crown of wenceslaus

LWML President Kay Kreklau is in the Czech Republic visiting the partner church there and seeing the mission work that we partner with first hand.  Dr. Al Collver director of Church relations is there too and wrote that he remembered a play that I wrote about “Good King Wenceslas”.

Wenceslas is a fascinating character however you want to view him.

Blogger Wayne Ferrebee writes that this is the skull of Wenceslas wearing a “Premyslid Eagle Circlet–Patron Saint of Bohemia, Brewing, Fuel-giving, & Nazi-killing.”  Right there is enough to get your interest going if you have any curiosity about the wider world at all.

There is another crown of Wenceslas  locked up tight in a secret chamber in a secret chapel in the huge cathedral of Saint Vitus.  I hope that Kaye gets to go there, because therein lies a great and beautiful mysterious crown.  Ferrebee says that in order to see the crown, “Seven Czech high officials possess keys—all of which must be used together.  Perhaps it is well that the crown is locked up so tightly—it is said to lie under a magic curse.

The crown was made in 1347 for the eleventh king of Bohemia (and Holy Roman Emperor) Charles IV.  It is wrought of extremely pure gold and decorated with 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls.  Charles dedicated the crown to Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia, and it is believed the Saint cannot abide any usurper to wear the crown (Saint Wenceslas was presumed to harbor a grudge about usurpers, having been murdered for a crown by his own brother).  Allegedly the Saint will smite down any unworthy soul who dons the crown within a year after he puts it on (the usurper that is—not Saint Wenceslas).It is rumored that Reinhard Heydrich, AKA “The Hangman”, the ruthless Nazi official in charge of the annexed portions of Czechoslovakia (which included St. Vitus Cathedral) could not risk the allure of the crown and secretly placed it on his head during a conqueror’s tour of St. Wenceslas Chapel. Heydrich was a favorite of Hitler’s who was heard to remark “We will Germanize the Czech vermin.” But he didn’t have much of a chance for Germanizing anyone–he was mortally wounded by British-trained Czech commandos in the awesomely named “Operation Anthropoid” less than a year after his tour of St. Vitus—a colorful and lurid tale for a colorful and lurid treasure.”

The political and historical facts about central Europe are fascinating and important to understand.  We cannot figure out where we are today unless we understand where we came from and the history behind the faith that was so much a part of these areas.  It was the folks from central Europe, the barbarians that destroyed the Roman Empire that raised it up again and took to Christianity and mercy in ways that moved the Christian witness around the world.  For some people the missionary work that followed, that brought people like Wenceslas to faith, is also a “lurid tale”.  Much of the hatred of Christianity today has to do with the history of the Christian movement into Europe and then around the world.  It is the old saw about colonialism and paternalism and exclusivism.  All the “isms’ that drive the modern pagans crazy.

The folks that were Christianized lost their Christianity for reasons that need to be studied and learned.  One of the reasons that we are putting a Luther Center in the midst of Luther Land is to reacquaint people with their heritage.  is it possible for a whole culture to forget about their heritage and their Savior?  Look around.