Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wenceslaus (907 - 35 )

Immortalized in  the Carol "God King Wenceslaus" In 921, when Wenceslaus was thirteen, his father died, he was raised by his grandmother, Ludmila, who raised him as a Christian. A dispute between the fervently Christian regent and her daughter-in-law drove Ludmila to seek sanctuary with Wenceslaus. Drahomíra, who was trying to garner support from the nobility, was furious about losing influence on her son and arranged to have Ludmila murdered. At age17 Wenceslaus I the  Duke of  Bohemia became ruler.  Justice and compassion characterized his reign.

Wenceslaus is usually described as exceptionally pious and humble, a very educated and intelligent young man for his time. He was particularly sensitive to the plight of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the imprisoned. He  moved to close prisons, forbade torture, destroyed gallows and fought capital punishment. He was opposed by his brother, Boleslav and the nobles who had been sympatic toward his mother, Drahomíra

 The chronicler Cosmos of Prauge, writing in about the year 1119, says of Wenceslaus:
But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.
In September of  935  a group of nobles—allied with Wenceslaus' younger brother Boleslav—plotted to kill the prince. After Boleslav invited Wenceslaus to a feast three of Boleslav's companions  murdered Wenceslaus on his way to church.  Legend states that with his dying breath Wenceslas forgave his brother.

Graphic: Wenceslaus' assassination: the duke flees from his brother (with sword) to a church, but the priest closes the door; Gumpold von Mantua, 10th century