Some of Czechia’s rarest mediaeval manuscripts on display at new Saint Ludmila exhibition in Prague’s Klementinum

Saint Ludmila

A new two-month exhibition opened up in Prague’s Klementinum this week, which focuses on Saint Ludmila, the grandmother and tutor of the country’s patron saint, who was martyred exactly 1,100 years ago. Visitors are able to explore her life and saintly cult through a variety of literary exhibits, including some of the country’s most important medieval manuscripts. The exhibition is also available online, where visitors are encouraged to try out conducting their own research.

Believed to have been a daughter of a Sorbian prince, Ludmila was the wife of the first historically documented Bohemian Duke Bořivoj. However, she is most famous for being the tutor of her grandson Saint Wenceslas, whose statue stands at the top of Prague’s most famous square.

Ludmila was eventually strangled to death in 921 and a saintly cult developed around her shortly after her martyrdom.

To mark the 1,100 year anniversary of her death, the Czech National Library opened a new exhibition this Monday in Prague’s Klementinum, says its director Tomáš Foltýn.

“Our aim is to present the saint and princess through the rare documents that make up the collection of the Czech National Library. We will not only be exhibiting documents from the early Middle Ages, but also those from the Early Modern period in which Saint Ludmila is also present.”

The exhibition is divided into eight thematic blocs, ranging from Ludmila’s life and personality, the saintly cult that developed around her, the music that was composed to venerate her, to how depictions of her evolved throughout history. The documents on show include some of the most precious manuscripts ever produced in the Czech lands, says Mr Foltýn.

“These include, for example, the manuscripts from the Basilica of St. George in Prague, as well as several musical manuscripts.”

The Library is also planning to exhibit the Velislaus Bible, a 14th century picture book of the bible, and the Chronicle of Dalimil, the first ever chronicle written in the Old Czech language, as part of the exhibit from January 14 to January 16.

The National Library director says that for those who can’t visit the exhibition in person, an online viewing is also possible where special arrangements have been made for visitors that want to do their own research into the saint.

“We prepared a virtual exhibition which accompanies the physical one. This virtual exhibition is fully available in our digital library We are also connecting this exhibition to the promotion of our new research software for potential users. Moreover, we offer online presentations to the topic of Saint Ludmila.”

The exhibition is available to visit for free and will be open until January 30.