saint stanislas Patron Martyre

On 8 May 1253, Pope Innocent IV proclaimed Bishop Stanislas a Saint and a second patron of Poland after Saint Wojciech, who was martyred in 997. The 8th of May was established as the feast day of Saint Stanislas. As the years and centuries passed, so the veneration and the fame of Saint Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr grew. The silver coffin of the Saint is still in the Royal Castle, where it hangs suspended above his altar, but most of his bones were used as relics and were divided through the ages between many churches, especially those that bear the name of Saint Stanislas.

The Cult of St Stanislas

The cult of Saint Stanisław the martyr began immediately upon his death. In 1088 his relics were moved to Kraków's Wawel Cathedral. In the early 13th century, Bishop Iwo Odrowąż initiated preparations for Stanisław's canonization and ordered Wincenty of Kielce to write the martyr's vita. On September 17, 1253, at Assisi, Stanisław was canonized by Pope Innocent IV. Subsequently Pope Clement VIII set the Saint's feast day for May 7 throughout the Roman Catholic Church, though Kraków observes it May 8, the supposed date of the Saint's death. The first feast of Saint Stanisław in Kraków was celebrated May 8, 1254, and was attended by many Polish bishops and princes. As the first native Polish saint, Stanisław is the patron of Poland and Kraków, and of some Polish dioceses. He shares the patronage of Poland with Saint Adalbert of Prague and Our Lady the Queen of Poland. Wawel Cathedral, which holds the Saint's relics, became a principal national shrine. Almost all the Polish kings beginning with Władysław I the Elbow-high were crowned while kneeling before Stanisław's sarcophagus, which stands in the middle of the cathedral.

In the 17th century, King Władysław IV Vasa commissioned an ornate silver coffin to hold the Saint's relics. It was destroyed by Swedish troops during The Deluge, but was replaced with a new one ca. 1670. Saint Stanisław's veneration has had great patriotic importance. In the period of Poland's feudal fragmentation, it was believed that Poland would one day reintegrate as had the members of Saint Stanisław's body. Half a millennium after Poland had indeed reintegrated, and while yet another dismemberment of the polity was underway in the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the framers of the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, would dedicate this progressive political document to Saint Stanisław Szczepanowski, whose feast day fell close to the date of the Constitution's adoption.

Each year on May 8, a procession, led by the Bishop of Kraków, goes out from Wawel to the Church on the Rock. The procession, once a local event, was popularised in the 20th century by Polish Primate Stefan Wyszyński and Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła. The latter, as Pope John Paul II, called Saint Stanisłas the patron saint of moral order.

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