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John of Nepomuc, St.


Patron of the Czechs, alleged martyr; b. John (Ivan) Wölflin at Nepomuc (or Pomuk), Bohemia, March 20, c. 1350; d. Prague, 1393. A canon of the Prague cathedral, he advanced to the post of vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Prague (1389) while John of Jenštein was archbishop (13781400). Nepomuc has traditionally been considered "the patron of the seal of confession" for supposedly, as spiritual director of Queen Sophie, he refused to reveal anything when the king, wenceslaus iv of Bohemia, demanded his confirmation of Sophie's suspected adultery. The whole incident, however, is probably legendary, for it is unthinkable that the queen's confessor could have been anyone closely connected with the archbishop, who had distinguished himself as a determined opponent of the king ever since they had both assumed office in 1378. More historically accurate is the account of Nepomuc's death. In 1393 the king and archbishop were currently clashing over the Benedictine Abbey of Kladruby, which Wenceslaus had intended to confiscate once the old abbot died and to use as the basis for a new diocese he wished to found. However, when the abbot died, Nepomuc, as vicargeneral, immediately confirmed the appointment of a new abbot on March 10, 1393. At a subsequent conference of king and archbishop, the choleric Wenceslaus flew into a rage, seized three of the archbishop's counselors, including Nepomuc, and ordered them to be tortured. (Exactly what information he sought is not known.) When the king recovered from his fit of anger, two of the counselors were released without grave ill effects. Nepomuc, however, was in such poor condition that he was dispatched by being thrown into the River Vltava. When his body was retrieved, he came to be popularly regarded as a martyr. It was especially during the Counter Reformation in Bohemia that Nepomuc was established as a great national martyr and patron by the Catholics of Bohemia (in much the same way that John hus became the hero of the Protestants of Bohemia). In 1729, despite more than three centuries of controversy over the cause and details of his death, Nepomuc was canonized by Pope benedict xiii. However, in 1961 the Sacred Congregation of Rites suppressed his feast in the calendar of the universal Church [Ephemeredes liturgicae, 75 (1961) 424].

Feast: May 16 (local churches).

Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum, May 3 (1680) 66880. f. m. bartos, Jan Nepomucky svetec temna (Prague 1921). j. weisskopf, Johannes von Pomuk (Munich 1948). Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 5:1065. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 2:332333. p. de vooght, "J. de Pomuk," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique, 48 (1953) 777795. Hussiana (Louvain 1960) 400441. Schlossmuseum Gobelsburg, Barocke Volksfrömmigkeit. Andachtsgraphik, Votivbilder, Zeugnisse d. Volksverehrung des hl. Johann v. Nepomuk. Ausstellung. Katalog, ed. l. schmidt (Vienna 1971). Johannes von Nepomuk: ein TextBildBand, ed. j. neuhardt (Graz 1979). h. l. zollner, Johannes von Nepomuk zu Ehren: die Ettlinger Schlosskapelle (Karlsruhe 1992). v. vlnas, Jan Nepomucký, ceská legenda (Prague 1993), cult.

[b. b. szczesniak]

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