This holiday is always celebrated on 28 September: it is the feast day of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and commemorates his death in 935.
Also known as ‘Czech Statehood day’, it is a national holiday in the Czech Republic and has been a public holiday since 2000.
He is a patron saint of Bohemia, and so every time when the Czech nation was in a stew, Czechs prayed to St Wenceslas to help them. An old legend says that a huge army of knights sleeping inside some mountain in the Czech Republic will awake under the command of St. Wenceslas to help Czechs in time of ultimate danger.
Wenceslas was born near Prague in 907 and was the son of the Duke of Bohemia. His father died in 921 and Wenceslas ruled from 922, when he was 15 years old. Raised as a Christian, primarily by his grandmother, Ludmila who had been baptized by the Greek missionaries Cyril and Methodius who brought Christianity to the region.
The reign of Wenceslas is marked by his support of the church, his aim to unify Bohemia and making peace with Germany.
Faced with German invasions in 929, Wenceslas submitted to the German king Henry I the Fowler. His submission provoked some of the nobles to conspire against him, and they prompted his younger brother, Boleslav to murder him.
On the morning of 28 September 935, on his way to the mass, Wenceslas was attacked by Boleslav and was killed by supporters of his brother.
Having suffered a martyr’s death, Wenceslas was immediately considered a saint. This lead to a cult of veneration with several biographies being written and miracles attributed to him. He was even posthumously made a king by the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I which is why the carol refers to him as a king when in life he was a duke.
After Wenceslas’s death, Boleslav assumed power and reigned for almost fifty years. Later in life, Boleslav clearly felt remorse or guilt for his actions and in 972 he had the first church devoted to Saint Wenceslas built in Prague.
His virtues are sung in the Christmas carol (19th century) “Good King Wenceslas.”