Saint of the Day – 28 September – St Wenceslaus (907-935) Duke of Bohemia, Martyr.
St Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia, Martyr
From an old Slavic legend about Saint Wenceslaus
At the death of Vratislaus, the people of Bohemia made his son, Wenceslaus their King. He was by God’s grace, a man of utmost faith. He was charitable to the poor and he would clothe the naked, feed the hungry and offer hospitality to travellers, according to the summons of the Gospel. He would not allow widows to be treated unjustly; he loved all his people, both rich and poor; he also provided for the servants of God and he adorned many Churches.
The men of Bohemia, however, became arrogant and prevailed upon Boleslaus, his younger brother. They told him, “Your brother Wenceslaus is conspiring with his mother and his men to kill you.”
On the feasts of the dedication of the Churches in various Cities, Wenceslaus was in the habit of paying them a visit. One Sunday he entered the City of Boleslaus, on the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian and after hearing Mass, he planned to return to Prague. But Boleslaus, with his wicked plan in mind, detained him with the words, “Why are you leaving brother?“
The next morning when they rang the bell for Matins, Wenceslaus, on hearing the sound, said, “Praise to Thee, Lord; Thou hast allowed me to live to this morning.” And so he rose and went to Matins. Immediately Boleslaus followed him to the Church door. Wenceslaus looked back at him and said, “Brother, you were a good subject to me yesterday.“
But the devil had already blocked the ears of Boleslaus and perverted his heart. Drawing his sword, Boleslaus replied, “And now I intend to be a better one!” With these words, he struck his brother’s head with his sword.
But Wenceslaus turned and said, “Brother, what are you trying to do?” And with that he seized Boleslaus and threw him to the ground. But one of Boleslaus’ counsellors ran up and stabbed Wenceslaus in the hand. With his hand wounded, he let go of his brother and took refuge in the Church. But two evil men struck him down at the Church door and then another rushed up and ran him through with a sword. Thereupon, Wenceslaus died with the words: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
Although Wenceslaus was a Duke during his lifetime, the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I posthumously “conferred on [Wenceslaus] the regal dignity and title of King” which is why he is referred to as King in legend and song.
The Church door below, to which Saint Wenceslaus clung at his Martyrdom, leads to his Chapel in the Cathedral of Saint Vitus in Prague.