Icon of St. Hemma of Gurk - 21th c. - (1HG20)

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Commemorated on June 27th

Little is known about Hemma's descent; she was probably born between 995 and 1000 (other sources mention 980 AD), her ancestors were related to the Bavarian Luitpoldings and thus to Emperor Henry II. Her grandmother Imma (Emma) was vested with market and minting rights at her estates in Lieding (today part of Straßburg) by Emperor Otto II in 975. The bestowal raised objections by the Archbishop of Salzburg and the privileges were later transferred to Gurk, Carinthia. According to her hagiography, Hemma was a member of a noble dynasty descending from Pilštanj (Peilenstein) in the Mark an der Sann (in present-day Slovenian Styria) and was brought up at the Imperial court in Bamberg by Empress Saint Cunigunde.

Hemma married the Carinthian count William II of Friesach, mentioned as margrave an der Sann in 1016, by whom she had two sons, Hartwig and William. Her husband had received vast estates on the Savinja (Sann) river from the hands of the Emperor. Both her sons and her husband were murdered, Margrave William II probably in 1036 by the deposed duke Adalbero of Carinthia in revenge.[4] Hemma became wealthy through inheritance upon the death of her husband and sons.

Countess Hemma used her great wealth for the benefit of the poor and was already venerated as a saint during her lifetime. In addition, she founded ten churches throughout present-day Carinthia, Austria. In 1043 she founded the Benedictine double monastery of Gurk Abbey, where she withdrew during the last years of her life.