Czechs commemorate chief patron saint

St. Wenceslas

This Saturday, September 28th, is designated as the Day of Czech Statehood - a Czech national holiday on which the nation commemorates St. Wenceslas, the country's chief patron saint. But who was St. Wenceslas and why are Czechs still celebrating his life, over a thousand years after his death? Dita Asiedu put that question to historian Jan Rychlik:

So why is St. Wenceslas considered chief patron saint of the Czech lands?

"During his life he spread Christianity all over Bohemia, which was very important in the early Middle Ages because only Christian countries were considered to be a part of the international community of the states. So through him - of course there were Christians before him, we have a tradition of Cyril and Methodius - but during his reign, the Bohemian state, the Bohemian Princedom became a fully recognized part of the European Union of Nations in the Middle Ages as a family of the Christian states."

Traditionally, Prague Castle and several town halls around the country organise celebrations to commemorate the death of St. Wenceslas. But what about the average Czech?

"When the Czech Republic came into existence in 1993 on January 1st, there was a big problem as to what should be the national holiday. We already had the 28th of October, which celebrated independence day in 1918 but the problem was that it was a celebration of a state which no longer existed. So, the tradition of St. Wenceslas came into being again and there were hefty discussions about this day. It's not celebrated widely, I would say. It's rather a day when politicians remember our old statehood and our old tradition."