Thursday, September 16, 2010

St. Vitus

Last week I wrote about Prague Castle, which includes one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral.

Commissioned by Charles IV, construction on the cathedral began in 1344 and wasn’t full completed until 1929. It is the largest church in Prague and was the site of numerous royal coronations.

The Cathedral was built on the site of an original church that was consecrated to St. Vitus. The original church was built in 925 by the Duke of Bohemia, Wenceslas (yes, the one with the Christmas song named after him.) St. Vitus was chosen because King Henry I of Germany gave him the bones of one hand of St Vitus. Some speculate that Wenceslaus, wanting to convert his subjects to Christianity, chose a saint whose name sounds very much like the name of Slavic solar deity Svantevit.

But who was St. Vitus? According to legend, he was a 4th-century Sicilian who converted to Christianity when he was 12. Among his accomplishments, Vitus is said to have freed the son of the Roman Emperor from an evil spirit, but was sentenced to death when he refused to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. Several tales tell of failed attempts – he was thrown to the lions, tossed in a cauldron of molten lead – but most stories say he was thrown into boiling oil. He has become the patron saint of dancers, artists, singers and entertainers – which makes him an especially appropriate saint for the culturally-inclined Czech people.

-Heather Tinley, Opera Colorado Marketing Coordinator

No comments:

Post a Comment