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The Life of the Blessed Hedwig
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Unknown
Silesian, Poland, 1353
Tempera colors, colored washes, and ink on parchment bound between wood boards covered with red-stained pigskin

13 7/16 x 9 3/4 in.
MS. LUDWIG XI 7

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In 1353 Duke Ludwig I of Liegnitz and Brieg and his wife Agnes commissioned this manuscript, which narrates the story of the life and works of Saint Hedwig in Latin ( Vita beatae Hedwigis ). One of the Duke's ancestors, Hedwig was born a wealthy noblewoman in the 1200s and lived a devout life with her husband Henry I and their children at the court of Silesia, a German-Polish border region. Hedwig founded numerous religious houses, including Silesia's first nunnery at Trebnitz. After her husband's death, she retired to this convent, where she lived an austere life dedicated to helping the poor. Although she never took religious vows, her self-mortification and charitable deeds and the healing miracles associated with her tomb led to her canonization in 1267.

This manuscript is the earliest extant copy of Hedwig's biography that includes illuminations. An image of the manuscript's patrons venerating Hedwig visually sets the book in the context of its creation, and a sequence of narrative images follows the story of Hedwig's life. At the duke's death, he left this manuscript to the shrine of Saint Hedwig at Brieg, where it came to be considered a relic of the saint herself.

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