Happy St. Wenceslas Day!

One of the most famous monuments in the whole of Prague and perhaps the whole of the Czech Republic is the statue of St. Václav on Wenceslas (Václav) Square.

St. Václav is the patron of the Czech lands and the most popular saint here. Since the year 2000, September 28 has been a state holiday: the day of Czech Statehood.

Most native English speakers are familiar with the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.  The real Wenceslas, however, was never a king.

He was Duke of Bohemia, born circa A.D. 907. His father, Vratislav I, was a member of the long-reigning Přemyslid dynasty; his mother, Drahomíra, was the daughter of a tribal chief. Vratislav’s father, Bořivoj, was baptized by Saints Cyril and Methodius, missionary brothers from Greece who brought Christianity to the region of the Great Moravian Empire.

Saint Wenceslas – the patron saint of the Czech lands

Legends depict Wenceslas’s mother as a champion of paganism, against which stood the champion of Christianity Ludmila, whose role as the protector of the faith was later taken up by Wenceslas. He sat on the princely throne somewhere between 921 and 925. Wenceslas is depicted by legend as almost like a monk on the throne – as a virtuous ruler who bought slaves, destroyed the pagan temples and at the current Prague Castle, even grew grapes for the production of sacramental wine.

However, a power struggle eventually resulted in fratricide. In 935, Wenceslas was murdered by his younger brother Boleslav at the entrance to the church in his royal city – today’s Stará Boleslav.

After Wenceslas’s death, Boleslav assumed power and reigned for almost fifty years. Later in life, Boleslav felt remorse for his actions and in 972 he had a church devoted to Saint Wenceslas built in Prague.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk with the skull of Saint Wenceslaus during a procession on September 28, 2006

How to celebrate

In honor of our “Good King Wenceslas,” you should celebrate the event by ordering the traditional St. Wenceslas roasted goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings. There are also St. Wenceslas markets in the city, where you can buy some of the traditional Czech products.

One of them is in Wenceslas Square, the other in front of the Palladium Shopping Mall in the Republic Square. And for wine lovers, there is St. Wenceslas grape harvest festival at the Prague Castle.

 

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