Saint Kinga's name appears in various forms and spellings, including: Kunegunda, Cunegunda, Kioga, and Zinga.
Both Kinga and her husband, Boleslaw V "the Chaste" embarked upon a marriage in which both parties were vowed to perpetual chastity. Boleslaw's family was similarly pious and sincere. His sister was blessed Salome of Cracow. When he ascended to the throne as Prince of Cracow, Kinga became his princess. Kinga soon began to devote herself to the care of the poor and the lepers and was known, both for her deep concern for the people, and her obedience and devotion to Christ and His Church.
There is a popular legend about this beloved saint in which she is said to have thrown her engagement ring into the Maramures salt mine in Hungary and that the ring miraculously traveled through the mine, following the trail of salt deposits, and was discovered at Wieliczka, where additional salt deposits were revealed, and where a salt mine now stands.
Kinga is patron saint of the salt miners, and the salt mine of Wieliczka in Poland has a large chapel dedicated to her that is 101 meters under ground. It is a remarkably beautiful Cathedral that is able to accommodate about 400 people.
When her husband died in 1279, Kinga sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor. Not long after that, she joined the Poor Clares monastery at Sandec (Stary Sacz). Matters of state, and the prestige of her royal position, held no interest for her. She was too modest and humble to have any taste for such power. Her heart belonged to Christ alone. In fact, she would allow no one to call her by her official title of Grand Duchess of Poland.
While her life with the prince had been characterized by charitable works and service, her time in the monastery was spent in silent contemplation. In 1292, at the age of 68, she passed from this world. In 1690, she was beatified, and in 1999 she was sainted.
Saint Kinga's convent, the Monastery of the Poor Clares, in Stary Sacz, Poland, remains a much-beloved landmark in the oldest section of this historic little town.
On June 16, 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Stary Sacz, the town of his birth, for the proclamation of the canonization of beloved Saint Kinga. A papal altar was erected on the common outside of the monastery that Kinga and created and in which she had died.
It was decided that the "Papal Altar" would remain as a visible remembrance of this special event. 700,000 people came to see the Pope on that day and to hear him speak, but he was too ill to read his own homily, which Cardinal Macharski of Poland read for him. The event had great personal significance for the Pope and, as time went on, he appeared refreshed by the memories and the loving people and was able to reminisce a bit.
Saint Kinga had every sought-after pleasure that exists in the world - money, prestige, power, glamour, luxurious possessions and properties - yet for her, Christ was the only jewel in her crown. We can learn a lot from her example, particularly Americans, who have at their disposal an excellent standard of living and the availability of many types of pleasures. Serving the poor and suffering while at the same time eschewing earthly pleasure in favor of the bliss of the Lord, Kinga became a saint.
Let us pray that we may do likewise.
Silver Rose Parnell
WIELICZKA SALT MINE - Photos
Catholic Saints Info web site
Saint Kinga Facebook page
Wikipedia page on Saint Kinga
Stary Sącz, Poland - Wikipedia information
Poland's Official Website for Stary Sacz
Stary Sacz, Poland - historical information and photos
Information on the Papal Altar of Stary Sacz in Poland
Pope Visits his Birthplace and Memories Energize Him - NY Times
Pope, Still Ailing, Pays a Sentimental Visit - L.A. Times