Tuesday, April 15, 2008


"Yes, they have, I know it!" interrupted the duchess.

"He was a giant," continued the monk. "He was so strong he could pluck an oak tree with the roots, and nobody in the whole world could compare with him for good looks, playing on the lute or singing. One time, when he was at the court of a French king, the king's daughter, Helgunda who was join the monastery, fell in love with him, and ran away with him to Tyniec, where they lived together in sin because no priest would marry them with Christian rites. At the same time, there lived in Wislica, Wislaw the Handsome, member of King Popiel's family. He, while Walter Wdaly was absent, devastated the country around Tyniec. Walter, when be returned defeated Wislaw and imprisoned him in Tyniec not worrying that every woman as soon as she saw Wislaw, was immediately ready to leave father, mother and even husband, if she could only satisfy her passion. This happened to Helgunda. She immediately devised such restrains for Walgierz, that that giant, although he could pluck an oak with its roots, was unable to break them. She gave him to Wislaw, who took and imprisoned him in Wislica. There Rynga, Wislaw's sister, having heard Walgierz singing in his underground cell, soon fell in love with him and set him free. He then killed and cut to pieces Wislaw and Helgunda with his sword, left their bodies for the crows, and returned to Tyniec with Rynga."

"Was it not right, what he did?" asked the duchess.

Brother Hidulf answered:

"If he had received baptism and given Tyniec to the Benedictines, perhaps God would have forgiven his sins; but he did not do that, therefore the earth has devoured him."

"Were the Benedictines in this kingdom at that time?"

"No, the Benedictines were not here, only the pagans lived here back then."

"How then could he receive baptism, or give up Tyniec?"

"He could not, and that is exactly why he was sent to hell to endure eternal torture," answered the monk with authority.

"Sure! He speaks rightly!" several voices were heard to say.

In the meanwhile they approached the main gate of the monastery, where the abbot with numerous monks and noblemen, was awaiting the duchess. There were always many people in the cloister: land stewards, barristers and procurators. Many noblemen, even powerful barons, held in fief from the monastery numerous estates; and these, as "vassals," were glad to pass their time at the court of their "lord," where near the main altar it was easy to obtain some gift and many benefits. Upcoming celebrations brought many vassals from far away. Those who didn’t find accommodations in Krakow came to Tyniec. Therefore the Abbot could greet the duchess with a numerous retinue.

He was a man of great stature, with a thin, intelligent face. His head was shaved on the top with a fringe of grey hair below. He had a deep scar on his forehead, which he had evidently received during his youth when he performed knightly deeds. His eyes looked penetratingly from beneath dark eyebrows. He wore a monk's dress similar to that worn by the other monks, but over it he wore a black mantle, lined with purple; around his neck was a gold chain from which was hanging a gold cross set with precious stones. His whole figure betrayed a proud and confident man accustomed to command.

But he greeted the duchess graciously and even humbly, because he remembered that her husband belonged to the family of the dukes of Masovia, from which came the kings, Wladyslaw and Kazimierz; and that her mother was the reigning queen of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world. Therefore he passed the threshold of the gate, bowed his had low, and then having made the sign of the cross over duchess Anna Danuta and over her court, he said:

"Welcome, my lady, to the threshold of this poor monastery. May Saint Benedict of Nursia, Saint Maurus, Saint Boniface, Saint Benedict of Aniane and also Jean of Tolomeia - our patrons living in eternal glory,- give you health and happiness, and bless you seven times a day during the remainder of your life."

"They would be deaf, if they did not hear the words of such a great abbot," said the duchess affably; "we came here to hear mass, during which we will place ourselves under their protection."

Having said this she stretched her hand toward him, which he kneeing upon one knee, kissed in knightly manner. Then they passed through the gate. The monks must have been waiting to celebrate a mass, because immediately the bells were rung; the trumpeters blew near the church door in honor of the duchess. Every church used to make a great impression on the duchess who had not been born in a Christian country. The church in Tyniec impressed her greatly, because there were very few churches that could rival it in magnificence. Darkness filled the church except at the main altar where many lights were shining, brightening the carvings and gildings. A monk, dressed for a mass, came from the vestry, bowed to the duchess and commenced mass. Then the smoke from the fragrant incense arose, veiled the priest and the altar, and mounted in quiet clouds to the vaulted ceiling, increasing the solemn beauty of the church. Duchess Anna bent her head and prayed fervently. But when an organ, rare in those times, began to shake the nave with majestic music, filling it with angelic voices, the duchess raised her eyes, and her face expressed, beside devotion and fear, a boundless delight; and one looking at her would take her for some saint, who sees in a marvelous vision, the open heaven.

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