Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Feast of St John Nepomuk in Prague: Photos by Fr Lew

Our long-time contributor Fr Lawrence Lew has just visited Prague, which today celebrates the feast of one of its patrons, a priest of the archdiocese who was martyred in the year 1393. We are grateful to Father for sharing these pictures us; Prague is one of the loveliest cities in all of Europe, and really deserves to be captured by such a talented photographer.

St John’s family name is variously written Wölflein or Welfin, but he is generally called “Nepomuk” or “Nepomucene” after the town where he was born ca. 1345, about 65 miles to the southwest of Prague. As vicar general of the archdiocese, he fell afoul of the Bohemian king, Wenceslaus IV (1361-1419; reigned from 1378), on several accounts. The best known of these (though not as well attested as historians might like) is that John was the confessor of the queen, Sophia of Bavaria, of whom Wenceslaus, although continually unfaithful himself, was intensely jealous. In the midst of his other conflicts with the Saint and his archbishop, the king demanded that John reveal to him the contents of his wife’s sacramental confessions; when John refused, he was tortured, and then killed by being trussed up and thrown off the famous Charles Bridge into the Vltava River. On the night of his death, five stars were said to be seen hovering over the place where his body lay under the water, until it later washed up on the shore. Although his feast was never added to the general Calendar, it was kept in a great many places; statues of him may be seen on bridges all over Europe, especially within the lands of the former German and Austrian Empires. The first canonized bishop of a see in the United States, St John Neumann of Philadelphia, was named for him, his middle name being “Nepomucký” in Czech.

The Charles Bridge is named for Weceslaus’ predecessor, Charles IV, who began its construction in 1357. It is famous in part because of its impressive size, but also because of the 30 Baroque statues or statue groups on the parapets. Here are two particularly nice shots by Fr Lew of the statue of St. John with his halo of stars; the cathedral of St Vitus is in the background of the first.
The spot on the bridge from which St. John was thrown; the image of the Saint is worn away from continual touching and kissing.
Fr Lew was able to say Mass at the altar of his magnificent tomb in the cathedral of St Vitus; several more pictures of the church, inside and out, are given below. 
A processions with a relic of the Saint...
and a decorative flotilla on the river.
A monument to St John on the outside of the cathedral of St Vitus.
More of the cathedral exterior...
and the interior.
A representation of the city, carved onto a section of the choir stalls that faces out towards the ambulatory.
The altar of the Visitation in the apse. The first certain attestation of a feast of the Visitation is found in Prague, where it was celebrated in 1386 at the behest of Archbishop John Jenstein, who composed a Mass and Office for it. Cardinal Jenstein was also present at the consistory held in Rome in April of 1389, as the Great Schism of the West was in its twelfth year, and it was he who suggested to Pope Urban VI that he extend the feast to the whole Church as a way of asking for the Virgin’s intercession to end the Schism. Pope Urban did in fact agree to do this, but died before he could sign the necessary decrees; the official promulgation of the feast was one of the first acts of his successor, Boniface IX, by the bull Superni benignitas Conditoris, dated November 9, 1389.
A statue of Christ with Ss Cosmas and Damian
St Dominic
St John
Back to the Charles Bridge: the gate on the west side of the river.  
A statue group of Ss Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of the Slavs.

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