Adalbert of Prague

Adalbert of Prague

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This article is about St Adalbert of Prague. For other uses, see Adalbert (disambiguation).

Saint Adalbert, Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

: ; , (c. 956 – April 23, 997), Czech Roman Catholic saint, a Bishop of Prague and a missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

, was martyred in his efforts to convert the Baltic Prussians
Old Prussians
The Old Prussians or Baltic Prussians were an ethnic group, autochthonous Baltic tribes that inhabited Prussia, the lands of the southeastern Baltic Sea in the area around the Vistula and Curonian Lagoons...

. He evangelized Poles and Hungarians. St. Vojtěch was later made the patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Prussia.

Birth and youth


Adalbert (Vojtěch, Vjačeslav) was born into a noble Czech family of Prince Slavník
Slavník
Slavník was a Bohemian nobleman, the founder of Slavník's dynasty. He is said to have had consanguinity with the Saxon kings.He had several children by his wife Střezislava. Six of his sons are known by name: Soběslav , Saint Adalbert , Spytimír, Pobraslav, Pořej and Čáslav. He had also a son...

 and his wife Střezislava
Strezislava
Střezislava was the wife of Slavník, a Bohemian nobleman and founder of Slavník dynasty. Some historians suppose that she might have been a member of the Přemyslid house , possibly a daughter of Vratislaus I or of some historically unknown member of that dynasty.Střezislava had several children...

 in Libice nad Cidlinou
Libice nad Cidlinou
Libice nad Cidlinou is a village in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It is one of the oldest settlements in Bohemia, located 5 km southeast of Poděbrady at the confluence of the Cidlina and Elbe rivers...

, Bohemia. The Chambers Biographical Dictionary mistakenly gives his year of birth as 939. His father was a rich and independent ruler of the Zličan
Zlicans
The Zličané were a Czech tribe that settled in the eastern fold of Bohemia. They were the second most powerful tribe in the region but eventually were overpowered by the Přemyslid dynasty on 28 September 995 when the ruling Slavník dynasty was massacred by the Přemyslids.In addition to the...

 princedom that rivaled Prague (see Slavník's dynasty
Slavník's dynasty
The Slavniks/Slavníks or Slavnikids was a powerful dynasty in Bohemia during the 10th century. It governed Zličané, one of the oldest Czech tribes. The center of the principality was the gord of Libice located at the confluence of the rivers Cidlina and Elbe...

). Adalbert had five full brothers: Soběslav (Slavnik's heir), Spytimír, Pobraslav, Pořej, Čáslav and a half-brother Radim (Gaudentius)
Radim Gaudentius
Radim Gaudentius was Archbishop of Gniezno and the first Polish archbishop.Radim was an illegitimate son of Prince Slavník, and thus the half-brother of Adalbert of Prague....

 from his father's liaison with another woman. Radim chose a clerical career as did Adalbert, and took the name Gaudentius. Adalbert was a well-educated man, having studied for about ten years (970-80) in Magdeburg
Magdeburg
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

 under Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg
Adalbert of Magdeburg
Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg , sometimes known as the Apostle of the Slavs, was the first Archbishop of Magdeburg and a successful missionary to the Slavic peoples to the east of Germany...

. Upon the death of his mentor, he took the name Adalbert. Gifted and industrious, Adalbert soon became well-known all over Europe.

Religious acts


In 980 Adalbert finished his studies at Magdeburg school and returned to Prague, where he became a priest. In 981 his father, Prince Slavnik, and both his mentors died.
In 982, still not yet thirty years old, Adalbert became the Bishop of Prague. Although Adalbert descended from a rich family and could afford comfort and luxury, he lived poorly of his own free will. He was noted for charity, austerity, and zealous service to the Church. His duty was difficult even in baptized Bohemia, as the pagan creed was deeply embedded in the peoples' minds. Adalbert complained of polygamy and idolatry, which still were not unusual among the Czechs. He also strongly resented the participation of baptized Christians in the slave
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 trade.

In 989 he resigned from his bishop's cloth and left Prague. He went to Rome and lived as a hermit in St. Alexis Benedictine monastery.

Four years later, in 993, Pope John XV
Pope John XV
Pope John XV , Pope from 985 to 996, succeeding Boniface VII . He was said to have been Pope after another Pope John that reigned four months after Pope John XIV and was named "Papa Ioannes XIV Bis" or "Pope John XIVb"...

 sent him back to Bohemia. Adalbert became the Bishop again. That time he founded a monastery in Břevnov
Brevnov Monastery
Břevnov Monastery is a Benedictine monastery in Břevnov, Prague. It was founded by Prince Boleslav II and Saint Adalbert, bishop of Prague in 993 AD....

, near Prague, the first one in the Czech lands. Nonetheless, the nobility there continued to oppose his ministry. Also, according to Cosmas' chronicle, high clerical office was a burden to Adalbert, and in 994 he offered it to Strachkvas
Strachkvas
Strachkvas was a prince of Bohemia, son of Boleslav I and brother of Boleslav II, all members of the Přemyslid dynasty...

 who was Přemyslid and Duke Boleslav's brother. Strachkvas, nevertheless, refused.

In 995 Slavniks' former rivalry with the Přemyslids (allied with Vršovci
Vršovci
The Vršovci were a noble Czech family and clan, probable or legendary ancestors of some bearers of the Oksza and the Rawicz coat of arms ....

) resulted in the storming of Libice led by Boleslaus II the Pious. During the struggle four (or five) of Adalbert's brothers were murdered. Thus the Zličan princedom became part of the Přemyslids' estate.

Adalbert damned the murderers(Vršovci) in church and, according to the legend, predicted that Vršovci would be severely persecuted. After the tragedy he could not stay in Bohemia and escaped from Prague, despite the Pope's call for him to return to his episcopal see. Strachkvas was eventually appointed to be his successor. However, when he was going to assume the Bishop office in Prague, he suddenly died during the ceremony itself. Circumstances of his death are still unclear.

As for Adalbert, he went to Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and baptized Géza of Hungary
Géza of Hungary
Géza , Grand Prince of the Hungarians .Géza was the son of Taksony of Hungary, Grand Prince of the Hungarians and his Pecheneg or Bulgar wife. Géza's marriage with Sarolt, the daughter of Gyula of Transylvania, was arranged by his father.After his father's death , Géza followed him as Grand Prince...

 and his son Stephen in the city of Esztergom
Esztergom
Esztergom , is a city in northern Hungary, 46 km north-west of the capital Budapest. It lies in Komárom-Esztergom county, on the right bank of the river Danube, which forms the border with Slovakia there....

. Then he went to Poland where he was cordially welcomed by Bolesław I the Brave. After the short visit Adalbert went to Prussia with a Christian mission.

Mission and martyrdom in Prussia


Adalbert of Prague had already in 977 entertained the idea of becoming a missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 in Prussia. After he had converted Hungary, he was sent by the Pope to convert the heathen Prussians. Boleslaus the Brave, duke of Poland (later king), sent soldiers with Adalbert. The bishop and his followers - including his half-brother Radim (Gaudentius) - entered Prussian territory and went along the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 coast to Gdańsk
Gdansk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

.

It was a standard procedure of Christian missionaries to try to chop down sacred oak trees
Sacred grove
A sacred grove is a grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves were most prominent in the Ancient Near East and prehistoric Europe, but feature in various cultures throughout the world...

, which they had done in many other places, including Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

. Because the trees were worshipped and the spirits who were believed to inhabit the trees were feared for their powers, this was done to demonstrate to the non-Christians that no supernatural powers protected the trees from the Christians. (See: Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

)

When they did not heed warnings to stay away from the sacred oak groves, Adalbert was martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

ed in April 997 on the Baltic Sea coast east of Truso
Truso
Truso, situated on Lake Druzno, was an Old Prussian town near the Baltic Sea just east of the Vistula River. It was one of the trading posts on the Amber Road, and is thought to be the antecedent of the city of Elbląg . In the words of Marija Gimbutas, "the name of the town is the earliest known...

 (currently Elbląg
Elblag
Elbląg is a city in northern Poland with 127,892 inhabitants . It is the capital of Elbląg County and has been assigned to the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999. Before then it was the capital of Elbląg Voivodeship and a county seat in Gdańsk Voivodeship...

, Elbing), or near Tenkitten and Fischhausen (see external link map St. Albrecht) It is recorded that his body was bought back for its weight in gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 by Boleslaus the Brave.

Canonization and memory




A few years later Adalbert was canonized
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

 as Saint Adalbert of Prague. His life has been written about in Vita Sancti Adalberti Pragensis by various writers, the earliest being traced to imperial Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

 and Liège/Lüttich's bishop Notger von Lüttich, although it was assumed for many years that the Roman
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 monk John Canaparius
John Canaparius
John Canaparius was a Benedictine monk at the Aventine monastery in Rome. It had long been assumed that in the year 999 he wrote the first Vita sancti Adalberti episcopi Pragensis, or "Life of St...

 wrote the first Vita in 999. Another famous biographer of Adalbert was Saint Bruno of Querfurt
Bruno of Querfurt
Saint Bruno of Querfurt , also known as Brun and Boniface, is a sainted missionary bishop and martyr, who was beheaded near the border of Kievan Rus and Lithuania while trying to spread Christianity in Eastern Europe...

 who wrote his hagiography in 1001–1004.

Notably, Bohemian rulers (i.e., Přemyslids) initially refused to ransom Saint Adalbert's body from the Prussians who murdered him, so it was purchased by Poles. This fact may be explained by Saint Adalbert's belonging to the Slavniks family; it highlights the strength of the two clans' conflict. Thus Saint Adalbert's bones were stored in Gniezno and helped Boleslaus the Brave to improve Poland's position in Europe.

According to Bohemian accounts, in 1039 the Bohemian duke Břetislav I looted the bones of Saint Adalbert from Gniezno in a raid and moved them to Prague. According to Polish accounts he took the wrong relics, those of St Gaudensius, while Saint Adalbert's relics were hidden by the Poles and remain in Gniezo. In 1127 the decapitated head, which was not in the original purchase (according to Roczniki Polskie) was found and moved to Gniezno. In 1928, one of the arms of Saint Adalbert, which Bolesław I had given to Otto III
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto III , a King of Germany, was the fourth ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected King in 983 on the death of his father Otto II and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 996.-Early reign:...

 in the year 1000, was added to the bones preserved in Gniezno. Today Saint Adalbert has two elaborate shrines claiming to contain his remains, in the cathedrals of Prague and Gniezno, and which bones are authentic is not clear. For example, the saint has two skulls - one in Prague, a second in Gniezno (stolen in 1923).

The massive bronze Gniezno Doors
Gniezno Doors
The Gniezno Doors are a pair of bronze doors at the entrance to Gniezno Cathedral in Gniezno, Poland, a Gothic building which the doors pre-date, having been carried over from an earlier building. They are decorated with eighteen scenes in bas-relief from the life of St...

 of Gniezno Cathedral
Gniezno Cathedral
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Adalbert is a Gothic cathedral in Gniezno, Poland. The Cathedral is known for its twelfth-century , two-winged bronze doors decorated with scenes of martyrdom of St. Wojciech and a silver relic coffin of that saint...

, of about 1175, are decorated with 18 relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

s of scenes from the saint's life, the only Romanesque
Romanesque art
Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is increasingly known as the Pre-Romanesque...

 church doors in Europe to contain a cycle illustrating the life of a saint.

April 1997 was the thousandth anniversary of Saint Adalbert's martyrdom. It was commemorated in the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Russia and other countries. Representatives of Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Evangelical churches pilgrimaged to Gniezno, to the saint's tomb. John Paul II visited Gniezno and held a ceremonial divine service in which heads of seven European states and about a million believers took part.

In Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

, near Beregovoe village (former Tenkitten), where Adalbert's death hypothetically took place, a ten-meter cross was established.

See also


  • History of the Czech lands in the Middle Ages
    History of the Czech lands in the Middle Ages
    Whilst an independent principality, the Czech lands formerly within Great Moravia were sometime vassals of the Holy Roman Empire as the Duchy of Bohemia from the 10th century...

  • History of Poland (966–1385)
  • Congress of Gniezno
    Congress of Gniezno
    The Congress of Gniezno was an amical meeting between the Polish duke Bolesław I Chrobry and Emperor Otto III, which took place at Gniezno on March 11, 1000...

  • Gniezno Doors
    Gniezno Doors
    The Gniezno Doors are a pair of bronze doors at the entrance to Gniezno Cathedral in Gniezno, Poland, a Gothic building which the doors pre-date, having been carried over from an earlier building. They are decorated with eighteen scenes in bas-relief from the life of St...

  • Vojtech
    Vojtech
    Vojtěch or Vojtech - is a Czech and Slovak form of Slavic origin given name. The name is related to the saint Adalbert of Prague. It is built of two parts: voj - war, warrior and "tech" - happy, eager. Pronounced VOY-tih. In Czech and Slovak republic, it is customary to celebrate a name day...


External links