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as Sainte Livrade : at least it seems not unlikely that this is the same person. To determine that question, say the Bollandists, “ Hoc opus, hic labor est”.
hic labor est”. If these learned men find the question so difficult, we must be content to leave it in their hands, together with the mass of puzzles and perplexities by which the whole question is surrounded
Her cult extends over Belgium, France, Spain, Bavaria, and many other countries. În Bavaria and Helvetia she is called Kumernus; or in Latin, Kummernissa; in Germany, Ohnkummernus ; in Brabant, Oncommerspolder ; at Muringen, Cumerana; in England, Wilgefortis, Wilfordis, or Uncumber; in Normandy, Dignefortis, Wilgefortis, or Virgofortis.
But this string of names will weary the most patient reader. Nor would the long excursus as to the number of saints called Liberata be much more interesting. The legends will, it is hoped, be more pleasant reading.
In Brussels, “in Virginis auxiliatricis sacello", the relics of our saint were preserved as late as 1695, in a shrine on which there was a Flemish inscription, which, translated into Latin, ran thus :
“ Hic Sanctæ Ontcommeræ quiescunt Reliquiæ, hydropicis curandis patronie aptæ."
But the shrine (and its contents) seems to have been destroyed in a great conflagration in the year just indicated.
The Bollandists go on to say that in the Sarum Enchiridion, printed at Paris in 1533 by Germanus Hardouyn, her name, together with those of saints Sitha, Fredeswida, and Wenefreda, is found in the Litany of the Saints. Here is the Antiphon for St. Wilgefortis from this interesting volume :-
“ Ave, sancta famula, Wilgefortis, Christi,
Quæ ex tota anima Christum dilexisti,
A Christo pro munere, quod sibi voluisti,
Oremus. “Familiam tuam, quæsumus, Domine, beatæ Wilgefortis virginis et martyris tuæ, regis filiæ, meritis et precibus propitius respice ; et sicut ad preces ipsius barbam, quam concupivit, sibi cælitus accrescere fecisti; ita desideria cordis nostri supernæ gratiæ digneris beneficiis augmentare.
Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen."2
To which may be added that in the “ Prymer off Salysburye vse”, printed by Thielman Kerver at Paris in 1533 (Colophon, 1532), there occurs in the Litany, the petition : “ Sancta Wilgefortis
ora.” There are many variants of the legend of St. Uncumber. That which follows is an attempt to give a brief story of her life, disregarding these variants: an unhistorical method, it must be admitted, but probably adequate to the subject.
Wilgefortis was the daughter of a certain King of Portugal, a heathen, engaged in war against the King of Sicily. The latter, after the contest had been carried on for a long period, made good his entry into the domains of the King of Portugal, who was unable to resist his powerful opponent. His nobles proposed that, by way of attaining peace, he should give his daughter in marriage to the King of Sicily.
1 Lege acrius vel ocius. 3 On fol. cxlii, b.
? Acta Sanctorum, p. 64, column 1.
The Kings agreed upon this happy solution of the troubles. But an unexpected difficulty arose. The result of their agreement was communicated to the Virgin Princess, who absolutely refused her consent to the
arrangement, saying, that she would be the bride of none, save only of The Crucified. The Kings were sorely perplexed-as men have been before and since by the obstinacy of womenkind --and they resolved to try the effect of close imprisonment to break her stubborn spirit. In her prison, she prayed earnestly that she might be enabled to carry out her intention of devoting herself to a religious life ; and that, to that end, it would please heaven to send her some bodily disfigurement which should make her no longer pleasant in the eyes of men. Her prayer was heard, and she became bearded like a
Her father, bitterly incensed, accused her of having practised magical arts; but she replied that this beard had been sent her by The Crucified that she might preserve her virginity. The word suggested an awful alternative, for the father said, That unless she would deny The Crucified and worship the Gods whom he adored, she should herself be crucified. The cruel sentence was carried out to the very letter, and the intrepid virgin died upon a cross, praying for her murderers with her latest breath.
The Acta Sanctorum supplies three pictured illustrations of St. Wilgefort, that is, St. Uncumber.
1. An altar upon which a chalice is standing. Above the altar a large cross, to which is affixed a life-size figure of St. Wilgefort vested in a long robe, reaching nearly to the feet, a crown upon her head, the beard and moustache clearly seen. The effigy resembles that of a man so closely that it might easily be mistaken for an ordinary crucitix figure. On the dexter side a kneeling man plays upon a violin: on the altar lies a shoe which has fallen from the left foot of St. Wilgefort. The legend illustrated is this : a certain musician had been unjustly condemned to death. He fled for protection to the image of the saint, who at once demonstrated his innocence by shaking off one of her silver shoes. This is a Belgian picture. (Fig. 1.)
2. The second woodcut (fig. 2) displays the crucified figure of the saint, without the beard, an undoubtedly feminine figure. The hands are pierced, but in the attitude of benediction. The holy dove hovers above the dexter arm of the cross. Below is the inscription :
S. WILGEFORTIS alias ONTCOMMENE.
This is from an ancient Beguinage near Malines ; but
in the sixteenth century, during the troubles, it was brought into Malines, where the figure was commonly called
3. The third figure (fig. 3) seems to have been set up at Prague by a merchant, who was by birth a Belgian. The saint had hitherto been unknown in Bohemia, and a good deal of surprise was excited when the picture or effigy was first erected. The crucified virgin wears a crown, her hands are in benediction, the beard is not seen in the woodcut, though it is mentioned in the descriptive letterpress, and the figure is fully vested in a very richly embroidered gown extending widely at the feet, and adorned with “ ropes of pearls”. At her left kneels the
S. WILGEFORTIS alias ONTCOMMENE.
musician playing on his fiddle, and the shoe fallen from her left foot is seen beside him. The figure was adorned with precious gems.
Below it is a chronogram, giving the date of the erection of the effigy:
Diva vvilgefortis, aliter Liberata
sponsa Iesv, Virgo, et Martiir. The Baron de Blun, writing in the year 1686 to Pape