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The church of Saint John Nepomucene is consecrated to one of the most-loved saints in this part of Europe, and who is also the patron saint of Bohemia. However, as you will see later on, it has recently been discovered that perhaps they have been worshiping an accidental impostor.
Saint John Nepomucene is one of the smallest churches in Prague and was entrusted to the Ursuline nuns in 1720. The famous architect Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer produced a Baroque work that was quite innovative for its time. On the outside, the façade forms an acute angle with the two twin towers of the square section. The double stairway that leads to the main entrance is a later addition, around 1770.
In the small interior, the ground plan is octagonal with concave sides. The curve is competed with ellipses towards the façade and apse, which has curvilinear forms.
In the main altar you will come across a replica in wood of the statue of Saint John Nepomucene that Jan Brokof sculpted in stone for Charles Bridge.
The painter Václav Vavrinec Reiner produced several frescos in this church that show some scenes from the life of the saint. And the saint’s life, if the legend is true, is quite gruesome.
In 1393, the vicar of the diocese of Prague was a man called John of Pomuk or of Nepomuk, according to different versions. After a disagreement with the archbishop, John of was arrested by King Wenceslas IV, tortured and finally murdered.
If that was not enough, his lifeless body was thrown into the River Vtlava, just at the point where his statue stands today. The legend states that on the spot where his body fell, the stars are reflected throughout the night. This is why Saint John Nepomucene is represented with a crown of stars.
Almost one hundred years later, in 1450, a Viennese chronicler popularised the idea that the reason for John of Pomuk’s arrest was for refusing to reveal to the king the secrets that the queen had told him in confession. This explanation spread and is the reason why Saint John Nepomucene is considered as the martyr saint of silence.
Between the 17th and 18th centuries worship for the saint developed in Bohemia and the legends regarding him diversified.
In 1719, during the process of canonisation, the saint’s body was exhumed and a dry fragment was found that they supposed was the tongue. On submerging it in water before the experts of the tribunal, it began to swell up, which was considered an unmistakable sign of sainthood. Since then, the tongue has been the emblem of Saint John Nepomucene and is represented in all the chapels dedicated to this saint in Prague. Nevertheless, in 1980, it was discovered that this supposed tongue was in fact a fragment of brain.
However, the history of possible errors does not end here, since there are quite a few experts who claim that the John of Pomuk murdered by the king’s men was never the queen’s confessor. Thus for centuries they had been venerating who in reality were two different people with different names and lives. Nevertheless, are these not the anecdotes from which history is constantly fed?
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