Adelaide was born in the year 931, the daughter of Rudolph II, King of Burgundy. At the time of his daughter’s birth, Rudolph was at war with Hugh of Provence for the crown of Italy. When Adelaide was only two years old, as part of a peace agreement between Rudolph and Hugh, her father promised her in marriage to Hugh’s son, Lothaire. At the tender age of 16, Adelaide was wed to Lothaire, and her mother, who was now widowed, married his father, Hugh.
The peace did not last long after this; however, as a man named Berengarius, the Marquis of Ivrea, tried to claim the Kingdom of Italy for himself. He forced Hugh to abdicate the throne to his son, Lothaire. He then allegedly poisoned Lothaire and tried to get Adelaide to marry his son, Adalbert. Adelaide refused, however, and was imprisoned for her refusal. Most of her time was spent in solitary confinement in a small room in the Castle of Garda on the Lake of Garda.
It is said that a priest came and dug a tunnel to where she was being kept and helped her escape. She remained hidden in the woods until the Duke of Canossa, Alberto Uzzo, who had found out about her escape, came and carried her to his castle. During this time the Italians had turned against Berengarius and had compelled Otho to invade Italy. His invasion was successful and while in Canossa he met Adelaide and ended up marrying her on Christmas Day, 951 at Pavia.
While this marriage did not secure any rights to Italy, the people so liked Adelaide that subjugating the peninsula was made easy. Adelaide became so popular with the people that her daughter-in-law, who was married to Adelaide’s son, Otho, was envious of her and this became a problem. This daughter-in-law, Theophano, made Adelaide’s life so miserable because of her envy that Adelaide ended up leaving court and making her residence at Pavia.
However, Theophano died suddenly and Adelaide was called to take over her role of regent. She reigned with great wisdom and love. She never took revenge against her enemies and her court was like a monastery or religious retreat house. She had many monasteries and churches built in several provinces and evangelized constantly, trying to convert pagans to Christianity. In the year 999, on her way to visit with her nephew, Rudolph, Adelaide died while staying in a convent which she had founded at Seltz. Her relics are enshrined in Hanover.
1. Apparent misfortunes or setbacks can prove to be spiritual opportunities. St. Adelaide used her trials and exile to develop a rich spiritual life filled with good works, which eventually led her to found many monasteries and convents.
2. Our efforts to serve God can bear fruit many years later. The monasteries and convents Adelaide founded in the 900s, as well as her efforts to evangelize the Slavic people, can be seen today.
3. Reconciliation — which Adelaide freely gave and expressed in her communications with people — allows God to do great things through us.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Eusebius of Vercelli (371), Bishop, Martyr
Sts. Ananias, Azarius, and Misael (7th Century B.C.), Companions of Daniel