Saint Wenceslaus

Photo Credit: St. Wenceslaus Church, Cedar Rapids, IA

September 28th is the Feast Day of Saint Wenceslaus, the patron of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic).  

Wenceslaus (Czech: Vaclav) was born c. 903-907 to the Duke of Bohemia Wrastislaw (a Christian) and a pagan mother Dragomir. This mixture of beliefs was apparently common in Bohemia at that time and power struggles between Christian-believers and pagans were not unusual – a fate which would also envelop Wenceslaus’ life as he grew older. When Wenceslaus was only thirteen, his father died, and being too young to inherit the hereditary leadership, Bohemia was ruled by his mother Dragomir. Wenceslaus meanwhile was brought up by his grandmother, Ludmila (who became Saint Ludmila, Feast Day September 16), who raised him as a Christian. The closeness, and influence of, Grandmother Ludmila apparently angered Dragomir (mother) who had her killed.

When Wenceslaus became eighteen, he assumed the throne and exiled his mother who reportedly was a persecutor of Christians. During his 14-year reign, Wenceslaus was known to have tried to promote Christianity and rectify some of the harm done during his mother’s rule. He also enacted laws to protect the poor which eventually resulted in his more recent fame in the Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslaus”. He entered into peace negotiations with neighboring Christian-ruled Germany which caused issues with the anti-Christian opposition. Wenceslaus’ brother Boleslaus, a holder of ill-will since his was not the successor to the throne, eventually joined the opposition and lured Wenceslaus to a celebration of the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian where Boleslaus and his supporters killed Wenceslaus on September 28th in the year 935. Wenceslaus last words were of forgiveness of his brother’s act. 

Wenceslaus is venerated as a martyr as his death was the result of his efforts to support Christianity in the face of harsh opposition. His relics are part of the Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague and his feast day is now a public holiday in the Czech Republic. Wenceslaus is also the patron of many Catholic Parishes in Europe and the U.S. including many in the midwestern States of Nebraska and Iowa where many Czech immigrants settled in the 1800’s.

References:

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Omaha, NE https://www.stwenceslaus.org/

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Dodge, NE   http://www.stwenc.org/St_Wenceslaus/St-wencelsaus-story.html

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Iowa City, IA   https://stwenc-ic.com/

St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Cedar Rapids, IA https://swcr.church/

Encyclopedia.com https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/czech-and-slovak-history-biographies/saint-wenceslaus

Czech Contributions to the Progress of Nebraska, Editor, Vladimir Kucera; Co-Editor, Alfred Novacek, published 1976 https://www.unl.edu/czechheritage/contributions.pdf

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