Burial royal insignia (sceptre and orb) of St queen Jadwiga
Gilded wood, Krakow, 1399
Display cabinet, Edmund Korosadowicz, 1949
Krakow, the Wawel Cathedral
In the second bay, counting from the west, of the south transept, placed against a stone wall inside an arch, on an altar stone covered with brass plate, there is a metal, glazed case in the shape of a horizontal cuboid on tiny legs. On the top strip, there is an inscription saying: SERVAE DEI REGINAE HEDVIGIS EX TUMBA A. D. 1949; on the bottom strip: IUXTA VOTA ADAE STEPHANI CARDINALIS SAPIEHA CURA STANISLAI JASINSKI SCHOLASTICI ET PAROCHI SUMPTIBUS CULTORUM SERVAE DEI. On side strips, there are highly stylised leafy ornaments and on the joints of the strips, there are highly stylised lilies. Inside, there is a baculum–type sceptre made of gilded wood, thin and elongated. Its bottom part has a handle separated with a simple ring, in the top part, there is a polygonal plate topped with a finial composed of ragged leaves. The top and bottom ends feature rounded bumps. The orb is made of wood, gilded, globe-shaped, topped with a Greek cross.
In the 19th century, on the rising of patriotism, Jadwiga’s cult also increased in popularity, as she was identified not only with Christian ideals, but also as a personification of Poland’s glorious past. It intensified especially around the quincentennial of baptism of Lithuania and the Union of Krewo in 1886. When a year later cardinal Albin Dunajewski launched restoration works within the chancel of the Wawel cathedral, executed under the supervision of architect Sławomir Odrzywolski, the queen’s tomb was found on January 22nd, 1887. Father Ignacy Polkowski, a junior curate at the cathedral, notified and summoned immediately the following members of a Committee for Restoration of the Wawel Cathedral: Jan Matejko – the head of the Academy of Fine Arts and the most distinguished Polish painter of historical scenes, Jagiellonian University professors – Władysław Łuszczkiewicz, Marian Sokołowski, Izydor Kopernicki and count Konstanty Przeździecki. When Odrzywolski and Matejko entered the tomb and confirmed that it was most likely Jadwiga’s grave, the ordinary of Krakow, bishop Albin Dunajewski arrived at the cathedral. The queen’s skull and her royal insignia were excavated and placed on the main altar, so that Matejko could make a detailed graphic documentation. A very modern, scientific approach to these works is reflected in anthropological examination of queen’s bones performed by professor Izydor Kopernicki. After bishop Dunajewski said a prayer for the departed, these items were placed back in the grave along with a parchment note saying: Head, sceptre, and wooden orb were taken out for sketching in the presence of the most reverend bishop Albin Dunajewski, put back, the grave was covered with plates and sealed.
On April 22nd, 1949, cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha launched proceedings on the famous holiness, heroic virtues, and miracles of Lord’s servant Jadwiga, queen of Poland. The natural consequence of such an action was exhumation of the remains, which was carried out on July 11th-14th, 1949. A detailed examination (recognition) was performed by professor Jan Olbrycht, PhD, and Marian Kusiak, PhD, from the Unit of Forensic Medicine at the Jagiellonian University’s Faculty of Medicine. They agreed that the well preserved bones belonged to a woman aged c. 29, who must have stand out among her contemporaries due to unusual height of c. 175-182 cm. On this occasion, Jadwiga’s burial chamber and its contents were examined thoroughly. Jadwiga’s burial chamber was made of precisely fit limestone blocks smoothened with a chisel for a uniform surface. At the bottom, there is a foundation of four layers of brick in monk bond (stretcher-header-stretcher). The internal dimensions of the chamber are: length 234.5-239 cm, width 100-102 cm, depth 154 cm. During construction works, 10 iron bars were set in the structure 38 cm over the bottom and 116 cm under the top rim as supports for the coffin. They were supposed to ensure insulation and secure the burial against dampness. Shorter walls of the chamber were also smoothened on the inside, while the inside of the southern side was finished with a limestone panel (196 x 80 cm) with a sculpted surface. On the panel, there are two rows of small lancet arches filled with irregular rounded texture, one of which is decorated with a rosette. It probably was a part of an antependium for the cathedral’s main altar (consecrated in 1346), which, for reasons unknown (it might have broken during processing), was shortened and reused for Jadwiga’s tomb. It has been impossible so far to uncover the outer surface of the chamber’s north wall, thus we do not know how it was processed. The opening in the floor was covered with a large (234 x 115.5 cm) and very thick (23.5 cm) limestone plate. The design of the original coffin is unknown. The queen’s body was found in a large wooden box without a lid, covered with unattached wooden boards. The remains might have been transferred to that box during construction works executed within the chancel in mid 17th century.
The queen was buried in rich clothing of silk damask with sleeves trimmed with strips of thicker fabric with rhomboid pattern (four such strips, 28 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, were found). The queen was wrapped in a shroud of damask, while her face was covered with a white muslin veil. The grave was equipped with fake royal insignia made of gilded leather (crown) and gilded wood (sceptre and orb topped with a cross). Also two letters by pope Boniface IX were placed in the coffin. They had leaden bulla, identical with the one attached to his letter to Władysław Jagiełło, dated as of May 5th, 1399 (Krakow, Archive of Wawel Archdiocesan Chapter). The pope expressed his wish that the child of the royal couple was named after him and Wojciech Jastrzębiec, bishop elect of Poznań, was the infants godfather. Other items found in the tomb included ceramic tiles (26 x 26 cm) decorated with heraldic lilies and flowers overdone in stylisation, covered with yellow glazing. These tiles come from medieval floor of the chancel (c. 1346) and they got inside the tomb either during the burial or during a remodelling within the base of the main altar in mid 17th century. The last item found in the tomb is a small clay bowl which cannot be precisely dated due to its simple shape and lack of decorations. The use of this vessel is unknown.
The fact that royal insignia were found in the grave was especially important at that time of partitions of Poland, because they arouse patriotic feelings. Unfortunately, Jadwiga’s crown did not survive. Only fragments of gilded leather, of which it was probably made, were found. Such an assumption can be made based on exploration results of king Casimir Jagiellon’s (died in 1492) grave, which took place in the Chapel of the Holy Cross at the Wawel cathedral in 1973. It appeared that also this great king, who ruled for almost a half century, was buried with a leather crown. However, a well preserved sceptre and orb made of gilded wood were found in Jadwiga’s grave. The tradition of making impermanent burial insignia was widespread not only in medieval times, but in modern age as well. A number of such jewels were excavated while subsequent tomb in the cathedral were opened. Some of them were of high artistic value (e.g. the crown and sceptre from the tomb of Sigismund II Augustus with characteristic beautiful fleur in late-gothic style). Jadwiga’s insignia were made in Krakow, probably in a hurry, after the queens death on July 17th, 1399, but before her funeral, which took place two days later. They reproduce the shapes of insignia used at Polish court in the 14th century. Jadwiga’s sceptre is similar, in shape and proportion, to the sceptre sculpted on the tomb of Casimir the Great (c. 1370). It must be noted that when Jadwiga was taking Polish throne, royal insignia prepared for the coronation of Władysław the Elbow-high in 1320 were in Hungary, where king Louis had taken them. They were returned to Krakow as late as in 1412 thanks to Władysław Jagiełło’s efforts. At least a new crown was made for Jadwiga’s coronation, as it was in the case of coronation of Jagiełło and his second wife, Anne of Cilly. When the insignia of Władysław the Elbow-high were brought back from Hungary, Jagiełło’s crown started to be used for homagial ceremonies, but the fate of the other insignia is unknown.
The insignia found in Jadwiga’s grave were in no way repaired. They were treated as relics and exhibited permanently next to her sarcophagus. In order to do so, a glass display cabinet was designed and made by a Krakow-based bronzesmith, Edmund Korosadowicz. It has a simple shape and is decorated with history-inspired ornaments (leafy ornament in a late-gothic style referring to jewels from the late 15th century) and an inscription, whose font clearly refers to the inscription carved on Madeyski’s tomb. The dedication inscription suggests that the display cabinet was made upon a wish of cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha and on orders from canon Stanisław Jasiński, who was one of the cardinal’s closest and most trusted co-workers. He, among others, managed the Krakow division of Caritas, was a representative in a management board for seminary property, presided over a clergy missionary association for Krakow archdiocese, and was a secretary-general of a charity organisation. During the war, he was an active member of the Central Welfare Council. Cardinal Sapieha expressed his special trust in father Jasiński by entrusting him with a mission in 1943. He went to Katyn to make a report on exhumation of Polish officers murdered there by NKWD – People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs.
We are all well aware that to enter this Cathedral can not be without emotion. More I say, you can not enter it without the internal tremor, without fear because it contains in it - as in almost no Cathedral of the world - the enormous size, which speaks to us in all our history, our entire past.cardinal Karol Wojtyla