10:08 am

St. John of Nepomuk

Legend has it that St. John of Nepomuk was martyred by Václav IV of Bohemia (AKA Václav the Drunkard) because the king, believing that his wife was cheating on him, tried to force her confessor, John of Nepomuk, to violate the seal of the confessional. Most reputable sources think that the real reason had to do with a power struggle, with John of Nepomuk thwarting the king’s attempt to hand over the abbacy of a wealthy monastery to a candidate of the king’s choosing. A much less interesting story. According to Wikipedia, "John of Nepomuk is seen by Catholics as a martyr to the cause of defending the Seal of the Confessional, by romantic nationalists as a Czech martyr to imperial interference, and by most historians as a victim of a late version of the inveterate investiture controversy between secular rulers and the catholic hierarchy." He is at any rate very popular, and there’s scarcely a (Catholic) church in Prague without a statue or altar dedicated to him.

His feast is May 16 and it’s celebrated by a joint vesper service with the church of sv. Tomáš and the church of St Francis on the other side of the river, and I attended this year’s service. After vespers at sv. Tomáš, the two congregations made a solemn procession across Charles Bridge:

The procession stopped at the statue of St John of Nepomuk to commemorate his martyrdom:

We ended up at the church of St. Francis for a closing benediction.

As at Palm Sunday, the tourists were fascinated by this quaint custom and pictures aplenty were taken.

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