St. John of Nepomuk
- Dear List Members,
A while back, I had sent an inquiry about St. John of Nepomuk, a
patron saint of the Czech Republic. I had read where his
canonization was removed in the early 1960's by the Vatican. I have
finally found information on him that has satisfied my question.
The information is in the book, Prague In Black and Gold, by Peter
Demetz. I sent an earlier e-mail reviewing the book. Since the book
is very academic, I will paraphrase what I found in Chapter 4, The
Hussite Revolution 1415-1422, pages 121-123.
* The king is Vaclav IV, son of King Charles IV who built Prague into
a glorious city after being crowned the emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire. Vaclav IV was not a strong ruler like his father before
him. The early part of the chapter tells of Vaclav IV's personality
*1392 The archbishop wishes to discipline a relative of King Vaclav
IV. The king gets mad.
*To get even, King Vaclav IV has a dam built across the Elbe River on
the archbishop's land. This cuts off shipping and money the
archbishop had been collecting by charging tolls.
*The archbishop complains. The kings says, "Come on over and let's
talk about it."
*The archbishop travels to see the king. Meanwhile, the king sends
thugs to trash the archbishop's estate.
*The archbishop goes home to a trashed estate, but a judge rules in
his favor to open up his shipping rights.
*King Vaclav IV decides to get even. He is going to establish a new
bishopric, centered on the monastery of Kladruby. This way the king
will have control of the area.
*The archbishop is no fool. He installs an abbot at Kladruby who
will stay loyal to him.
*When the king hears this, he is hot. He leaves his hunting estate
and heads back to Prague with revenge on his mind.
*March 20, 1393 The king invites the archbishop to a monastery in
Prague to talk about it. The archbishop brings along his vicar
(lawyer) Johann Pomuk and two officials: Nicholas Puchnik and Vaclav
*By the time the archbishop and company arrive,King Vaclav IV has
already been drinking since early morning and has no patience for the
archbishop. The king commences to scream at the group and commands
the royal guards to arrest them all.
*The archbishop escapes and the three companions are captured. King
Vaclav IV shuts down the Vltava River, having all ships searched for
the archbishop. He can't find him and gets super mad.
*The three prisoners are marched through Prague, ending up at the
town judge's prison in Old Town. The hangman is called. The three
are placed on the racks and torches are passed over their bodies,
mainly on their sides and hips.
*The enraged king grabs a torch and does some torturing. The king
finally comes to his senses and decides to let the three go free. A
public notary is called to draw up documents which the prisoners will
sign, agreeing to never discuss this matter.
*Puchnik and Knobloch come off the racks, sign, and leave. Johann
Pomuk, a middle-aged man, dies as he is brought off the rack.
*The hangman carried the body of Johann Pomuk and dumped it into the
river. It washes up several weeks later.
This was all kept quiet. After all, who would want to cross this
*In 1471, Jan Zidek, a Catholic writer of Jewish heritage, suggested
in his writings that Johnn of Pomuk was a priest from Nepomuk. He
was the confessor of Queen Sophia. He refused to tell King Vaclav IV
the queen's confession and was tortured and killed.
*March 19, 1729 Pope Benedict XIII had Johann of Pomuk canonized.
Now he is St. John of Nepomuk.
*Johann of Pomuk was born to a German. His father worked in the
Cistercian monastery of Pomuk in southwestern Bohemia.
*Johann went to school in Prague and Bologna. He became a legal
*Johann held a minor post at the Prague Cathedral, was parish priest
in the Old Town of Prague, and became a canon (high church official)
*By 1389, Johann was the vicar-general for the archbishop. His job
was to handle all financial and legal matters, to supervise the
morals of the priests, and to watch for heretics.
So the Catholic version of the life of St. John is not entirely
accurate. The version found on Radio Prague On-line dismisses him as
a clerk thrown to drown in the river by the enraged king. That does
him no justice either.
St. John was a priest and a lawyer. He was at the wrong place at the
wrong time and died in place of the archbishop. If the archbishop,
who escaped to live in a castle far from Prague, had been killed, the
story would be in history books similar to that of Thomas Becket.
So St. John of Nepomuk is real. His village name is incorrect and the
way he died is incorrect. However, he was a martyr at the hands of
King Vaclav IV.
Thanks for reading my story.
Marie Neuman Gottfried