainz to Prince Bolesław the Brave, who - as Kanapariusz writes - was very kind to him. The exact date of Wojciech's arrival in Gniezno is unknown. This had to be done by January 997 at the latest.
Probably three months later, Wojciech moved north to the Prusai land, which started on the right bank of the lower Vistula and Nogat, in the east it joined the lands inhabited by the Lithuanians, and in the southeast with the territory of the Galindians and Yotvingians. Bolesław gave him a boat and thirty soldiers, whom Wojciech sent back after his arrival, leaving alone with his inseparable companion Radzym Gaudenty and Bogusza Benedict, who knew the Prusai language and could serve as interpreters. On the way, Wojciech stopped in Gdańsk, where - according to tradition and life - he taught and baptized. The place where St. Adalbert in the land of Prussia remains a mystery to this day.
However, thanks to his early life, the circumstances of his martyrdom are known. Kanapariusz described the last moments of Wojciech's life as follows: (...) Already at the rosy dawn the day arose as they continued their journey singing psalms, shortening it to themselves and constantly invoking Christ, the sweet joy of life. They passed through the woods and the bush and came out in the clearing about noon. There, during the mass celebrated by Gaudent, the holy monk took Holy Communion and afterwards, to relieve the fatigue caused by the journey, he ate a little. And after he had uttered a verse and another psalm, he arose from the grassland, and scarcely a distance from a thrown stone or an arrow let loose, he sat down on the ground. Here sleep engulfed him; and because he was weary from the long journey, a drowsy calm overwhelmed him with all his might. Finally, while they were all asleep, the furious pagans came rushing upon them with great violence and tied them all up. And Saint Adalbert, standing before Gaudent and the other bound brother, said: “Brothers, do not grieve! You know that we suffer for the name of the Lord, whose perfection above all virtues, beauty above all persons, unspeakable strength, extraordinary goodness.
For what could be braver and more beautiful than to dedicate a loving life to the beloved Jesus? » A fiery Sicco sprang from the enraged mob and, with all his might, brandishing a huge spear, pierced his heart right through. Being the sacrifice of the idols and the leader of the gang, out of devotion to duty, he was the first wounded to be wounded. Then they all fled and, wounding many times, filled their wrath. Red blood flows from the wounds on both sides; he stands praying with his eyes and hands raised to heaven. A scarlet stream gushes forth profusely, and when the spear is removed, seven huge wounds burst open. [Wojciech] stretches out his free hands on the cross and sends humble prayers to the Lord for the salvation of him and his persecutors.
Leaving the body in place, they impaled the head on a stake, and praised their crime, and all returned gleefully to their homes. And Wojciech, the holy and glorious martyr of Christ, died on April 23, 997, during the reign of the almighty Otto the Third, the pious and most famous emperor, on Friday; This happened, of course, because on the same day our Lord Jesus Christ would suffer as a man before his God." The martyr's body was bought by Bolesław the Brave and buried in the church on Lech Hill in Gniezno. Two years later, in 999, Pope Sylvester II raised Wojciech to the altars, and in 1000, the German Emperor Otto III made a pilgrimage to Gniezno, announcing the papal decision to build the first Polish metropolis with a capital at Gniezno. Radzy Gaudenty.