(c. 978—1033)

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empress. The child of Siegfried and Hedwig of Luxemburg, she married the Emperor Henry II, was crowned with him by the pope in 1014, and influenced him in his ecclesiastical endowments, especially of Bamberg. The couple were childless, a fact mistakenly interpreted by later hagiographers as evidence that their marriage was virginal: a similar tendency can be seen in the case of Edward the Confessor. At the time of a dangerous illness Cunegund vowed to found a convent at Kaufungen, near Cassel (Hesse). The buildings were nearly finished when her husband died (1024); on his first anniversary the church was dedicated. After the Gospel she offered at the altar a relic of the Cross; then she exchanged her imperial robes for a Benedictine nun's habit and spent the rest of her life in prayer, reading, and the care of the sick.

The 12th-century biography prepared for her canonization relates that she once asked to undergo the ordeal of walking on hot ploughshares to clear herself of an accusation of infidelity to her husband. This incident is depicted among other scenes of her life in a 16th-century relief in Bamberg cathedral. Another story is that the first abbess of Kaufungen, Cunegund's niece Judith, was frivolous and lax, preferring to be feasting with some young sisters at the time she was supposed to be at the Sunday procession. Cunegund, not for the first time, admonished her without much effect until, exasperated, she slapped her face. The finger marks were said to have remained on the abbess's face until her death and served as a perpetual warning to the community.

Cunegund was buried with her husband Henry in Bamberg Cathedral. She was canonized by Innocent III in 1200; the bull of canonization survives and is interesting as the first example of the technical phrase plenitudo potestatis being used in connection with canonization, whose process had been begun under Celestine III. Feast: 3 March.

AA.SS. Mart. I (1668), 265–82;E. W. Kemp, Canonization and Authority in the Western Church (1948), pp. 104–5;B.L.S., iii. 24–6;Bibl. SS., iii. 393–9;R. Klauser, Der Heinrichs-und Kunigundenkult in mittelalterlichen Bistum Bamberg (1957).

Subjects: Christianity.

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