There are many versions of why Stanislaw excommunicated Boleslaw, setting the stage for the prelate?s death. Some versions are plausible because they appear rooted in historical fact. Others are legends without a historical basis.
One legend is that the bad blood between Stanislaw and Boleslaw evolved out of a land dispute. The story goes that a man named Piotr agreed to give the bishop a piece of land near Lublin upon Piotr?s death. But after Piotr died, his family refused to abide by his wishes, making a legal challenge against the bishop?s claim to the property.
The king ruled for the family and ? according to legend ? Stanislaw resurrected Piotr to prove his claim.
The bishop asked the king for three days to produce Piotr as a witness. Boleslaw thought it an absurd request but agreed. Stanislaw then dug up Piotr?s remains.
The story goes that Stanislaw told Piotr to rise, and ? in front of several witnesses — Piotr did. The king was dumbfounded. He dismissed the suit against the bishop, and Piotr was reburied.
Though the bishop won that round, forcing the king to reverse his decision, it was only human nature that Boleslaw was resentful ? and that that resentment eventually led to Stanislaw?s murder.
Another version of how the bad blood developed between Stanislaw and Boleslaw has history on its side and thus is much more plausible.
It says that the conflict between the two arose out of a prolonged war that Boleslaw was waging in Ruthenia.
Boleslaw?s weary knights became alarmed at news that certain royal figures who had stayed behind had taken over their estates and were sleeping with their wives ? in many cases with the wives? complicity. In response, the king punished the knights? wives so cruelly that the bishop criticized him. Angry about the criticism, the king killed him, the story goes.
Whether the truth about how the bad blood developed between the two powerful figures, the historical fact is that the bishop excommunicated the king. The excommunication helped the king?s political opponents, so Boleslaw accused the bishop of treason and killed him.
The story goes that the king killed Stanislaw while he was celebrating Mass at Skalka. Boleslaw was so angry that he hacked him to pieces.
Legend has it that the parts of his body miraculously reintegrated, but whether or not that occurred, the murder stirred outrage across the land. The king?s opponents mounted a coup. Boleslaw had to flee to Hungary.
His brother, Wladyslaw I, succeeded him. Stanislaw is one of Poland?s four patron saints, along with Saint Adalbert of Prague, Florian and Our Lady the Queen of Poland.
Almost all the Polish kings, beginning with Wladyslaw I, were crowned while kneeling before Stanislaw?s sarcophagus in the middle of Wawel Cathedral.
Although Stanislaw?s sainthood shows that the Catholic Church regards him as a hero, the question of whether those outside the faith should consider him a hero or a traitor remains one of the unresolved questions of Polish history.