Queen Jadwiga’s tombstone

White marble from Carrara, made by Antoni Madeyski, 1902

Balustrade, bronze, copper plate

Krakow, the Wawel Cathedral

Carved in a single block of marble from Carrara and covered with a slightly smaller flat block with the figure of the queen lying with head directed towards the east. It is situated in the first arcade from the west in the southern wing of the ambulatory. An austere block tomb is supported by a base decorated with highly stylised lilies, a frize of square panels filled with heraldic eagles in the top part. The longer side (southern) is divided into seven panels, with the outer ones overlapping narrower sides. Central panels of the narrower sides feature escutcheons with coats of arms of the Anjou dynasty (eastern side) and Lithuania (western side). There is an inscription around the top of the tomb saying N. A. D. 1374 / HEDVIGIS REGINA POLONIAE / OB. A. D. 1399. To the right of the headrest (north), there is the artist’s signature: Ant. Madeyski – Rome 1902. The figure on the top bock depicts the queen lying with her hands joined together, dressed in a long sweeping gown with a laced bodice, and a cloak decorated with lilies, trimmed with a bordure decorated with rhomboids filled with the motif of quadrifoglio. The cloak is bound together on the chest with a small, round fibula with a decorative lily on it. The queen’s head rests on a cushion decorated with simplified, geometric lilies, her feet rest on a sleeping greyhound. The tomb is surrounded by a balustrade made of double-spindle balusters with a rail made of copper plate, with an inscription commemorating the queen.

Queen Jadwiga d’Anjou died on July 17th, 1399, several weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Elizabeth Bonifacia (June 22nd), probably due to labour-related complications (puerperal fever). She was buried on July 19th together with the child, who died on the same day, in the chancel of the Wawel cathedral, to the north of the base on which the main altar is situated. It is confirmed by an account from Jan Długosz, who wrote that the queen lies: in Cracoviensi ecclesia ad partem laevam altaris maioris, de prope sacrarium (in Krakow cathedral, to the left of the main altar, next to ciborium). In his Roczniki sławnego Królestwa Polskiego [Annals of the Famous Kingdom of Poland], the chronicler wrote the queen’s epitaph that was placed next to her grave soon after her death. It began with the words: Sidus Polonorum iacet hic, Hedvigis eorum // Regina nobilis, generosa quippe fuit (Here lies the star of the Poles, their // noble queen, she came from a holy family indeed). It was most likely written by Krakow bishop Piotr Wysz. A choice of such an exposed burial site probably resulted from the fame the queen enjoyed due to her piety and efforts aiming at her canonization that had been planned since Jadwiga’s death. Such a scheme is confirmed by an obituary entered into the so called Kalendarz Krakowski [Krakow Annals] on the day of queens death, which emphasised the extraordinary virtues of the deceased. In a sermon delivered during the funeral mass in the cathedral, Krakow bishop Piotr Wysz called Jadwiga ozdobą Królestwa Polskiego, ostoją ładu państwowego, klejnotem niezwykłym, ukojeniem wdów, pociechą nędzarzy, wspomożeniem uciśnionych, poszanowaniem dostojników Kościoła, ucieczką kapłanów, umocnieniem pokoju, świadectwem i ostoją prawa Bożego [a gem of the Kingdom of Poland, an anchor of state’s order, an extraordinary jewel, comfort of widows, solace of paupers, help to the oppressed, respect for Church officials, escape of priests, strength of peace, and anchor to Lord’s laws]. The queen’s burial site was adjacent to the altar of St Erasmus and St Bridget she had founded soon before her death and in which, a ciborium for storing the Eucharist was situated. A selection of devotions for this altar seems significant, because St Erasmus was worshipped as one of the fourteen holy helpers and was called in the case of stomach ache. It may be thus assumed that the foundation was related to the queen’s long-awaited pregnancy. In her final years, Jadwiga was also deeply devoted to worshipping St Bridget of Sweden. The decision on the burial site was based on a belief that the close proximity of Eucharistic offering celebrated constantly guarantees God’s care over the deceased. Some time later, prince Casimir, son of Władysław Jagiełło and his last wife Sophia, was buried in front of that altar when he died at the age of one (1427). The role of the platform in front of the main altar as an „internal” mausoleum of the royal family is confirmed by burial of cardinal Frederick Jagiellon (died in 1503), the youngest son of Casimir IV Jagiellon and Elisabeth of Austria, archbishop of Gniezno and bishop of Krakow.

The queens grave was well remembered, it was a cult site and pilgrimage destination for representatives of all social classes as early as at the beginning of the 15th century. In early 17th century, the chancel of the church changed greatly due to restoration works carried inside the cathedral in order to adapt it to liturgy requirements after the Council of Trent. When in the years 1647-1650, a new, magnificent main altar, commissioned by bishop Piotr Gembicki, was erected, two projections made of black marble from Dębnik were also build on each side of the stairs leading to the altar. In the left one, an inscription was placed to confirm the presence of queen Jadwiga’s remains in this part of the church.

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 – Władyslaw Luszczkiewicz, Marian Sokołowski, Izydor Kopernicki and count Konstanty Przezdziecki. When Odrzywolski and Matejko entered the tomb and confirmed that it was most likely Jadwiga’s grave, the ordinary of Krakow, cardinal Albin Dunajewski arrived at the cathedral. The event was recorded in reports on exploration, but also in a detailed graphic documentation executed by Matejko, who was present there throughout the whole process.

In 1895, Leon Wyczółkowski made models of sarcophaguses for queen Jadwiga and Casimir the Great. In 1900, under cardinal Jan Puzyna, a new sarcophagus for the queen for finally ordered and financed by one of the greatest Polish patriots, an expert in art an collector of especially ancient and renaissance pieces, count Karol Lanckoroński. It was designed and carved in Rome by Antoni Madeyski. The order placed on July 17th, 1900, by cardinal Puzyna, reserved that: Jadwiga’s monument must be made of Carrara marble, take a horizontal form, and by styled after early Italian renaissance. A sarcophagus without a baldachin, decorated with appropriate coats of arms. Lanckoroński wished that the tomb referred to one of the most famous female tomb of the renaissance, sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto (died in 1405) in the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. So, one of the most exquisite works of Quattrocento sculpture made by a founder of a new style – Jacopo della Quercia. Lanckoroński entrusted a friend, Marian Sokołowski, a professor of art history at Jagiellonian University, one of the first representatives of this field of scientific research in Poland, with the task of supervising the order. In his letter of August 4th, 1900, the outstanding researcher wrote Madeyski: Jadwiga was worshipped by her contemporaries like a saint, there have been discussions on the canonization, we do not have any reliable and accurate image, so the statue should depict the ideal of her the nation cherishes in their memory. […] It is […] about expressing sacrifice, charm, and humility that would speak to people and arouse gratitude.. […] Again, the most important thing – is a general and beautiful concept, a pure image of a woman of noble features, whom death put into eternal sleep. The first model of the tomb was prepared by Madeyski in August, while the second one was created in November of 1900, after a more thorough studies on the times of queen Jadwiga. When the design was approved, the sculptor began carving works, while a foundation was built in the cathedral, on which the tomb was placed in November of 1902. Unfortunately, Madeyski’s design of a balustrade, which was to separate the tomb from the rest of the cathedral, was never executed. The balustrade was to consist of forged, iron, highly stylised lilies tangled fancifully with long leaves. The present, simplified form of the balustrade was added c. 1910.

Sources from that time are explicit that Madeyski modelled the tomb after the sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia. It is a work of early Quattrocento style which bears traces of very strong connection to the so called international gothic of the 14th/15th century. Lanckoroński must have chosen this work because of the time it was created; Ilaria was born in 1379, so she was almost Jadwiga’s peer. This model, Lanckoroński’s attachment to Italian art, and probably Madeyski’s education and his prolonged stay in Rome as well, decided on the choice of material. Carrara marble has been considered a synonym of perfection in art since the 15th century. Its impeccable white colour was extremely attractive, both for formal and symbolic reasons. Extreme prestige associated with this material was related mostly to a belief (still widespread among people with limited knowledge of art) that ancient sculptures were snow white. Apart from that, the most outstanding modern artist had faced the challenge posed by this material. The most significant sculptures by Michelangelo, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Bartolommeo Berecci, or Antonio Canova, were carved in Carrara marble, but also the local, Krakow-enrooted tradition should be taken into consideration. The sarcophagus was placed in an arcade between the chancel and the southern wing of the ambulatory, which referred to burials of Władysław the Elbow-high, Casimir the Great, and Władysław Jagiełło. Also Ann of Cilli (died in 1416), Jagiełło’s second wife, was buried in an arcade (second from the east in the southern wing of the ambulatory). Only the tomb’s orientation (head towards the east) is unusual and is sometimes interpreted symbolically as the queen is facing the “congregation”. It is hard to say whether so was the intention of the founder and the tomb’s author. It is sure, however, that in the Middle Ages, people were buried with their feet towards the east, because Christ was to come from that direction at the end of time.

Madeyski’s work was warmly received. This considered mostly the queen’s figure, whose „sweetness” and gentleness were well matched with the contemporary comprehension of religious art. The figure on the block is deprived of almost all royal attributes, apart from the crown and the dog by the queen’s feet. The latter element originates from sepulchral art of the Middle Ages; dogs were popular animals at courts and location of a dog under a deceased’s feet symbolised faithfulness. Dogs are also present, yet depicted in an unusual way, with falcons, as hunting animals, on the base of Władysław Jagiełło’s tomb. This may be then an element that deliberately links the spouses’ tombs. However, the key role is played by omnipresent lilies, heraldic flowers of the Capetian dynasty, of whom the d’Anjou descended. But these flowers, depicted without escutcheons, referred, first and foremost, to Jadwiga’s virtues – purity and innocence. Polish historical literature of the 19th century, which is characteristic of patriotic pathos, an image of the queen as the „Lily of Wawel” has been preserved. Madeyski took in Sokołowski’s guidelines that the sculpture: should depict the ideal of her the nation cherishes in their memory. […] It is […] about expressing sacrifice, charm, and humility. The sarcophagus was less appreciated for its too modern block character and oversimplification of forms.

Despite these doubts, recognition of Madeyski’s achievement was confirmed by subsequent commissions for the Wawel cathedral. In 1904, he carved Władysław III’s tomb, but this one was completely different in style. Its structure is gothic, it refers to local works of architecture of the 15th-century-Krakow. In 1913, bishop Adam Stefan Sapieha started a fund collection for a tomb of cardinal Jan Puzyna, for which the chapter offered 2000 crowns. Although this project has never been executed, a photograph has been preserved showing a model made by Madeyski in Rome. The cardinal was shown on his knees, immersed in prayer; his prie-dieu features a coat of arms, bishop’s insignia, and an inscription. It is uncertain where the statute was to be located, but the design referred to a type of tombs with a kneeling figure rarely found in Krakow. Examples of such inspirations include an interesting design by Konstanty Laszczka for a tomb of Krakow bishop Iwo Odrowąż, which was supposed to be erected in his burial site, in the chancel of the Dominican Holy Trinity Church in Krakow. The model of the tomb has been preserved in the abbey; it features a signature on the edge of its base: K. Laszczka 14 IX 1915. The artists designed a free-standing tomb with figures in the corners and a figure of the deceased lying on the top block. The sides featured the coats of arm of Poland and the Odrowąż family, a crucifix, and a bust of the Virgin and Child. Apart from the general compositional concept, the design includes a clear reference to Jadwiga’s tomb in the form of a dog under Odrowąż’s feet, which here results from the well known nick name for Dominican monk – Domini canes (Lord’s dogs). The popularity of the tomb was related, first and foremost, to the promotion of Jadwiga’s cult in connection to the beatification procedure. The postulator of a canonical process, father Rudolf van Roy (parish priest at the collegiate church of St Anne in Krakow) placed an order with Jan Bukowski for an image of queen Jadwiga based on the tomb statue, whose reproductions (35 x 100 cm) were sent to all parish churches and divisions of religious orders in Poland on June 4th, 1934. The image was also distributed by the Association for Emigrants with a dedication from primate cardinal August Hlond.

Although the sarcophagus carved by Madeyski was appreciated and popular, it remained empty for the next 47 years. 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. When the chamber was opened, all its contents were taken from the main altar area to the cathedral treasury. Detailed recognition procedure was performed on white linen in order to preserve even the smallest “dust” (Latin cinera), for which a special chest was made. Professor Jan Olbrycht, PhD, and Marian Kusiak, PhD, from the Unit of Forensic Medicine at the Jagiellonian University’s Faculty of Medicine, performed a thorough analysis of the bones and confirmed that they were well-preserved and belonged to a woman aged c. 29, who must have stand out among her contemporaries due to unusual height of c. 175-182 cm. Upon the completion of works, queen’s remains were placed in a brass coffin lined with white brocade along with a document that described the scope of works undertaken in 1949 (as well as the previous document from 1887). The coffin was brazed and sealed by cardinal Sapieha. Next, it was placed inside a larger oak coffin with an inscription saying OSSA SERVAE DEI HEDVIGIS REGINAE 1399-1949 and then placed inside a sarcophagus carved in 1902 by Madeyski. Circa 100 000 people are said to have participated in the translation ceremony, which became of the largest post-war religious and patriotic manifestations. After that, the plaque which marks the original location of queen’s burial was added the last part of the inscription Transferred 14 + VII in the Year of Our Lord 1949. The remains of royal insignia retrieved from the grave were exhibited next to the sarcophagus, in a glass display cabinet designed and made by a bronzesmith, Edmund Korosadowicz.

Since July 14th, 1949, queen Jadwiga’s sarcophagus carved by Antoni Madeyski has been a site of incessant cult of the queen. Pilgrims place numerous wraths and bouquets and there is a local tradition for students visiting the queen’s tomb, to leave their school emblems there. Wraths were placed on the queen’s tomb, as well as on the tombs of Casimir the Great and Władysław Jagiełło, on May 19th, 1964, when the six hundred anniversary of the Jagiellonian University was celebrated. It was visited by members of a Tribunal, established for the purpose of proceedings on confirmation of the history of active cult, which were carried out in the years 1972-1974 thanks to cardinal Karol Wojtyła’s efforts. The tribunal was especially interested in the wraths and other symbols of gratitude offered to Jadwiga, which confirmed that such a cult existed. A culmination of these efforts took place on June 9th, 1979, when pope John Paul II visited the Wawel cathedral for the first time. The pope celebrated a mass to queen Jadwiga according to a new form approved by Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship and Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. He was wearing the Krakow bishops’ rationale, which, from the point of view of liturgical history, was an unprecedented event. These efforts were officially concluded on August 8th, 1986, when the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints promulgated Declaration on the Blessed Jadwiga Queen of Poland. The document opened the road to canonization. On June 5th, 1987, cardinal Franciszek Macharski, upon reception of approval form the Congregation, presided over another exhumation of the queen’s remains, whose status as relics was confirmed by the Church this time. They were transferred to a new reliquary made of bronze, designed by professor Witold Korski of Krakow University of Technology and made by Antoni Oremus. During John Paul II’s visit to Krakow several days later, on June 10th, the reliquary was placed in a niche cut into the predella of the Crucified Jesus altar. On this occasion, the pope delivered a sermon on the Holy Cross that began with the words Ave Crux (Praise be to the Cross). The event gained worldwide attention and a photograph showing John Paul II praying by queen Jadwiga’s sarcophagus was distributed as a souvenir of these celebrations.

The next step in the proceedings concerning canonization of queen Jadwiga was a decree on the heroic virtues issued on December 17th, 1996. It quoted, among others, an excerpt from the oldest inscription on the grave in the Wawel cathedral. On June 8th, 1997, John Paul II declared Jadwiga a saint during a mass in Krakow Błonia park. It was the first canonization mass to take place in Poland.

Bibliografia; Błogosławiona Jadwiga Królowa w oczekiwaniu na kanonizację. Katalog wystawy w Muzeum Archidiecezjalnym w Krakowie, ed. father Józef A. Nowobilski, Kraków 1997; Adam Sachetnik [father Czesław Skowron], Ołtarz z krucyfiksem królowej Jadwigi w katedrze wawelskiej, „Analecta Cracoviensia”, XX, 1988, pp. 333-364; father Jacek Urban, Grób – relikwiarz Świętej Królowej Jadwigi, Kraków 1999; father Michał Jagosz, Beatyfikacja i kanonizacja świętej Jadwigi królowej (Studia do dziejów Wydziału Teologicznego Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, vol. XV), Kraków 2003


Antoni Madeyski
wysokość: 1,45133 m
długość: 2,6276 m
szerokość: 1,10104 m
Rzeźba, kucie
Biały marmur karraryjski
Nie dotyczy
Kraków, katedra na Wawelu
Kraków, katedra na Wawelu
Parafia Rzymsko-Katolicka
Św. Stanisława Biskupa i Męczennika i Św. Wacława

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
8 March 1964