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Saint Sanislaus of Szczepanów

Saint Sanislaus is known in the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Stanislaus the Martyr and was martyred for standing against the Polish King Boleslaw II the Generous.

Saint Sanislaus was born on July 26th, 1030, in a village known as Szczepanow in the Kingdom of Poland and was the only son of of a very noble and pious family. After a formal education in the then capital of Poland Gniezno, Saint Sanislaus was sent to Paris for further education and on his way back home to Poland was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Karkow, Bishop Lambert II Sula. Bishop Lambert assigned him as the pastor of Czembocz and later vicar-general. In 1072 Bishop Lambert II passed away and Sanislaus was elected as the new Bishop - he was one of the earliest native Polish bishops of the church. Saint Sanislaus fully embraced his new role in the Church and reestablished a metropolitan see in Gniezno as a precondition for Duke Boleslaw's coronation as King.

What began as an amicable relationship between Saint Sanislaus and the now King Boleslaw soon turn into trouble fairly quickly after the coronation when a land dispute arose. Saint Sanislaus had purchased land on the banks of the Vistula river from a man named Piotr. When Piotr died, his family claimed the land through inheritance and disputed Saint Sanislaus's purchase. The King initially ruled in favor of the family but according to tradition Saint Sanislaus persuaded the king to allow for three days in order for a witness to come forward. Saint Sanislaus informed the king the requested witness was no other than the deceased man Piotr - a statement that made the king breakout in laughter. Saint Sanislaus spent the three days fully engrossed in prayer before leading a procession to the cemetery where Piotr had been buried. The grave was opened and when Saint Sanislaus commanded the body to stand, Piotr miraculously came back to life and stood before the crowd of witnesses. As the court stood in silence and disbelief, Piotr reprimanded his family and testified that the Bishop had indeed purchased the land. King Boleslaw had little other option than to rule in Saint Sanislaus's favor.

King Boleslaw soon found himself in a long, drawn out war in Ruthenia. Soldiers late in the war began to desert and return to their homesteads because word had begun to spread through the army that overseers in Poland were taking over their lands and their wives deserting the family. King Boleslaw cruelly and mercilessly punished the soldier's faithless wives. The punishments were so severe that Saint Sanislaus publicly criticized the King. Other writers also attested that Saint Sanislaus criticized the King's sexual immorality and the King's violence towards his subjects. The criticism reached it's peak when Saint Sanislaus excommunicationed the King. In return, King Boleslaw accused Saint Sanislaus of treason, arguing that the excommunication was an attempt to help the political opponents of King Boleslaw.

King Boleslaw ordered his execution immediately but the men sent to carry out the murder refused to kill a Bishop of the Church. King Boleslaw took the execution upon himself and murdered Saint Sanislaus while he was celebrating mass. The murder stirred unimaginable outrage across the country almost immediately. King Boleslaw was dethroned and sought refuge in Hungary.

Saint Sanislaus's relics were translated in 1345 to Krakow's Wawel cathedral and in the early 13th century Bishop Iwo Odrowaz ordered Wincenty of Kielce to write the martyr's vita as the church prepared for his canonization. Pope Innocent IV formally canonized Saint Sanislaus on September 17th, 1253 at Assisi. Pope Clement VIII inserted his feast into the Calendar for May 7th, but Poland still celebrates it on May 8th. The feast day was revised in the 1969 update to April 11th, the date of his death in 1079.

Saint Sanislaus is considered the patron saint of Poland and Krakow, sharing the patronage of Poland with Saint Adalbert, Saint Florian, and Our Lady the Queen of Poland. Beginning with King Wladyslaw I the Elbow-High nearly all Polish kings were crowned while kneeling in front of Saint Sanislaus's sarcophagus at the Wawel Cathedral. Pope Saint John Paul II called Saint Sanislaus the patron saint of moral order.

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