There really was a King (or Duke) Wenceslas—though his life is shrouded in history and legend.

He lived from 907-929 AD in what was known as Bohemia and is now the Czech Republic.

It was a dark and violent time. Most people still worshiped a variety of tribal pagan gods. Many of the nobles in Bohemia were opposed to what was a new religion to them – Christianity.
Wenceslas was raised by his grandmother who was a Christian. Legend has it that Wenceslas’ mother, a pagan, had his grandmother strangled.

Wenceslas became a ruler in Bohemia when he was 18. He was known as a kind, just and wise ruler.

He remembered the faith his grandmother had taught him.

He built churches, brought back exiled priests, enacted laws to protect the poor and passed laws with severe consequences for violent crimes in an attempt to curb the terrible violence of the time.

The poor and common folk of Bohemia loved their Good King Wenceslas.

The nobles, who had grown wealthy from exploiting the poor and who enjoyed their violent ways, were not pleased with his new rule.
On the side of the nobles was Wenceslas’ brother. His brother invited him to a religious festival. Although he was warned against it, Wenceslas accepted and on the way to the church, his brother ambushed him and murdered him.

It is said that as he died he said, “My brother, may God forgive you.”

Today on the Feast of St. Stephen, we are reminded that the cross is never far from the manger. But even when the messenger is killed, the message is not.
The world is a better place because St. Stephen was here and King Wenceslas and all the saints and martyrs God has sent to enlighten our darkness until we join with all the saints in the place where grief and sorrow is no more.
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!

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Beautiful story. I read in another account that the good king's brother tried to kill him another time. King Wenceslas did not have him executed as was the usual case, but instead exiled him. Thus he was able to come back and kill the king. This is such a beautiful story of living out the non-violent teachings of Jesus. My grandfather was from Bohemia, and I like to think King Wenceslas may have been my ancestor, and I am carrying on his values of non-violence and social justice as well as sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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