Gloriosus apparuisti inter principes Austriae, sancte Leopolde, ideo diadema suscepisti de manu Domini; ora pro nobis ad Deum qui te elegit.- Antiphon for the Feast of Saint Leopold
Among the greatest of the rulers of Austria, Saint Leopold was born in Castle of Babenberg in Lower Austria in 1073. Raised under the influence of the bishop St. Altmann, Leopold was firm supporter of the Church during the confusing struggle of the Investiture Controversy. He succeeded his father, Count Leopold II, as Markgraf (March Count or Margrave) of Austria at the age of twenty-three. His first wife having died 1105, he married Agnes of Waiblingen, the sister of Emperor Henry V, and the widow of Frederick Hohenstaufen.
Leopold was the head of the house of Babenberg, the first hereditary family which ruled Austria. His family’s unique position as the founders of their realm gave the Princeps Terræ a great love for the marcha Orientalis, and he greatly fostered the spiritual development of his people. In 1114 he founded the great Augustinian abbey of Klosterneuburg according to legend by command of an apparition of Our Lady, and at the behest of his son Otto in 1133 he founded the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) in Lower Austria (where our friend Pater Edmund Waldstein of Sancrucensis resides).
In 1118 soldiers of a civil war in the Kingdom of Hungary raided Austria, plundering towns along the border. A true father to his people, the Count led his soldiers to protected his realm, and in battle defeated the invading raiders. Impressed by his holy rule, the Prince-Electors offered Leopold the Imperial Crown upon the death of Emperor Henry V in 1125, which the saint refused, preferring instead to devote his life entirely to the rule of Austria. Loyal to his Emperor, he accompanied Holy Roman Emperor Lothair III to his coronation in Rome.
The father of eighteen children, his life was saddened by the infant deaths of seven of his children, however, he never allowed bitterness to cloud his faith. He raised his remaining children strongly in their faith, and was succeed by his son Adalbrecht (the son of his first wife) upon his death in Klosterneuburg in 1136. Receiving the last Sacraments and calling upon Christ our redeemer he received the Crown of Glory on the fifteenth of November at the age of sixty-three.
At the requests of the Monasteries of Klosterneuburg and Heiligenkreuz he was canonized 1485 by Pope Innocent VIII and during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I was declared the Patron Saint of Austria in 1663. The rule of Austria had since passed to the Swabian house of Hapsburg, and the new rulers continued the noble traditions of the Babenbergs (to whom they were related by marriage) and the looked to Saint Leopold as their patron. Through his intercession may the rightful rulers regain the Crown of Austria and bring about a great revival of the Faith.