You know about “Good King Wenceslas” from the Christmas carol. But do you realize the real Wenceslas was a godly teenager who has left a legacy lasting for over 1000 years. Born about AD 907, Wenceslas never actually became a king; the Christmas carol had it wrong. He was a prince and the Duke of Bohemia. His parents were too busy to devote much personal time to raising him; but his grandmother, a fervent believer, brought him as a Christian. Young Wenceslaus became known for his charity and kindness. He went about, it’s said, giving generously to the widows and orphans, visiting prisons, and serving the poor. He also used his political influence to alleviate persecution of Christians in Bohemia.
After his father’s death, his mother jerked Bohemia toward corruption and paganism; but Wenceslas used his influence to bring about reform. Because of this, his brother conspired to assassinate him. En route to a prayer service, Wenceslas, in his early 20s at the time, was intercepted and slain. His death shocked Bohemia, and within a short time several biographies appeared about him. He was presented as a prince whose power came more from from his great piety than his royal position. His tomb is now in the Cathedral of St. Vitus on Castle Hill overlooking Prague.
The central square in Prague—a World Heritage Site—is named Wenceslas Square. Here in 1989, hundreds of thousands of Czechs stood through the night, rattling their key chains and setting off the Velvet Revolution that toppled the Communists.
Prague is full of monuments and tributes to this young man whose short life has left a shadow that has fallen over the last millennium. Yet don’t ask about him by his name Wenceslas. When I inquired about Wenceslas here in Prague, no one knew who I was talking about until I used his Czech name, Václav. Here are some pictures I’ve taken while tracking down “Good King… Václav.”