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St. Hedwig of Silesia: The duchess who dressed like a peasant


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Philip Kosloski - published on 10/14/23

Even though St. Hedwig was the Duchess of Silesia, she sought to be among the poor and did not like her royal clothing.

Typically the ruling class of a society are given the best of everything and it can be tempting for royalty to look down upon the peasant class. Yet, St. Hedwig of Silesia did the exact opposite and sought to be with the poor, casting away any physical benefits she possessed.

St. Hedwig was a devout woman of the 13th century and was married to the Duke of Lower Silesia, Henry the Bearded.

While she was duchess, it is said that she traded her own clothes for the clothes of a poor woman, according to Vatican News.

She was so modest that she was able, in an unheard of way, to disregard the fashions that her rank would have imposed upon her. Hedwig was not too proud to dress herself in used clothing and old shoes. She did not want to stand out from the poor, because, she said, “they are our masters.”

When her husband died, St. Hedwig moved into a Cistercian monastery of nuns that was led by her daughter.

Even while she was there she expressed her desire to be counted among the poorest.

In Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Fr. Butler relates a story about her giving away her habit to the poor.

Out of a spirit of sincere poverty and humility she never wore any other than some old threadbare castaway habit. One of the nuns happened once to say to her: “Why do you wear these tattered rags? They ought rather to be given to the poor.” The saint meekly answered: “If this habit gives any offence I am ready to correct my fault.” And she instantly laid it aside and got another, though she would not have a new one.

St. Hedwig remains a powerful example of a member of the ruling class who saw the poor as her friends and desired to be like them in all things.

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