September 28, 2023 is a public holiday in the Czech Republic commemorating St. Wenceslas. Read below to discover more about Saint Wenceslas Day in Prague.
Who was St. Wenceslas.
Born around the year 907, St. Wenceslas, or Václav as he’s known in Czech, was Duke of Bohemia from 921 until his disputed death, either in 929 or 935. Raised by his Christian grandmother St. Ludmilla, Wenceslas was a peaceful and dedicated Christian ruler. He promoted the spread of Christianity in Bohemia and invited missionaries to do so. This angered many non-christian groups in Bohemia, as tensions between the groups were high at the time.
Wenceslas fell into disfavor among nobles for his political dealings with the German king, Henry the Fowler. He especially angered his younger brother Boleslav. Boleslav plotted and assassinated Wenceslas right outside a church door. Accounts of exactly when this occurred are unclear.
Wenceslas is considered a martyr because of the nature of his death. The Holy Roman Emperor Otto I gave him the title of king after his death, which is why many refer to him as King Wenceslas today. His remains were placed in St. Vitus cathedral in Prague castle, and consequently this site became a pilgrimage site for many centuries.
Wenceslas is considered the patron saint of the Czech Republic for his work in strengthening the Czech state. Wenceslas Square, an important place in Prague and Czech history, is named in honor is this saint.
September 28 has long been celebrated as the Catholic feast day for St. Wenceslas. Czechs recognized him on this day for centuries as well, however the day was made an official national holiday in 2000. September 28 is also known as “Czech Statehood Day”, so this day celebrates both Czech statehood and the country’s patron saint.
Celebrations for this day include many festivals in Wenceslas’ honor. One of the most striking celebrations is the parade of Wenceslas’ skull. The archbishop of Prague leads a procession of Wenceslas’ relics from the castle to Stará Boleslav, the town where he was murdered. Roman Catholics will attend mass to honor the saint, but the country as a whole uses this day to celebrate their culture and traditions. Whether you celebrate with a parade, attending mass, or just visiting one of the St. Wenceslas’s statues, we hope you enjoy the day and remember “Good King Wenceslas”.