Born the eldest son of Wratislav I and Drahomira in 908, Wenzel or Wenceslaus I is a renowned Bohemian Saint. He was the duke of Bohemia until his death in 935, when he was murdered by his brother Boleslav the Cruel. The popularity of Wenzel's biography and martyrdom enhanced his heroic figure, resulting in sainthood. After his death, Wenzel was declared king and became the patron saint of the Czech nation. Wenzel is the subject of St. Stephen’s Day popular carol composed in the nineteenth century and the founder of the antique church of St. Vitus in Prague.
The Life of Saint Wenzel: Pictures of the Righteous King
The manuscript contains the life of St. Wenzel decorated with 23 miniatures with gold frames. The text of the legend is strictly connected with the pictures, which provide comments to the story contained in the manuscripts.
In 1585 Matthias Hutsky, famous painter from Prague, bestowed the codex upon his patron and mentor Ferdinand II of Tyrol. This manuscript is important because the life of Wenzel has a crucial role within the Bohemian history.
When Wratislav I died in 921, his wife Drahomira took over the government due to Wenzel's young age. Thus, he was trained by his Christian grandmother, Ludmilla. Ludmilla’s Christianity, however, represented a loss of power for Drahomira because the Christian religion would have weakened the autonomy of the small Bohemian princedoms that should have obeyed to the king of Rome.
To demonstrate her power, Drahomira killed Ludmilla and eliminated any Christian influence on the princedoms. This situation drastically changed when Wenzel came to power in 925. He supported Christians and promoted the construction of the Romanesque rotunda at the foundation of St. Vitus Cathedral.
Wenzel's younger brother, Boleslaw, wished to take the place of his brother as ruler and thus opposing Christian religion. In order to achieve this, Boleslaw murdered his older brother Wenzel, but even when he had the power he had longed for, Boleslaw was unable to keep the princedoms independent and was forced to subjugate to Otto I.
Saint Wenzel’s Charity and the Miracles he Performed
The life of Wenzel describes him as a pious and humble, highly educated and intelligent man. He released prisoners from jail, he allowed children to be baptized, and devoted his life to acts of charity. Wenzel is even described as able to heal the sick.
Miracles were recorded in his name, for example the appearance of angels who gave him military victories. His gravesite in Pilgerstätte became a site of pilgrimage honored for his sanctity, where miracles and healings were performed.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Life of Saint Wenzel":
- Die Vita des heiligen Wenzel (Normal Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 2013
- Die Vita des heiligen Wenzel (Real Gold Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 2013