||Václav (Přemyslovci) z Čechy was a member of aristocracy in Europe.|
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Wenceslaus I (Czech: Václav [ˈvaːtslaf]; c. 907 – September 28, 929 or 935), or Wenceslas I, was duke (kníže) of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935, purportedly in a plot by his own brother, Boleslav the Cruel. His martyrdom, and the popularity of several biographies, quickly gave rise to a reputation for heroic goodness, resulting in his being elevated to sainthood, posthumously declared king by Pope Otto I, and seen as the patron saint of the Czech state.
Wenceslas was son of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia from the Přemyslid dynasty. His father was raised in a Christian milieu through his own father, Bořivoj I of Bohemia, who was purportedly converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius. His mother Drahomíra was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief of Havolans and was baptized at the time of her marriage, though her devotion to paganism persisted to the point where Wenceslas reportedly sent her out of the country, following the murder of Wenceslas' grandmother.
Wenceslas was most likely not born in Prague but in one of the other Přemyslid castles since at the time of his birth his uncle Spytihněv I ruled in Prague and non-ruling members of the family customarily lived in other castles of the territory. His birth year of 907 to 908 is estimated from the year his father became duke in 915. In the same year he had Václav's hair cut in a ritual usually reserved for 7 year old sons of the ruling elite. Wenceslas father died when he was young, and he was most influenced in his youth by his father's mother, his grandmother, St. Ludmila. She taught him Slavonic and Latin, as well as how to make the bread and wine for mass. Her influence would shape his entire life.
Václav was most likely married but no details are known about his wife or possible children. According to an Old Church Slavonic legend he had a son Zbraslav with a concubine.
Wenceslas started leading his principality at age 18. His father had been killed in battle when he was 13, and his mother had served as regent. Her rule was severe and cruel, yet in Wenceslas' name, and he took his position as soon as he could when he came of age. At age 20, he became Duke of Bohemia. He immediately reversed the persecution of priests and Christians his mother had instigated.
Duke Wenceslas was known for his compassion and care of those less fortunate. He based his rule on his Christian faith, often helping the poor and working against oppression. He was a favorite among his people, but not necessarily among nobles.
Several groups wanted to conquer the land, and threatened Prague. Eventually, Saxons and Bavarians attacked and Wenceslas found himself negotiating with King Henry the Fowler. In return for regular payments of silver and oxen, Wenceslas was able to keep Saint Vitus Square at Prague Castle and make it a center for Christianity in the area.
In September 929 or 935 a group of nobles—allied with Wenceslas' younger brother Boleslav—plotted to kill the Duke. After Boleslav invited Wenceslas to the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian in Stará Boleslav, three of Boleslav's companions—Tira, Česta and Hněvsa—murdered Wenceslas on his way to church the morning after the feast. The year of his murder has not been settled. Several legends and chronicles written in the 10th and 11th century date the murder to 929, only Widukind of Corvey writes about it in the context of the years 935/936. In both 929 and 935 September 28 was a Monday so that both years remain a possibility. There is also no consensus about the motive for the murder. None of the older texts gives a clue, possibly Václav's alliance with the Saxon king played a role or it could be seen in the context of the Christianization of Bohemia. The motive is so unclear that some historians question the existence of a planned murder and postulate a spontaneous quarrel instead. His remains are interred at Saint Wenceslas Chapel at Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint beginning shortly after his death. He is the only Czech saint to be part of the worldwide Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Wenceslas is memorialized in stories and legends, including the Old Slavonic Tales, the Kosmas Chronicle, the Gumpold Legend, and Vyšehrad Codex. His likeness can be seen in many statues, paintings, and coins. During the holiday season, Wenceslas is sung about in carols like "Good King Wenceslas", which was translated and put to music from the Václav Alois Svoboda poem, and the "Saint Wenceslas Chorale".
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