Vaclav was born in 907AD, and came to power as young man of only around 20 years old. A devout Catholic, Vaclav's pagan mother and Christian grandmother fought it out behind the scenes, embodying the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Bohemian people that was raging at the time. Known during his lifetime as a fair and charitable ruler, who founded many churches and monasteries, kept Bohemia free from foreign powers and did a great deal to firmly establish the Christian faith in Bohemia, Vaclav the Good was murdered in 935 by his brother Boleslav the Bad, who then seized power. So, it goes: philanthropy, Good; fratricide, Bad. Clear?
An interesting figure, and just as interesting is the way his legend spread, his sainthood was bestowed and he was posthumously re-titled as a king. A Czech legend that a sleeping army lies beneath Mount Blanik and will awake, to be led by Vaclav, to defend Bohemia in its hour of direst need, bears obvious strong similarities to the English legend of King Arthur.
|A gratuitous shot of the huge Christmas Tree in Prague's Old Town Square. A few times a day they make the lights 'dance' to Rossini's William Tell Overture - bonkers.|
|The Old-New Synagogue|
|The serene, atmospheric interior of the synagogue|
|The curtained holy arc, containing the Torah scrolls, with the 'eternal light' (ner tamid) suspended to the front|
|Graves, some dating back to Medieval times, packed cheek by jowl, with the old Jewish Ceremonial Hall in the background|
|The stump of an old tree, which had grown through some ancient graves, pushing the stones out of place|
|You can see here, quite clearly, how the ground level was raised to try to create space for people|
Prague's second-oldest surviving synagogue, the C16th Pinkas Synagogue, now houses a museum. The names of around 78,000 Jews killed by the Nazis are inscribed inside the walls in commemoration, and there is also a deeply moving collection of drawings made by Jewish children being held at Terezín. Most of the children's names are followed by three dates: Date of birth, date of internment, date of death.
|The Pinkas Synagogue in 1909, before the restoration of the Jewish Town in Prague|
Though I was only in Prague for two days, and the primary purpose of the visit was to explore the Christmas markets, eat the street food (I am now worryingly addicted to sausages and pickled cabbage) and drink the mulled cider, it is a place of such visible and fascinating history, it can't fail to make an impression. And it certainly does Christmas in style!
I wish all the History Girls, and our readers a peaceful, very happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2017.