Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Stanislaus came from Szczepanow where he was born around 1030. He became the bishop of Krakow around 1072 when king Boleslaw II the Bold ruled the country. Most probably the bishop supported parties that were against the ruling king whom he betrayed by taking part in a plot of nobles. The bishop, who tried to gain more political power, was punished for the betrayal with the death penalty of cutting his body into pieces – the penalty that was unsuitable, even for the traitor, for the servant of God. Stanislaw from Szczepanow was executed (the penalty was most probably conducted on the Wawel Hill) what caused the king even more opponents therefore he had to flee from the country, leaving Polish throne to his brother –Wladyslaw Herman.
Soon after the death of the bishop his legend started to become stronger. People worshipped him as a martyr, telling each other stories concerning his life and death. With time the reasons of his death became the aims of making Stanislaw the first saint of Poland – especially that the story was described by the chronicler of the king who took over the rule after Boleslaw the Bold, and who at the same time wished to strengthen hatred against Boleslaw the Bold.
The later legend about the deceased bishop says that the king severely punished his subjects, warriors that left him during the prolonged war in Ruthenia and their wives that were said to be taken over by the overseers. The warriors decided to come back, leaving the king, to claim their wives and estates back. The king punished the unfaithful wives, although they were forgiven by their husbands, by making them feed the poppies and making their babies-bastards to be fed by bitches. The bishop did not support such a cruel punishment and excommunicated Boleslaw the Bold and was punished for that with death penalty.
The legend changes also the conditions in which Stanislaw from Szczepanow was killed. According to it, the subjects of the king refused to carry out the royal order and the king killed the bishop personally while the latter one was conducting the service in one of Krakow churches. His body was cut into pieces but miraculously came together – except for one of the fingers that was later on found in the belly of the fish swimming in the nearby pond (that also miraculously grew to the rest of the body). White eagles protected the body of the martyr. This legend became especially popular with time, when Poland became divided into pieces and its inhabitants believed that it would come together just as the body of the martyr.
However, it was not until the story of Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury killed by the followers of king Henry II of England) became the basis of his canonization, that the natives remembered about Stanislaw and wished to make him the first Polish saint. He was canonized in 1253. Although the historians try to prove that the legend of his martyrdom differs from the truth, 900 hundred years after the death, St Stanislaw became one of the patrons of Poland.