Saint Wenceslaus was born sometime during the early 10th century. His father was Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia (c. 888-921). Vratislaus was a devout Christian because he followed the examples of his parents, Borivoj I and Saint Ludmilla. Vratislaus’ parents had been converted by Saints Cyril and Methodius.
In contrast, Drahomira (unknown-c. 935), Wenceslaus’ mother, was not particularly religious. She was the daughter of a pagan and, although she had been baptized, she put up with Christianity only for the sake of her husband.
Vratislaus died when Wenceslaus was about thirteen years old. The mask fell almost immediately from Drahomira’s face. She set herself up as regent, closed all churches, and declared religious instruction illegal. Ludmilla, Wenceslaus’ grandmother, was still alive and she told him that she would help until he came of age if he would immediately take over rule of the country. When Wenceslaus agreed, Drahomira became so angry she arranged for the murder of Ludmilla on September 15, 921. Drahomira was later sent into exile where she lavished attention on Boleslaus (unknown-c. 972), Wenceslaus’ younger brother.
Drahomira also allied herself with Wenceslaus’ enemies. She even convinced the pagan Prince Radislas and the army of Gurima to march on Bohemia. In an attempt to avoid bloodshed, Wenceslaus agreed to meet Radislas in single combat. According to legend, Wenceslaus was protected by two visible angels who frightened Radislas into surrendering.
During his short life and even shorter reign, Wenceslaus did all he could to protect and promote Christianity. He kept his court from becoming lavish and decadent. He always thought of the poor and would even be present at the funerals of beggars. It is also thought that Wenceslaus made a vow of chastity.
In 935, Wenceslaus invited Boleslaus and their mother to a feast in honor of Saints Cosmas and Damian. He was not aware of what his mother had planned. Drahomira had already convinced Boleslaus that he would gain power if Wenceslaus was dead.
At midnight on September 28, 935, Wenceslaus made his way to the church to offer his usual prayers. Before he could enter the building, however, he was attacked by Boleslaus and three companions. It was the saint’s own brother who struck the fatal blow.
Wenceslaus was almost immediately hailed as a martyred saint. Boleslaus later regretted what he had done and his successor, Boleslaus II (unknown-999), followed Wenceslaus’ example of Christian devotion.
Saint Wenceslaus is the patron saint of Bohemia and the Czech Republic. His feast day is September 28, the anniversary of his murder. Saint Wenceslaus is known to North Americans because of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslaus.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints