Engern, Saxony (Germany), 895.
Quedlinburg, Saxony (Germany), March 14, 968.
Saint Matilda was born in Engern, Saxony (Germany), in the year 895. Her parents, Dietrich of Westphalia and Reinhild of Denmark, belonged to a family of high nobility. She was educated by the religious sisters of the convent of Herford, where she learned to read and write, an education which was uncommon at the time. From a very early age, Matilda was known for her religious piety and her attentive care of those in need.
She married Henry, also known as “the Fowler”, who inherited the title of Duke of Saxony from his father. The couple had five children: Otto, who become the Holy Roman Emperor; Henry, called “the Quarrelsome”; Saint Bruno, Archbishop of Cologne and founder of the Carthusians; Gerberga, who later married King Louis IV of France and Hedwig, who married Hugh the Great, Duke of France and Count of Paris.
King Conrad, the monarch, died without an heir in the year 919, and, therefore, Henry was crowned King of Saxony. Saint Matilda, in her new position as queen, lived with the same austerity and humility as always. She treated everyone with great kindness, without distinguishing between the nobility and the servants, showing true charity towards all. With the approval of her husband, Saint Matilda offered generous alms to the poor. As queen, she was also known for her devotion and piety.
One day, in the year 936, while praying in the temple, she received news of the sudden death of her husband, the king. Without losing her serenity, she went before the altar and knelt before the Tabernacle, offering a fervent prayer to the Lord. Then she asked the priest to celebrate the holy Mass for Henry’s soul. Before leaving the temple, she took off her jewels and left them on the altar as an offering; with this gesture, she showed her renouncement of the treasures of the world to lead a life of humility and service to the needy. In fact, she sold all her possessions to help the poor and began to live a life of austerity and penance.
After the king’s death, the two oldest sons, Otto and Henry, disputed over the throne. Otto triumphed and was crowned king, but Henry did not accept this and the controversy between the two brothers continued. Henry grew even more envious when, in the year 962, Otto was chosen to be the Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda suffered greatly because of these feuds between her two sons. Later on, they accused her of wasting the kingdom’s wealth and of hiding money. They made her give exact account of all her spending and donations, submitting her to a complete inspection. Although they found nothing of which to accuse her, they expelled her from the palace. Saint Matilda accepted all this with patience; she did not mind bearing this affliction if it would help her two sons, previously in conflict, to be united. Her only concern was the salvation of their souls.
Suffering because of her sons’ mistrust, but with faith in the Lord, Saint Matilda decided to renounce her inheritance and return to her birthplace. Later on, Otto and Henry asked their mother’s forgiveness, although she had already granted it. She returned to the court and was able to continue with her works of mercy. Her son Otto gave her the freedom to give alms and do works of charity. Henry, however, continued to treat his mother bitterly and to fight against his brother Otto. Saint Matilda warned her son Henry of his close death, bringing him to repentance of his sins.
After the death of her husband, Saint Matilda founded several convents in Nordhausen, Quedlinburg, Engern and Poehlen. She alternated between life in the court and a more secluded life until the year 965, when she left this world forever. When she sensed that her time to go to heaven had come, Saint Matilda gave her few remaining possessions to the poor. She died surrounded by her family on March 14th, 968.
Since there are no writings about Saint Matilda’s relationship with the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we omit these two sections, as well as the section with reading material.
After the death of her husband, King Henry I of Germany, Saint Matilda founded a women’s religious community in the Palace of Quedlinburg, Saxony (Germany). Her body and that of her husband are buried in this convent, where Saint Matilda has been venerated since her death.