This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11 -- Feast of Saint Stanislaus Szczepanowsky

This saint, also called Stanislaus of Cracow,  was murdered by King Boleslav the Cruel.  The second name seemed familiar, and sure enough, we last met Boleslav the Cruel on September 28, when he killed his brother Wenceslaus at the door of the church.  But that was in Bohemia, and this Boleslav was in Cracow.  Was this a case of the shifting national borders of eastern Europe?  Or could there possibly be two rulers called Boleslav the Cruel? 

Boleslav the Cruel cuts down Stanislaus of Cracow
There's a lesson here, and it is that unless you want burning pine cones tied to the tails of all the neighborhood cats and dogs, don't name your son Boleslav.  Actually, I have no evidence that either of the big Boleys perpetrated acts of cruelty against neighbors' pets, but both murdered people in or near churches, and that's shocking. And cruel.  If this all seems too confusing, let me back up and explain.

Stanislaus was the son of a Polish aristocrat in the eleventh century, but he rose through the Church hierarchy as much for his virtues as his connections.  By the time he reluctantly clapped a mitre on his head (all the best bishops expressed reluctance before donning their mitres), he had a reputation for exemplary virtue. 

Boleslav's reputation is somewhat unclear.  In his day, he was called Boleslav the Generous.  Later, he was Boleslav the Bold.  Still later, Boleslav the Cruel.  History, it seems, has settled his hash in a way that his contemporaries couldn't. 

Boleslav was a skilled competitor in the international arena, but he was by no means a champion.  He reorganized the Polish currency to finance an adventurous foreign policy.  He waged covert and overt wars in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Kiev in order to support allied regimes.  But in doing this, he neglected his northern provinces and lost them to rebellions.  On the other hand, he successfully pried the Holy Roman Emperor's grip from his neck of the woods and proclaimed himself King, rather than Duke, of Poland.  On the whole, his reign was successful from a nationalist perspective.

As with many of these stories, we are presented with choices of what to believe.  For each pair below, choose either A or B.

King Boleslav and Bishop Stanislaus had a falling out.  The reason for it is:
A) Stanislaus was involved in a conspiracy to over throw him; or
B) Stanislaus chastised him, publicly and perpetually, for his lust and cruelty.  

Either way, Boleslav showed up at church with three soldiers and ordered them to kill the Bishop.  They came back out, protesting that they couldn't do it because Stan was bathed in holy light.  The King fumed that he didn't care what light shone all about.  Then he drew his sword, rushed the altar, and cut the bishop down. 

The Poles were outraged that their king had slain their Bishop.  What sort of example was this to set for little Polish children?  They rose up and drove Boleslav the Bold (soon to be the Cruel) out of the country.  Fortunately for him, the King of Hungary owed him a solid, so he was welcomed. 

A) he was soon overcome with remorse for his many sins and joined a monastery, where he lived out his days in quiet repentance; or
B) his outrageous behavior continued in Hungary until his hosts, tired of making excuses for him, put him to the sword. 

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