Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

St Wenceslas - the cult and crown of a martyred ruler

Today is the Feast of St Wenceslas the Saintly patron of Bohemia.

Anonym - Votive Painting of Archbishop Jan Očko of Vlašim - Google Art Project.jpg

The Votive Panel of Archbishop Jan Očko of Prague

Painted before 1371 St Wenceslas, wearing his Ducal bonnet, can be seen at the top right sponsoring King Wenceslas IV as he and his father Emperor Charles IV kneel before the Virgin and Child.
In the lower register the figure on the right is St Ludmilla, grandmother of St Wenceslas and shown wearing the scarf or veil with which she was strangled.
The painting is in the National Galley in Prague

Image: Wikipedia 

Wikipedia has an illustrated account of his life and of devotion to him over succeeding centuries at Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia There is another account of the Saint and of his cult at Saint Wenceslas (Václav): The Czech nation’s patron saint.  The Crown of St Wenceslas is central to the sense of national identity and its engagement with the cult of St Wenceslas. It was made in 1347 for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who was assiduous in promoting the cult and the status of his capital city of Prague with a new cathedral which was also the shrine church of St Wenceslas. The crown was used by succeeding Kings of Bohemia until the last coronation, that of King Ferdinand V, in 1836.                                    There are illustrated accounts of the Crown, and also of the sceptre and orb from Wikipedia at Crown of Saint Wenceslas and at Secret of St. Wenceslas Crown – Czech kings.The so-called Sword of St Wenceslas - now thought to be another creation of the Emperor Charles IV - is described by Wikipedia at Sword of Saint Wenceslas. The legends that have accrued over the centuries to the Crown and regalia are described at The legend about the Crown of Saint Wenceslas: any usurper who places it on his head is doomed to die within a yearat Legends of the Bohemian Crown Jewels and from Medieval Histories at Bohemian Crown of Saint Wenceslas                                       These all point to the power these great treasures still exert over the collective mentality of the country, enhanced by the scarcity of opportunities to actually see the regalia, in what is one of the most secular republics in Europe. These are still the stuff of mystery and mysticism, the sacred and the other-worldly, hidden away in a chamber in St Vitus Cathedral the heart of Prague.                                                       Looking online I found a post from the Art Fund about a late medieval panel painting depicting St Wenceslas and a Priest Saint that is now in the York City Art Gallery. The illustrated post can be seen at  Two Standing Saints St Wenceslaus and St Lawrence It is interesting that the figure of St Wenceslas is shown wearing the distinctive fur hat that one always associates with portraits of the Emperor Sigismund who struggled with his rule over Bohemia in facing the Hussite revolt after he succeeded his brother King Wenceslas IV in 1419 until just before his own death in 1437.  Today I attended online the Warrington FSSP celebration of the TLM for the feast at lunchtime today and we were treated to an excellent sermon from Fr Armand de Malleray about the traditional Catholic understanding of the relationship between Church and State, as being neither quite separate nor confused but rather as Body and Soul.                                 St Wenceslas Pray for the people and Church in Bohemia and Moravia, pray for us

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