Duke of Bohemia, patron of the czech republic; b. Stochov, near Prague, Czechoslovakia; d. Stara Boleslav, Sept. 28, 929. After the death of his Christian father, Duke Ratislav of Bohemia (d. c. 920), his mother, Drahomira, who was still practically a pagan, became regent for the young Wenceslaus (Vaclav). Earlier Wenceslaus had been entrusted to his grandmother, (St.) ludmilla, the wife of the first Christian duke of Bohemia, for his education. His mother resented the influence of Ludmilla and instigated her murder in 921. This, coupled with other intrigues of Drahomira, led Wenceslaus to take over the government himself in 922 in an attempt to end the internal struggles between the Christian and non-Christian factions in the country and to block (successfully) the invasion of Bohemia by Arnulf, duke of Bavaria. In 929 Bohemia faced the onslaught of German armies, and Wenceslaus decided to submit and recognize King Henry I as overlord rather than have his country devastated by a superior force. This policy of Bohemian compromise
with Germany was the genesis of the "St. Wenceslaus Tradition." Wenceslaus brought the relic of St. Virus to Prague. Although successful as a ruler and effective in his foreign policy, Wenceslaus was not able to end the rivalry of the non-Christian party within Bohemia. But it was his brother, Boleslav, resentful at losing his chance at succession when Wenceslaus's son was born, who invited Wenceslaus to Stara Boleslav where he was murdered on his way to church. Canonized, he became the patron of Bohemia. His political activity and his Christian soul, are both part of the tradition reflected in the popular 19th-century Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslaus."
Feast: Sept. 28.
Bibliography: j. pekaŘ, Die Wenzels-und Ludmilla-Legenden … (Prague 1906). p. peeters, Analecta Bollandiana 48 (Brussels 1930) 218–221. f. dvornik, The Life of Saint Wenceslas (Prague 1929); The Making of Central and Eastern Europe (London 1949). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 3:663–664. j. hosna, Kníze Václav v obrazu legend (Prague 1986). h. kØlln, Der Bericht über den Dänenkönig in den St.-Wenzels-Biographien des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts (Copenhagen 1986). k. otavsky, Die Sankt Wenzelskrone im Prager Domschatz und die Frage der Kunstauffassung am Hofe Kaiser Karls IV (Bern 1992). p. obrazovÁ, Svatý kníze Václav: Major Gloria (Prague 1994). v. tatÍcek, Boleslavské atentáty (Prague 1999). charles iv, Holy Roman Emperor, Karoli IV Imperatoris Romanorum vita ab eo ipso conscripta; et, Hystoria nova de Sancto Wenceslao Martyre (Autobiography of Emperor Charles IV; and, His Legend of St. Wenceslas ), ed. b. nagy and f. schaer (New York 2001).