When Pope John Paul II traveled to his native Poland in June 1999, he fulfilled a long-held dream to canonize Kunigunde, a Polish princess whose elevation to sainthood had been stalled for many years because of political conditions. Celebrating the momentous event with him were half a million people who gathered in a field outside the small town of Stary Sacz.
Kunigunde, or Kinga, was born in 13th-century Hungary into a royal family distinguished for its political power as well as its holy women. Her aunts included St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Hedwig and St. Agnes of Prague; numbered among her siblings are the Dominican St. Margaret and Blessed Yolande.
When only 15, Kunigunde became engaged to the man who was to become the next King of Poland: Boleslaus V. Upon their marriage, the two took vows of chastity before the bishop and lived out their promises during their 40 years of married life. Meanwhile, Queen Kunigunde undertook the care of her young sister and spent many hours visiting the sick in hospitals. As the First Lady of Poland she was ever attentive to the welfare of her people and their special needs.
When King Boleslaus died in 1279, the people urged the queen to take over the reins of government, but she wished to consecrate herself wholly to God. For 13 years she lived the simple life of a Poor Clare nun, residing at a convent she and her husband had established. Ultimately she was elected abbess, and governed with charity and wisdom. She died a peaceful death, surrounded by her loving sisters. Many miracles are said to have occurred at her tomb.
In 1715, Pope Clement XI chose her as the special patron of Poles and Lithuanians.