16 Dec Saint Adelaide, Empress
Today is the feast day of Saint Adelaide. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Adelaide was the daughter of Rudolph II, King of Burgundy. She was born in 931 and at age 15 married Lothaire II, King of Italy. Later their daughter became Queen of France.
Adelaide was 18-years-old when she lost her husband, who was supposedly poisoned by his political competitor Berengarius of Ivrea. The latter soon proclaimed himself King of Italy and proposed to unite Adelaide in marriage with his son. The widow refused and Berengarius confiscated her estates and held her prisoner in the Castle of Garda.
From it she was rescued by a priest named Martin, who dug a subterraneous passage, by which she escaped, and remained concealed in the woods, her rescuer supporting her, meantime, by the fish he caught in the lake. St. Adelaide managed to escape and fled to the Castle of Canossa, property of the Church. From that impregnable fortress she directed a plea to Otto I, King of Germany, to come to her aid.
Otto I hastened to her appeal with a powerful army. After defeating her oppressor, Otto became King of Italy and married St. Adelaide on Christmas day, 951. One year later, in 952 he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. The eldest son of this marriage, Otto II, succeeded his father as Emperor. At first, influenced by his jealous wife Theohano, Otto II revolted against his mother. Fearing for her life, she fled to Burgundy. There she came to know St. Odilon and became famous for her charities to many French monasteries.
Later, after her son repented, she returned to Germany where she continued her saintly life. She sent a splendid imperial mantle worn by her son to be placed in the grave of St. Martin. She wrote these instructions to the one charged with the mission:
“When you will reach the tomb of the glorious St. Martin, say these words: ‘Bishop of God, receive these humble gifts from Adelaide, servant of the servants of God, sinner by nature and Empress by the grace of God. Receive this mantle of Otto, her eldest son. You, who had the glory to cover Our Lord with your mantle in the person of a poor man, pray for him.’”
After Theophano died, Adelaide became the regent of her grandson, Otto III. She used her position to help the poor, evangelize, and build and restore monasteries and churches. She was especially friendly with the monastery of Cluny, then the centre of a movement for reform and with its abbots St. Majolus and St. Odilo. The latter wrote a memoir of her, calling her ‘a marvel of beauty and goodness’.
In the last year of her reign she undertook a journey to Burgundy to reconcile her nephew Rudolph with his subjects, but died on the way at Seltz, in Alsace. She is not mentioned in the Roman martyrology, but her name appears in several calendars of Germany, and her relics are enshrined in Hanover. St. Odilo of Cluny wrote her life. She was laid to rest next to the tomb of Otto the Great, her second husband.
Image: Saint-Adélaïde impératrice sur un vitrail par Lorin, dans l'Église de Toury. Photo by Kaho Mitsuli. (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff