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St. Wenceslaus icon

By Theophilia
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St. Wenceslaus icon
September 30th 2013
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf

Saint Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia,
Our Prince! Pray for us to God!
Holy Spirit!
Christ, have mercy.

You are the heir of the Czech lands, remember your people,
Do not let us allow her to perish, Saint Wenceslaus!
Christ, have mercy.

We are asking for your help, have mercy on us!
From us banish all evil, Saint Wenceslaus!
Christ, have mercy.

- “Svatý Václave” or “Svatováclavský choral” a medieval Czech hymn
( or (… )

Happy Feast of St. Jerome! This one is a bit late, sorry. :hmm: St. Wenceslaus is one of my favorite saints, so I just had to make an icon of him for his feast day. :aww: In this image, I drew St. Wenceslaus as a young prince (he was murdered at the age of 28) holding a sword (the instrument of his death), a crucifix (the symbol of Faith), a palm branch (a symbol of martyrdom), and a rose and lily (symbols of martyrdom and virginity, respectively). The heraldic black eagle is one of his symbols and I added that to his crown which is also surmounted by a cross. I also managed to find an image of his armor (you can find a picture of that towards the bottom), and so I added that to this image as well.



Saint Wenceslaus (907 – September 28th 935), or Václav, was the son of the Christian kníže (prince, or duke) Vratislaus I of Bohemia and Drahomíra, the daughter of a pagan chief. Although she was baptized upon their marriage, she never sincerely took to Christianity. Vratislaus’ mother, however, was a very devout and holy woman named Saint Ludmila. She and her husband Borivoj of Bohemia had been converted by St. Cyril and St. Methodius, and had in turn become ardent supporters of the Faith. Wenceslaus was brought up and educated by his grandmother who also taught him the Christian faith. She instilled in him a deep piety and love for the poor. He often went with her on her charitable errands, and grew to become a highly intelligent and virtuous young man. He also made a vow of virginity to God, and kept this promise unsullied throughout his life. Wenceslaus was also known for his great reverence for priests, and his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Angels.

After his father Vratislaus died in battle, Drahomíra took over the regency around 921. She drove St. Ludmila to Tetín Castle, where, on September 15th, 921, she had her mother-in-law strangled to death. For this and other acts of cruelty, Drahomíra was hated and feared by the people, and they beseeched Wenceslaus to assume power himself, which he did, in 925, at the age of eighteen. He had his mother exiled, and soon had to contend with the anti-Christian factions in his lands.

He was only eighteen when he put down an uprising by the Radslav, the rebellious duke of Kouřim. Wenceslaus loved his people dearly, and on this occasion, the young, kind-hearted prince was loath to fight a bloody battle that would cost many lives. Before the battle, he made peace-offers to the opposing force, but these were disdained as marks of cowardice, so Wenceslaus gathered his army for battle. Still, he desired to spare his soldiers and offered to fight Radslav in single-combat and the victor would take the field. However, when St. Wenceslaus rode to meet him between the two armies, Radslav saw two angels with a terrifying and war-like appearance who were arming the young prince. They then warned the rebellious duke not to strike Wenceslaus. At the sight of this apparition, Radslav was petrified and threw himself at the feet of the Saint and begged his forgiveness. On another occasion, Wenceslaus had gone to Germany for political reasons to meet with the other dukes and princes of the realm. Wenceslaus was late for the meeting because he had been visiting the churches in the city, and the other nobles grew very irritated with him, and so they all decided that when he finally arrived they would refuse to greet him and show him only disdain. When Wenceslaus did arrive, the other nobles saw him flanked by two angels who treated him with great respect and reverence. At this, the others all rose from their seats and honored him, and even presented him with a relic of St. Vitus, which was later transferred to Prague.

The reign of Wenceslaus was marked with his kindness, gentleness and patience with his people. One chronicler, Cosmas of Prague, wrote: “But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.”

In 935, at the age of twenty-eight, he was touring his lands and visited the city where his younger brother Boleslaus lived, because there was a church there dedicated to the martyrs Saints Cosmas and Damien. His brother, instigated by a faction of the anti-Christian nobility (and probably his mother Drahomíra as well), begged Wenceslaus to stay longer, and for that purpose, invited him to a banquet in honor of the Feast of the Archangels on September 29th. On the evening of the 27th, the Saint said: "In honor of the Archangel Saint Michael, let us drink this cup, and let us beseech him to lead our souls into the peace of eternal happiness." The account of his martyrdom follows:

At the death of Vratislaus, the people of Bohemia made his son Wenceslaus their king. He was by God’s grace a man of utmost faith. He was charitable to the poor, and he would clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and offer hospitality to travelers according to the summons of the Gospel. He would not allow widows to be treated unjustly; he loved all his people, both rich and poor; he also provided for the servants of God, and he adorned many churches.

The men of Bohemia, however, became arrogant and prevailed upon Boleslaus, his younger brother. They told him, “Your brother Wenceslaus is conspiring with his mother and his men to kill you.”

On the feasts of the dedication of the churches in various cities, Wenceslaus was in the habit of paying them a visit. One Sunday he entered the city of Boleslaus, on the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian, and after hearing Mass, he planned to return to Prague. But Boleslaus, with his wicked plan in mind, detained him with the words, “Why are you leaving brother?” The next morning when they rang the bell for matins, Wenceslaus, on hearing the sound, said, “Praise to you, Lord; you have allowed me to live to this morning.” And so he rose and went to matins.

Immediately Boleslaus followed him to the church door. Wenceslaus looked back at him and said, “Brother, you were a good subject to me yesterday.” But the devil had already blocked the ears of Boleslaus, and perverted his heart. Drawing his sword, Boleslaus replied, “And now I intend to be a better one!” With these words, he struck his brother’s head with his sword. But Wenceslaus turned and said, “Brother, what are you trying to do?” And with that he seized Boleslaus and threw him to the ground. But one of Boleslaus’ counselors ran up and stabbed Wenceslaus in the hand. With his hand wounded, he let go of his brother and took refuge in the church. But two evil men struck him down at the church door; and then another rushed up and ran him through with a sword. Thereupon, Wenceslaus died with the words, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” - from an old Slavic legend about Saint Wenceslaus

With the help of his friends and fellow assassins Tira, Čsta and Hněvsa, Boleslaus became Prince of Bohemia, and is now known in history as Boleslaus the Cruel. He later had a son, who happened to be born on the day of St. Wenceslaus’ murder, which he took for an ominous sign. So Boleslaus named his son Strachkvas, which means “dreadful feast” and in remorse promised to have the boy brought up for the church. He kept this promise, and Strachkvas became a priest, and was almost made a bishop of Prague, but he died under mysterious circumstances in the middle of the consecration ceremony. It is said that the Saint’s squire and servant Podevin later killed the murderers, saying "God will care for my health and salvation, but you have lost all your health and salvation long ago and you will die in sin for ever." He was later sorry for the deed, and fled to a forest to seek forgiveness for his sins. However, he was dragged away by the followers of Boleslaus and hung, and his body was left exposed for several days before it was taken down and buried.

St. Wenceslaus’ remains were transferred to St. Vitus’ Cathedral, and are there to this day. The Holy Roman Emperor, Otto the Great post humorously bestowed on him the regal dignity of kingship, and now St. Wenceslaus is known as “King.” The Saint is most popularly known and recognized as the protagonist of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas.” (this version is by Blackmore's Night:… and this one is by Loreena McKennitt:… I like both of them :aww:)


The door to which Wenceslaus clung while he was being stabbed to death can be seen on the left in this picture:… This is also the St. Wenceslaus chapel in St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague.

Here is an image of his skull:…

And here is an image of his helmet and armor:…


:rose: The Feast of St. Wenceslaus is celebrated on September 28th. :rose:

St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech Republic, the city of Prague, and Bohemia.

O God, who taught the Martyr Saint Wenceslaus
to place the heavenly Kingdom before an earthly one,
grant through his prayers that, denying ourselves,
we may hold fast to you with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
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© 2013 - 2021 Theophilia
anonymous's avatar
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KaptainJay's avatar
I have Bohemian ancestry myself. "Good King Wenceslaus" is my favorite carol next to "Little Drummer Boy."
DanielCBK's avatar
This is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful portrayal of st. Wenceslaus I've ever seen! Thank you for your artistic work for the kingdom of God!
Theophilia's avatar
Thank you so much!!! :aww: He's a saint I'm very fond of! :aww:
marmota-b-stock's avatar
I stumbled on your work by accident, and have been greatly enjoying strolling through your gallery these past two days because of - as I've seen others commenting - the research behind it, and how you try to portray them as *people*. I'm not Catholic, and in my tradition veneration of saints isn't something that is done, but it doesn't mean I can't draw inspiration from their stories...
And I'm Czech, so this seemed like a good place to comment (especially seeing the approaching date). I think my very first introduction to Václav, even before I learned the story, was a song - which I thought you might perhaps enjoy as yet another piece of "his" history. Although it says "1990" there, it was, in fact, written, and first recorded in the author's home, at the tail end of the 80s, before the fall of communism, and reflects that situation.…
I got reminded of that as I read the original hymn, and pondered how my mind kept supplying different lyrics...
(I could translate the lyrics, but it's rather late here and I don't have the mental wherewithal right now.)
Theophilia's avatar
Thank you! I really appreciate that! :aww: Even though I'm not Czech (or have any Czech ancestry that I'm aware of) I have a very great fondness for St. Wenceslaus. :aww: I always try to do something special for his feast day, even if it's only to take some time singing "Good King Wenceslaus". :D In fact, I was thinking just the other day that perhaps I ought to re-do this icon, as it's rather old.

If you ever have the chance, I'd love to know the lyrics!
marmota-b-stock's avatar
Somehow I still woke up again (I may pay for this with aborted sleep, but it's worth it.) Some sources claim this was written in November 1989, others remember having heard it in concerts before - which, personally, based on the lyrics, I think is likelier. I was just a tiny child at the time, so all I know is my parents had the LP with it for as long as I can remember, presumably since 1990... Either way, it definitely refers to his equestrian statue in Václavské náměstí, and the fact gatherings of people (including those in November 1989) would happen there (and possibly the memory of the Soviet tanks there in 1968?). So the whole gist as I see it is, "do not forsake this nation in our shared misery even though we fail to live up to its ideals", in effect reminding the nation. (I may still be missing some references people at that time would have caught.)

Saint Václav, duke of our despair,
You are standing here somewhat at your own risk.
Saint Václav,
Do not ride away and stay with us,
Duke of our faith, our loneliness.
Do not forsake us.

Saint Václav, duke of our complaisance,
we change governors like halters.
Saint Václav,
Do not ride away and stay with us,
The water cannon fires only a few times a year.
Do not forsake us.

Theophilia's avatar
Oh wow, that's really beautiful! And I'm very grateful to you for taking the time to translate the lyrics for me. Thank you! :hug:
marmota-b-stock's avatar
You're welcome. And yes, it is; I'm always struck anew by how beautiful it is.
NBVega's avatar
This series is really wonderful, I must say, not only because of the beauty of your illustration, but because of the well researched and informative background you provide.

I take exception to many of the doctrines of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but well I know that their histories are full of people like Wenceslaus who truly lived Christ. Their stories are inspiring.

I almost want to compile all of these into a folder and look at them whenever I feel discouraged in my walk with Christ!

Merry Christmas to you, and many thanks for your beautiful art :)
Theophilia's avatar
Thank you so very much for your kind words and your encouragement! I hope you have a very Merry Christmas too! :aww: :glomp:
mdeaaaaa's avatar
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
Leppardra's avatar
I love this song.  One of the better Christmas hymns. :nod:

But I hate royal assassinations. :(
Theophilia's avatar
One of my favorite Christmas songs. :D
mdeaaaaa's avatar
Mine too! '~' I hope the huge comment doesn't annoy anyone....
Zakharii's avatar
Your art is fabulous! Compliments!
Theophilia's avatar
Thank you so very much! :glomp:
unicornomics's avatar
This is gorgeous,I'm also glad that you gave his story. His bright eyes and faces seem to tell a story of their own. The clothing wrinkles are highly realistic and wonderfully done.The shading and shine is amazing,heck the whole piece seems flawless
Theophilia's avatar
Thank you so very much! :glomp: You're too kind! I can assure it's not flawless, but I am very flattered by the compliment nonetheless. Thank you again! :glomp:
unicornomics's avatar
FatherMiller's avatar
This is an exquisite icon. I'm a Catholic Priest who is pastor of 6 parishes in North Central Iowa, one of which is named St. Wenceslaus. We would love to use this image as part of a procession. The issue may be that, in order to be seen and to match the other five icons, the image would have to be about 15 inches x 19 inches. Can we order this from you?
Theophilia's avatar
THANK YOU!!! :meow:

And thank you Father for your service to the Church. Wow, six parishes? That's more than I've ever heard of! Wow, I can't even imagine the amount of work and traveling back forth that means. God bless you.

Yes, yes I think I could do that. I'll probably do something like 16x20 and then just cut off an inch, if that's okay. You can e-mail me (my e-mail address is on the front of my page in my journal) and we can talk about the cost and the shipping address and all that.
Shu-Maat's avatar
Absolutely beautiful, you're a great artist! :worship:
Theophilia's avatar
THANK YOU! You are too kind! :glomp:
anonymous's avatar
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