St. Wenceslas Chapel: How Did He Die?

The Chapel of St. Wenceslas, the main patron saint of Czech lands, is a focal point of the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle. This chapel is standing at the sight of the St. Wenceslas Rotunda where the legendary Czech saint was buried in the 10th century.

 

How did St. Wenceslas Die?

St. Wenceslas was a Czech Duke who lived in the 10th century AD. He was raised by his grandmother Ludmila, who was a devoted Christian and brought up her grandson accordingly. Already during his lifetime, people observed multiple miracles happening in st. Wenceslas's presents: king Henry Fowles, for example, saw him being accompanied by angels.

Wenceslas ruled his dutchy according to the policies of peace-making rather than military campaigns and was paying "peace tax" to the aforementioned king. This was causing great distress to Wenceslas's brother, Boleslav, who preferred more assertive qualities in a ruler.

According to a popular legend, Boleslav ordered his brother killed while they were staying in Stara Boleslav. St. Wenceslas was on his way to a morning mass and almost managed to hide in the church when the soldiers attacked him. His body was then brought to Prague and buried in Prague Castle rotunda that he had founded a few years earlier.

When did St Wenceslas Die?

  • It has been widely accepted that St. Wenceslas died on September 28th 929, but historians had proved that it most likely happened in the year 935.

 

Chapel of St. Wenceslas

It is safe to say, that St. Wenceslas's Chapel is the most valuable sacred space in the St. Vitus Cathedral of the Prague Castle. The burial of the Czech patron saint in the Romanesque rotunda ensured that whatever will be standing at this site will become the most important religious center in the Czech lands. Truly, the rotunda had been rebuilt into the basilica and further into the cathedral, but the place where Wenceslas was buried always remained the same.

 The Chapel of St. Wenceslas, as we know it nowadays, was first founded by the Bohemian king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century. King Charles IV built it according to the Christian beliefs about the Heavens of Jerusalem and adorned the chapel with precious stones and expensive materials. The floor of the chapel is made of marble and the walls are decorated with red jasper, purple amethyst, and greed chrysoprase.

The frescoes portray 31 scenes from the life of St. Wenceslas as well as different Bohemian rulers. It is not certain who is their author, but it has been attributed to the Mister of Litomerice altar who completed the bottom part of the murals in 1509. The wall paintings were renewed in 1614 by Daniel Alexis, who painted Vladislav of Jagello and his wife Anna de Foix on the upper part of the walls.

The tomb of St. Wenceslas is a 20th-century reconstruction of the original Medieval tomb found in the chapel during the latest cathedral reconstruction. The massive gilded chandelier also comes from the 20th century and is supposed to represent the imperial crown. 

 

How to visit the Chapel of St. Wenceslas?

 

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Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.