Sunday, June 29, 2008

1.6 (Chap. 6)

An event took place, compared with which all other affairs lost their importance. Toward evening of the twenty-first of June, the news of the queen's sudden illness spread throughout the castle. Bishop Wysz and the other doctors remained in her room the whole night. It was known that the queen was threatened with premature confinement.

The castellan of Krakow, Jasko The Ax of Tenczyn, sent a messenger to the absent king that same night. The next day the news spread throughout the entire city and its environs. It was Sunday therefore the churches were crowded. All doubt ceased. After mass the guests and the knights, who had come to be present at the festivals, the nobles and the burghers, went to the castle; the guilds and the fraternities came out with their banners.

From the noon countless crowds of people surrounded Wawel, the royal castle, but the king’s archers kept an order. The city was almost deserted and only from time to time crowds of peasants moved toward the castle to learn some news about the health of their beloved queen. Finally there appeared in the principal gate, the bishop and the castellan, and with them other priests, king's counselors and knights.

They mingled with the people telling them the news, but forbidding any loud manifestation of joy, because it would be injurious to the sick queen. They announced to all, that the queen has delivered a daughter.

This news filled the hearts of all with joy, especially when they learned, that, although the confinement was premature, there was now no danger, neither for the mother nor for the child. The people began to disperse because it was forbidden to shout near the castle and everybody wished to manifest his joy. Therefore, the streets of the city were filled immediately, and exulting songs and exclamations resounded in every corner. There was no disappointed because a girl had been born.

"Was it unfortunate that King Louis had no sons and that Jadwiga became our queen? By her marriage with Jagiello, the strength of the kingdom was doubled. The same will happen again. Where can one find a richer heiress than our queen. Neither the Roman emperor nor any king possesses such dominion, nor so numerous knights! There will be great competition among the monarchs for her hand; the most powerful of them will bow to our king and queen; they will come to Krakow, and we merchants will profit by it; perhaps some new domains, Bohemian or Hungarian, will be added to our kingdom."

Thus spoke the merchants among themselves, and their joy increased every moment. They feasted in the private houses and in the inns. The market place was filled with lanterns and torches.
The merchants from outside the city camped on the streets. Local Jews meet at the synagogue. Almost till daybreak, there was great life and animation throughout the city as it usually was during festivals. Every once in a while they were sending for the news from the castle. The bad news arrived that the Bishop Peter, had baptized the child during the night. That meant that the child was very weak. But the experienced townswomen quoted similar cases, in which the infants had grown stronger immediately after baptism. Therefore they comforted themselves with this hope which was greatly increased by the name given to the princess. Some claimed that neither Bonifacius nor Bonifacia can die immediately after baptism because the child so named is destined to accomplish something great. But during the first years, especially during the first weeks, the child cannot do anything good or bad.

The next day, however, there came bad news from the castle concerning the infant and the mother, and the city was in turmoil. During the whole day, the churches were as crowded as they were during the holidays. Votive offerings were very numerous for the queen's and princess' health. One could see poor peasants offering some grain, lambs, chickens, ropes of dried mushrooms or baskets of nuts. There came rich offerings from the knights, from the merchants and from the tradesmen. They sent messengers to the places known for miracles. Astrologers consulted the stars. In Krakow itself, they ordered numerous processions. All guilds and fraternities took part in them. There was also a children procession because the people thought that they would be more apt to obtain God's favor. Through the city gates new crowds were arriving.

Thus day after day passed with continual ringing of bells, with the noise of the crowds in the churches, with processions and with prayers. But when a week has passed and the beloved queen and the child were still living, hope began to enter the hearts of the people. It seemed to them impossible, that God would take from the kingdom the queen who, having done so much for it, would leave so much unfinished. She brought the last pagan nation in Europe to Christianity. The scholars told how much she had done for the university; the clergy, how much for God's glory; the statesmen, how much for peace among Christian nations; the law scholars, how much for justice; the poor people, how much to fight poverty. None of them could believe that the life so necessary to the kingdom and to the world would be ended prematurely.

On July 13th, the tolling bells announced the death of the child. The city was in an uproar. The people swarmed through the streets of the city, and uneasiness seized them. The crowd surrounded Wawel again, inquiring about the queen's health. But now nobody came out with good news. The faces of the lords entering the castle, or returning to the city, were gloomy, and every day became sadder. They said that the priest Stanislaw of Skarbimierz, the master of liberal sciences in Krakow, did not leave the queen, who every day received Holy Communion. They said also, that after every communion, her room was filled with celestial light. Some had seen it through the windows but such a sight frightened the hearts devoted to the lady. They feared that it was a sign that celestial life had already begun for her.

Some did not believe that such a dreadful thing could happen, they reassured themselves with the hope that the justice of heaven would be satisfied with just one victim. But on Friday morning, July 17th, the news spread among the people that the queen was in agony. Everybody rushed toward Wawel. The city was deserted, even mothers with their infants rushed toward the gates of the castle. The stores were closed and the food was not prepared. All business was suspended. Around Wawel, there was a sea of uneasy, frightened but silent people.
At last at the thirteenth hour, the bell on the tower of the cathedral resounded. They did not immediately understand what it meant, but the people became uneasy. All heads and all eyes turned toward the tower in which was hung the tolling bell, its mournful tones were soon repeated by other bells in the city: by those at Franciscans, at Trinity, and at Virgin Mary. Finally the people understood and their souls filled with dread and with great grief. At last a large black flag embroidered with a death's head, appeared on the tower. Then all doubt vanished: the queen had rendered her blessed soul to God.

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