Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Leopold, Marquis of Austria

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Leopold III of Austria; by Tiroler Glasmalereianstalt, 1908; Saint Jodok Catholic Church, Bezau, Vorarlberg, Austria; photographed on 27 May 2012 by Wolfgang Sauber; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Leopold, surnamed the Pious, was the sixth of the Marquises of Austria. Even in his childhood he gave evidence of his future holiness. Prayer and solitude were more beloved by him, than the plays and pastimes in which children usually rejoice. He never uttered an improper or frivolous word, and during his whole life was remarkable for the modesty of his conversation. He fled the very shadow of sin, being instructed by his pious parents to fear God and shun all evil. This piety, which distinguished Leopold from his childhood to the end of his days, and which was not only observed at church, but at home, in all his actions, won for him the surname of “the Pious.” Although educated amidst the dissipation and the temptations of a Court, and therefore continually in danger of sinning, he preserved his innocence unspotted.

After his father’s death, he came to the head of the Government, and his administration was such as to give entire satisfaction to his subjects. Devotion to God he made the foundation of his reign, and hence he endeavored never to depart from the obedience which he owed to God and the holy Church. He had an appointed time for prayer and other devout exercises, and to these he attended before all other affairs. The difficulties which naturally beset a prince in his administration, he bore cheerfully; and giving every one free access to him, he patiently heard all complaints, earnestly endeavoring that all should receive justice without delay. Towards widows, orphans and the poor, he evinced a truly fatherly love and employed a large portion of his revenues in their maintenance. In one word, Leopold’s government was such, that it might serve as a model to all princes. Agnes, the wife of our holy Marquis, was the daughter of the Emperor Henry IV., and was not less remarkable for piety and virtue than her husband. They lived together in undisturbed peace and fidelity. By the advice of Agnes, the Marquis resolved to build and endow a large church, in order that, as he expressed it in the Charter, the faithful and the clergy might there 1 praise the Lord unceasingly, whilst he himself was prevented by his affairs from serving the Divine Majesty as assiduously as he desired. Before he had selected the spot where this church should be erected, he was, one day, standing at the window and speaking of his project, when a sudden gust of wind blew the veil from the head of the Marchioness, and carried it away. A few days later, while hunting, Leopold found this veil hanging on the branches of a tree. This circumstance determined his choice, and he gave immediate orders to build, on that spot, a magnificent temple in honor of the Blessed Virgin, to whom he had been deeply devoted ever since his childhood. As soon as the edifice was completed, he gave it to the regular Canons of Saint Augustine, for whose dwelling, a noble monastery had been built near the church. Soon after, he founded another monastery in a lonely valley, about twelve miles from Vienna, for the Religious of Saint Bernard. This house too was most liberally endowed, so that its inmates might serve and praise the Lord, undisturbed by anxiety for their temporal wants. The large sum of money required for these Foundations was not regretted by the saintly Marquis, who trusted that the prayers of the pious monks, and the praises which were continually sent up from these churches to the Almighty, would draw the divine blessing upon his people, for the welfare of the whole land. For this reason also, he gave all possible assistance to the Priests, especially to those who were zealous in praising the Most High, and in laboring for the salvation of his subjects. He treated them with the utmost regard, and severely punished all those who wronged them, or who dared to oppose their holy endeavors.

The pious reign of Saint Leopold lasted for forty years, during which time, none of his subjects expressed the slightest dissatisfaction. All rejoiced in being under so wise and virtuous a regent, and sincerely wished him a long life. The fame of his great and noble qualities spread also into other countries, and induced many princes and persons of high standing to go to Austria, in order to become acquainted with him and to profit by his example. After the lapse of forty years, the Almighty sent him a most painful malady; and it was truly edifying to see the heroic patience with which the holy man bore his sufferings, and how he encouraged himself by repeating the verses from Holy Writ, which he had learned in the days of his health. After devoutly receiving the holy Sacraments, he ended his virtuous and holy life, in the year 1136. His death was, as his life had been, peaceful and holy. How great his glory is in heaven, and how powerful his intercession, has been made known to the Christian world by many and great miracles. We will give only a few of the instances that are recorded.

A certain woman was threatened with imprisonment if she did not pay her debts. Unable to fulfill her obligation, she went to the tomb of the Saint, begging him, who during his life had been so kind to the poor, not to forsake her in her great need. During her prayer, it seemed to her that she distinctly heard the words: “Go home, search in your chest, and you will find a receipt for all your debts.” Returning home joyfully, she opened her chest, and finding the receipt, she went to the creditors and requested the return of the bill of debt; they, however, told her that a stranger, clad in purple, had been there and having paid her debt had taken the bonds. This convinced the woman that Saint Leopold had miraculously come to her aid.

A man who was imprisoned, with chains on his hands and feet, made a vow to Saint Leopold, and was, in a miraculous manner, released from prison. Being at liberty, he forgot his vow, and conducted himself as wickedly as ever. Before the end of the year, he was again cast into the same dungeon. He soon repented of his fault, renewed his promise, and invoked the Saint a second time. He was once more heard, and, by another miracle, saved from the prison, this time to lead a better life, after having given due thanks at the tomb of his holy intercessor.

Another man had lost his hearing. After vainly trying many remedies, he took refuge with the Saint, and promised to perform certain good works, if he was cured. His prayer was immediately heard; but he delayed, from day to day, the fulfillment of his promise, until, for his faithlessness, he again became deaf. Full of grief and confusion, he renewed his prayer and promise, and was cured a second time; and then, made wiser by experience, he hastened to fulfil his vow.

Practical Considerations

• Saint Leopold built churches and convents, placed devout men in them, and endowed them richly, that the inmates might be undisturbed and pray to God and praise Him. The treasure thus expended he deemed well laid out, as he believed that the prayers of pious religious, and the unceasing praise of the Almighty in the churches would draw the divine blessing upon his subjects. He also protected the priests, never allowed them to be disturbed in the administration of their functions, and always treated them with due reverence. Oh! how far are our times from imitating the example of Saint Leopold! The people of these days consider as wasted whatever is given for the building of churches and convents and for the maintenance of the religious. They not only never think of founding churches and convents, or increasing the income of needy priests, but they even endeavor to annul the ancient donations, to decrease the income of the Church or to withdraw it entirely. They think that churches, convents and priests do more harm to the people than good, and are a useless burden to the State. The clergy is oppressed instead of being protected; despised and slandered, instead of being treated with reverence. And why is this? We are told, no doubt, that it is all prompted by zeal for the benefit of the people. “How many hospitals, prisons, school-houses might be erected,” our wise men tell us, “how many poor maintained, with the unnecessary and superfluous revenues of churches, convents and priests?” Thus they speak. To me, however, this zeal seems somewhat like the zeal of the traitor Judas, when he said: “Why was this waste of ointment made? For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and the money given to the poor.” (Mark 14) How great a zeal for the poor! But under cover of this zeal, was hidden a despicable avarice. “He was a thief,” says Holy Writ. (John 12) He thought not of the poor, but of his own purse. If the ointment or its value had fallen into his hands, he would have had his part of it. When he saw that he would get none of it, he murmured against the waste of the precious spices. The reader will easily draw the inference. In regard to the number of priests and their revenues, which are generally much exaggerated, I ask, in my turn: “Why does the State need so many office-holders of all grades? Could we not do with half, or less than half of them? Would the world go to ruin without them? And to what good are their large salaries? Could they not live with less? Or is their income used better than that of the clergy?”

Of disrespect to priests, I have already spoken; I add only one word more now; I wish that all those of whom I have made mention, may be so fortunate as to have a pious priest at their side in their dying hour, to guide them happily into eternity. I admonish you, my reader, not to allow such people to lead you from the path of right. Rejoice at the sight of so many churches and convents erected in honor of God. Give thanks to the Almighty, for giving us pious priests and religious, who by their prayers and good deeds, praise the Almighty and draw the divine blessing on the whole land, as Saint Leopold said.

• Saint Leopold was so careful in his speech, that an improper, or frivolous word never passed his lips. Saint James says: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” (James 3) How is it with you? Can it be said, with truth, that your lips never utter an improper word? Ah, think of your many lies and slanders, your invectives and curses. Remember the many indecent, impudent and lascivious speeches that you have made, as well in the presence of the young as on other occasions. You and those who listened to you may have deemed it jesting and pastime; but what Saint Chrysostom writes is doubtless true: “It is no pastime, no jest, but a vice extremely displeasing to the Most High.” Oh, how you will be frightened, in your last hour, by the recollections of such and other sinful speeches; how strict will be your account at the Judgment-Seat of the Almighty, and how terrible the punishment which you will have to suffer in eternity, if you do not do penance, and if you are not in future more guarded in your expressions. “This, my impious tongue, will condemn me,” cried a dying man, who had been indecent and shameless in his speech. Take heed that the same thing may not happen to you! “Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have perished by their own tongue.” (Eccl. 38) Repent when you have sinned, and correct your conduct; endeavor to be chaste and pure in all your words. “He that keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps his soul from distress,” says the Holy Ghost. (Proverbs 21)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Leopold, Marquis of Austria”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 May 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>