Early Patron Saints of Bohemia

A look at the deepest roots of Christian tradition of the now Czech Republic: St. Ludmila, St. Wenceslas, St. Procopius, St. Agnes,... From "Christianity in the Czech Lands" by Jan Royt
Published: 22. 5. 2011 12:00

The cult of saints since the early Christian era was widespread, and a number of "patron saints" were considered to have a special role in protecting the Czech lands. The most important was the pious prince Wenceslas (Václav) who ruled Bohemia from 924 to 935 and was murdered by his brother Boleslav. The idea of Saint Wenceslas as the eternal ruler and protector of Bohemia soon became interwoven with Czech history. Wenceslas's grandmother Ludmila, who was murdered in Tetín and buried in the abbey of Saint George in Prague Castle, was also considered an important saint for the Czech people.

In 973 Rome established a bishopric in Prague, whose fame was advanced by Adalbert (Vojtěch), the second bishop. He and Boleslav II founded the first Benedictine monastery in Bohemia at Břevnov in 993. Adalbert, known as the apostle of the Poles, Prussians, Magyars, and Czechs, was martyred while on a mission to the East Prussians in 997 and was buried in Polish Gniezno. He too was soon honored as a patron saint. His younger brother, Radim, became the first archbishop of Gniezno in 1000. In 1003 five Polish and Italian Benedictines, called the Five Saintly Brothers, were martyred and their bodies were brought to Gniezno. In 1039 the remains of Saint Adalbert, Saint Radim, and the Five Saintly Brothers were brought to Prague as booty by Břetislav I. Several other Czechs were elevated to sainthood. These include Saint Procopius, who founded the abbey of Sázava as a center for the Slavonic liturgy; the Dominican lay sister, Zdislava of Lemberk, who cared for the sick, the poor, and the suffering; Agnes of Bohemia, who founded the order of Knights of the Red Star, as well as abbeys for the Poor Clares and Minorites in Prague; and Ivan, or John, a hermit who lived in Bohemia.