The Ledóchowski Family herb2 Ród Ledóchowskich










Józefina née Salis-Zizers 1831 - 1909

Antoni Ledóchowski 1823 - 1885


“Mother of Saints” Józefina née Salis-Zizers, second wife of Antoni Ledóchowski, was the mother of the future Blessed Maria-Teresa and Saint Urszula Ledóchowska, their brothers Superior-General of the Jesuits Wladimir and Polish Army General Ignacy Ledóchowski, and three other daughters, Maria, Ernestyna and Franciszka.             


Antoni Ledóchowski

Antoni 1823Antoni Ledóchowski, second son of General Ignacy 1789-1870 and grandson of Antoni 1755-1835, was born on 3rd August 1823 in Warsaw, where his father served as a Colonel of the Polish Army and commander of the Arsenal.  When the November Uprising failed in 1831, Antoni was eight years old, enough to absorb and remember these dramatic events.  His father Ignacy, now a General, was lucky not to have been exiled to Siberia by the victorious Russians, perhaps out of respect for his heroic defence of the Fortress of Modlin.  He was nevertheless retired and moved with his family back to Górki, in Klimontów near Sandomierz.

In 1843, when he was 20, Antoni followed the example of his father’s brothers, moved to Austria, and started a career in the Austrian army.  He was promoted to lieutenant in 1849, but left the army in March 1851. 

In October 1851 he married Maria Seilern.  They bought the Sitzenthal estate in Lower Austria, but she died 10 years later after they had had three sons: Tymoteusz, Antoni Ignacy and Kazimierz, whose descendants mostly live in Austria today.  Three daughters died in early childhood, before their mother.

Loosdorf homeOn 17th June 1862 Antoni married Józefina Salis-Zizers.  They lived in Loosdorf, some 80 kilometres West of Vienna.  All their children were born there, received good Austrian education and spoke excellent German as their first language.   They no doubt kept in close touch with the other Ledóchowskis living in Austria.  In 1865 Antoni’s cousin Archbishop Mieczysław, returning from his mission as Nuncio to South America and then Belgium, was in Vienna for Christmas to bury his mother.   In 1870 I assume Antoni went to the funeral of his father General Ignacy in Klimontów. 

I was told that in 1873 the bank in which Antoni had invested most of his wealth failed and he had to sell Loosdorf, which is confirmed by Laurita (3, p10). 

In 1874 the family moved a little closer to Vienna, to a rented home in St. Pölten, where the girls could go to a “school run by English Ladies” (1, p92) or the Marienfried convent (4, p55).   These were the Loreto Sisters or the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicated to education, founded by an Englishwoman, Mary Ward, in 1609.  Their education was very good.

Antoni did his best to educate his children in Polish culture and they grew up under a portrait of their grandfather General Ignacy which had pride of place in the family living room (8, p10).  In 1876 Antoni’s cousin Mieczysław, now famous and promoted to Cardinal after he was expelled from the German partition for defending Church and country against Kulturkampf, met all the family in Vienna again on his way back to Rome, and his Polish patriotism impressed them greatly.  The 13 year old Maria Teresa decided to learn Polish as a result, no doubt with the help of her father (1, p93).


Lipnica Murowana I

Lipnica homeIn 1883 the family moved to the Austrian partition of Poland, where they had bought the Lipnica Murowana estate South East of Kraków, near Bochnia.   According to Maria Marzani (4, pp71-2) Józefina had always wanted a country estate, and Antoni, when visiting Poland with his children, delighted in the company of his Polish relatives and wanted to return to the country of his childhood.  Mieczysław (1, p88) says that Cardinal Mieczysław, who by now was living in Rome, made a major financial contribution to the cost of buying Lipnica because he feared that the family would otherwise lose contact with Poland.  I suspect that the Cardinal’s money came from his share of the family’s Górki/Klimontów estate eventually sold by his brother Juliusz and his widow Karolina, who died in 1881.  

CardinalMieczysław told me other things that are not in his book: that the Cardinal wanted his nephew, another Mieczysław (1858-1935, son of the Cardinal’s younger brother another Antoni 1832-85, and undoubtedly named after the Cardinal), to marry Antoni and Józefina’s youngest daughter Franciszka (“Fanny”, 1870-1953), who was only 11 at the time.  As a result of the marriage of these two second cousins the two parts of the family would be reunited, the Cardinal’s nephew would eventually inherit Lipnica Murowana and the couple would have family paintings and souvenirs from both sides of the family. 

Two years later Antoni and his eldest daughter Maria Teresa caught smallpox.  She recovered, but Antoni did not, and he died during an attack of asthma on 21st February 1885 (4, p77).

The Cardinal continued to have an influence on the life of the family.  Fanny married the Cardinal’s nephew in 1892, when she was 20, and the rest happened as the Cardinal had apparently wished.  This does not appear to have been a problem for Fanny’s brother Ignacy, as he inherited historical documents from their grandfather General Ignacy, had an army career and later married someone with her own property, Paulina Łubieńska.  After the Cardinal died in 1902, a large family delegation went to the funeral in Rome and was granted a personal audience by the Pope.

Józefina née Salis-Zizers

Marzani 1935Józefina (“Sefina”), mother of seven, is widely credited for the excellent upbringing, education and outstanding achievements of her children, who were very grateful to her. 

Fanny, the youngest sister, initiated the book about her mother, Lebendiges Christentum (“Living Christianity”) by Sefina’s friend Marie H. Marzani, (5).  This was published in Salzburg in 1935 by the Claverian Sisters or the Sodality of St Peter Claver, which had been founded by the eldest sister the future Blessed Maria Teresa, who by then had died. 




The introduction to the book was written and a lot of help given by the second eldest sister, the future Saint Urszula.  She had founded the "Grey Ursulines" or Ursuline Sisters of the Agonising Heart of Jesus, which published a Polish translation of the book, Matka Świętych, (“Mother of Saints”), in 1983 (4).  The book is a detailed biography, and a homage by the children to their mother.

The Salis-Zizers family

Marzani 1983Salis family history stretches back to thirteenth century knights bearing the Salix (Latin for willow) coat of arms, from Soglio (not far from today’s Italian border) in the Bergell  (Bergaglia in Italian) valley in Switzerland’s Easternmost Canton, known as Graubünden in German, Grisons in French and Grigioni in Italian.   Salis knights were prominent in many regional wars.  Two died fighting France in the fifteenth century. 

In 1639 Rudolf von Salis took part in negotiating a peace treaty with Spain.  He converted to Protestantism and then back to Catholicism again, and build the Higher and Lower Castles at Zizers, in the upper Rhine valley, close to the Austrian border, starting the Zizers branch of the Salis family.  The castles are listed as Swiss sites of national significance today.
  Rudolf von Salis

Two Salis-Zizers were among the Swiss Guards who famously defended the Tuileries Palace to the bitter end in 1792.

Sefina’s father Major Rudolf von Salis-Zizers (born in 1779), nephew of the two Swiss Guards, led a heroic charge of the Austrian army when fighting the French at the Battle of Znaim (today Znojmo in the Southern Czech Republic) on 11th July 1809, which resulted in the Ceasefire of Znaim signed the following day.  The town square (today known as Masaryk square) was named after him. 

He was eventually promoted to Field Marshal of the Austrian Army in 1832 and died in 1840. 

Sefina, born on 1st July 1831, was the second youngest of Rudolf's nine children.  After his death the family were in difficulties, but the grateful Emperor ensured an education for the boys at a military academy, while their mother Teresa, née von Bühler, whose father was once a Russian Minister, gave the girls an excellent education at home, and they travelled quite widely, as far as Paris and the Baltic.

Marriage to Antoni Ledóchowski

Sefina could not marry a young officer she loved as neither had financial prospects, and ended up tearing the relevant pages out of her diary when they parted.

In November 1861, when she was 30, Sefina heard via her sister Maria Hammerstein and parish priest Dattler, a friend of the family, that Antoni Ledóchowski, whose wife had recently died, was looking for a new wife to help him with his three young children.   She already knew the young family and that Antoni was also in rather poor health, requiring help himself.  After a lot of prayer, she decided that this was God’s will, and she married him on 17th June 1862.

Seven children

Five childrenThere seem many reasons why her children had so much admiration for Sefina.  She had a great sense of duty, took on three children from Antoni’s first marriage and by all accounts looked after them well.  She then had another seven, nearly one a year, herself.  They stressed that she fed them herself, when many upper class families used a wetnurse.  She nursed them through illnesses, was straight and simple and kind, although severe and rather reserved.  Having been educated by her mother herself, she put a lot of effort into educating her daughters at home, which was normal at the time, but also sent them to school, which was less usual.  Several of the children were exceptionally intelligent but their excellent education made them outstanding.  She was very religious, going to Mass nearly every day, and made sure the family prayed regularly at meals and at night, observed lent and advent and all feast days.

Antoni was also religious, and the couple supported social organisations defending the Catholic Church against Austrian imitators of Germany’s anti-clerical Kulturkampf.  However according to both authors Antoni had little energy and was rather melancholic, even suffering severe depression, which might account for his early retirement from the Austrian army.  Sefina became the driving force in the family and ended up looking after him as well as the children.

St LeonardsLipnica Murowana II

JozefinaFrom a Polish point of view, it was particularly admirable that Sefina supported the move to Lipnica Murowana. 

All the children were strongly encouraged to learn Polish culture, patriotism and above all the language. 

This would have been easier for Fanny, who was 12 when the family moved to Lipnica, than for her brothers Wladimir and Ignacy, being educated at boarding schools in Austria, or for her elder sisters, for example Maria Teresa, who was already 20 and left home two years later. 

Sefina supported all this, considering it her duty, despite her own Austrian background and the fact that the Polish language had been alien to her. 

After Antoni’s death, when for example Ignacy and Fanny were only 12 and 13 years old, Sefina managed the estate and brought up the younger children admirably.  She stayed on in Lipnica continuing her mission for the rest of her life, gradually being abandoned as most of the children left home pursuing their various careers.  She died aged 78 of pneumonia, which at that time was often incurable, on 14th July 1909.

Antoni and Sefina were buried in Lipnica Murowana, in the lovely wooden St. Leonard’s church which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The small town has several memorials to her outstanding children and remembers Antoni and Sefina as their parents.

The role of mothers is I think generally rather underrated nowadays.  No wonder the birth rate is declining in Poland and many “advanced” countries.  Sefina deserves all the credit she gets.

Saint Urszula on her mother:

"Who we are and what we have – I am not thinking of worldly goods – we owe, after God, to your motherly love and your shining example." (4, p6) 

The children of Antoni and Jóżefina

Lipnica saints1. Blessed Maria Teresa Ledóchowska (1863-1922), founder of the "Claverian Sisters" or Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver.  Beatified on 19th October 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

2. Saint Urszula (Julia) Ledóchowska (1865-1939), founder of the "Grey Ursulines" or Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonising Heart of Jesus.  Beatified on 20th June 1983 and canonised on 18th May, 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

3. Wladimir Ledóchowski SJ (1866-1942), from 1915 onwards the 26th Superior-General of the "Jesuits", the Society of Jesus.

4. Maria (1867-79), who looks a happy child in the photograph of five children above.  Sadly she caught typhus, could not resist it, and died at the young age of 12.  Her eldest sister Maria Teresa also caught typhus at the time, but survived.

5. Ernestyna (1869-1950), "Aunt Nesti" to Mieczysław and my father.  When she was young and attractive she was wooed by Baron Goetz, owner of the famous Okocim brewery.  Sadly her family forbad the marriage on the grounds that he was not as aristocratic as the Ledóchowskis, and she lived on in Lipnica Murowana, unmarried, until the family were expelled by the communists.  She died in an old age home, St. Jozef Sierning (1, p110-1).

Convent6. Franciszka (1870-1953), ("Fanny"), married Mieczysław, nephew of the Cardinal Mieczysław, as described above, and carried on living in Lipnica Murowana with him after her mother Józefina's death.  She was expelled by the communists in 1945, but was cared for by the local "Grey" Ursuline convent, which she had helped fund earlier, where she died.  She and her husband had four children:  
(a) Józefina (1892-1965), who married Baron Paul Levetzow, and had four children, two of whom were killed serving in the German army during the Second World War; 
(b) Antoni "the father of Polish navigation" (1895-1972); who married Matylda Warnesius, with whom he had one son Mieczysław, author of the book about the family (1), whom I quote so often; and who later married Zofia Woźny, with whom he had three sons, Wincenty, Hubert and Wladimir; 
(c) Mieczysław (1904-1964), who was arrested by the Germans in 1944 and survived concentration camp due to the intervention of Baron Paul Levetzow, by then a Major in the German Army, and who had three children, Jolanta, Aleksander Leszek and Izabela;  and
(d) Izabela (1910-1999), who joined the "Grey Ursulines" founded by her aunt St Urszula, tried to establish a new congregation, returned to the Grey Ursulines in the end, and died in Velletria in Italy.

Pomnik Lipnica7. General Ignacy Ledóchowski (1871-1945), who fought for Austria during the First World War, for Poland during the victorious 1920 war against Bolshevik Russia, and was active in the "AK" Polish Underground Army fighting German occupation during the Second World War . For this he was arrested and died in Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camp on 6th March 1945.  He married Paulina Łubieńska, with whom he had four children: 
(a) Jadwiga (1904-94), who became a "Black Ursuline" nun;  
(b) Teresa (1906-92), who married Stanisław Tyszkiewicz and became a well-known artist;  
(c) Józefa or "Inka" (1907-83), who joined the "Grey Ursulines" founded by her aunt St Urszula and wrote a book about her (8);  and
(d) my father Wladimir (1910-87), who fought in the September 1939 campaign, in the Polish Resistance, in North Africa, and in Polish Military Intelligence during the War, married my mother Maria Barbara Morawska, settled in South Africa and eventually returned to Poland, where he died.

See family genealogy and family history for more information on the descendants of Antoni and Józefina.


Jan Ledóchowski, 2019



(1) „… aby pozostał nasz ślad”  („ we may leave a trace”).  Mieczysław Ledóchowski.  Published by Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Ossolineum,  Wrocław 2002.  ISBN 83-7095-051-5, pp 87 - 91.

(2) Catalogue of the Warsaw Historical Museum Exhibition on the Ledóchowski Family in November 2008. Ed. Barbara Hensel-Moszczyńska. Wydawnictwo Duszpasterstwa Rolników, Włocławek. ISBN 978-83-88477-83-6.

(3) Maria Teresa Ledóchowska, Dama Dworu – Matką Afryki.  Maria Teresa Ledóchowska, Lady-in-Waiting – Mother of Africa.   Fr. Roberto Laurita, translated into Polish by Joanna Zienko.  Editions du Signe, Strasbourg, France, 2012.  ISBN: 978-2-7468-2693-9.

(4) Matka Świętych. Mother of Saints. Maria Marzani.  Polish edition by Zgromadzenie Sióstr Urszulanek SJK. The Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonising Heart of Jesus. Rome 1983

(5) Lebendiges Christentum.  Living Christianity.  Marie Marzani.  Druk und Berlag der St. Petrus Claver=Sodalität, Salzburg 1935.  Printed and Published by the The Sodality of St Peter Claver, Salzburg 1935.

(6) Wikipedia.  Rudolf von Salis-Zizers: Josef Kriehuber lithograph, 1840.

(7) Mother of Poland's Independence. My Politics is Love. Saint Urszula Ledóchowska. Sister Małgorzata Krupecka USJK and Barbara Moszczyńska. The Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonising Heart of Jesus. Warsaw 2018.

(8) Życie dla innych.  Urszula Ledóchowska.  A life for others.  Józefa Ledóchowska, daughter of St. Ursula's younger brother Ignacy.  Pallottinum, Poznań 1984.  ISBN 83-7014-002-5.

Detailed information on living family members will be included in this website only if submitted or approved by them. Sczegółowa informacja o żyjących członkach rodziny może zostać umieszczona na tych stronach jedynie w wypadku gdy dana osoba wyrazi zgodę. Jan Ledóchowski