Since not much is known about St. Hyacinth, the story of his life is interwoven with many beautiful legends. Here is one particularly moving story brought to us by the tradition: One day, during his mission in Ruthenia, Hyacinth was celebrating the Holy Mass in a church in Kiev. When he finished, someone told him that the Tartars had invaded the town, plundering homes and murdering the inhabitants. Without thinking, Hyacinth took the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament from the altar and intended to runaway. Suddenly he heard a voice: 'Hyacinth, you have taken my Son but you are leaving me?' After this he took the statute of the Blessed Mother, which felt weightless under his arm, and safely left the city. He crossed the Dniepr River traveling to Halicz and returned to Krakow via Lvov.
Representative of the first Polish Dominicans, Saint Hyacinth was an excellent preacher and missionary. He sought to demonstrate to the people of Poland the true values of authentic Christianity. He was a true shepherd of souls, sensitive to the peoples' needs and tribulations. He studied, preached, heard confessions and visited the sick, serving his fellow men in word and deed and giving them an example to follow.
The life of Saint Hyacinth
Hyacinth was born in Kamien Slaski, in Opole (Oppeln) region, shortly before 1200. He descended from the noble family of Odrowaz, relatives of Ivo Odrowaz, bishop of Krakow. Bishop Ivo was a broad-minded man whose strong personality and powerful position in the church, greatly influenced the spiritual path which Hyacinth decided to follow. He appointed Hyacinth a canon of the cathedral and sent him to Paris and Bologna to study theology and canon law. After his return, Hyacinth became known for his broad knowledge and aesethic lifestyle.
Once Bishop Ivo journeyed to Rome accompanied by Hyacinth, together with his relative Ceslaus, as well as Herman and Gerard of Wroclaw. In Rome, they met Dominic, founder of the order which would later be named after him. Bishop Ivo asked Dominic to send some friars to Poland. As there were no brethren, Dominic invited the Poles to join the order in Rome and promised to send them back to Poland. Thus, the companions of bishop Ivo: Hyacinth, Ceslaus, Herman and Gerard, completed the novitiate and were accepted to the Order by Dominic. At that time, Hyacinth was a little over twenty years old.
In autumn 1222, the Dominican friars came to Krakow and settled down at Holy Trinity Church. They had a twofold challenge: the establishment of priories in Poland and starting missionary activity among the neighboring peoples. Hyacinth played an invaluable role in both tasks. Around 1226, he led a group north. They were welcomed in Gdansk by Prince Swietopelk and bishop Michael, and established fa priory there. The success of this mission was a decisive point in the strengthening of the Polish Dominican province. In 1228, at Pentecost, during an extraordinary chapter held in Paris, the Polish Dominicans were declared to have equal rights with the other provinces. Hyacinth was a member of the delegation to Paris, together with provincial Gerard of Wroclaw and Martin of Sandomierz. This selection testifies to the important position held by Hyacinth in the Krakow priory.
This is further confirmed in a document issued by bishop Ivo, which states that on 29 September 1228, Hyacinth and provincial Gerard attended the chapter of Krakow Province. Quite likely, they used that occasion to report to the young Polish Province the success achieved in Paris. The following years, Hyacinth devoted himself to missionary activity in Ruthenia and Prussia. The mission to Kiev was undertaken in 1228-1233 while the one in Prussia dates back to 1236-1238. Between 1240-1257 Hyacinth lived in the Krakow priory.
Hyacinth was never provincial nor even a prior. He focused on the challenges facing the Polish Dominicans: the internal and external mission. Paramount was the necessity to deepen the Christian faith, still very superficial in many parts of Polish society.
Hyacinth died on 15 August 1257, the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. He was buried in the Dominican church in Krakow.
People began to venerate Hyacinth immediately after his death in 1257. The canonization process lasted several centuries, beginning in the 13th C, intensifying in the late 15th C, and was completed at the end of the 16th C. with the support of the Polish Kings. King Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548), petitioned Rome many times concerning the canonization of Hyacinth. However, it was only after the efforts of King Stephen Bathory (1576-1586) and King Sigismund III (1587-1632) that the petition succeeded. On 17 April 1594, pope Clement VIII canonized Hyacinth. This fact contributed to the growth of the veneration of Saint Hyacinth, which is most vivid at his tomb in Krakow and in Silesia, his place of birth.
Saint Hyacinth is venerated not only in Poland but also in the rest of Europe, the Americas and Asia. The feast day of Saint Hyacinth is 17 August. Saint Hyacinth is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Krakow.
Special thanks to the Brethren of the Priory of the Holy Trinty for this life of St. Hyacinth.