By Vatican News staff reporter
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, OP, will be the Pope’s special envoy for the celebrations of the first Bohemian saint.
A host of commemorative event will take place throughout the Czech Republic, but the main celebration will be held on 18 September 2021 in the city of Tetin, near Prague, the site of the Saint’s martyrdom, 1,100 years ago.
St. Ludmila is remembered as the daughter of the Sorbian prince Slavibor and the grandmother of St. Wenceslaus, who is widely known as “Good King Wenceslaus”.
Woman of noble birth
St. Ludmila was born into a noble family around 859 in Lusatia, a historical region located in Central Europe which lies in the intersection of the modern-day territories of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Ludmila was married while still an adolescent to the Duke of Bohemia, Borivoj. She was baptized with her husband by St. Methodius, the apostle of the Slavs, in the 9th century, and she soon became a leading figure in Christian education and the spread of Christianity in the region.
An early widow, two of her sons, Spytihněv and Vratislav, continued the family’s political activity and consolidated the country's role in the Christian world by building churches, some of which are still standing today in Budeč (the round Romanesque church of Sts. Peter and Paul) and in Prague (Basilica of St. George).
Ludmila donated all her possessions to the poor. After the death of her eldest son Vratislav in 921, the nobles entrusted the duchy’s regency to his wife, Drahomira, and the education of their eldest grandson Wenceslaus to his Christian grandmother.
However, in a fit of jealousy, the regent Drahomira accused Ludmila of seeking to rule the duchy by influencing Wenceslaus and forced her to retreat to the castle of Tetin. There, on the night of 15 September 921, she was strangled by order of Drahomira.
Wenceslaus, who had just come of age and was himself a duke, had the relics of his grandmother transferred from the church of St. Michael’s at Tetin to the St. George’s Basilica in Prague.
Martyr and Saint
Over a thousand years later, Pope St. John Paul II included St. Ludmila in the Roman Martyrology and proclaimed her patron saint of Eastern Europe.
St. Ludmila is considered the first Christian martyr of Bohemia, a symbol of Christianity in the Czech Republic, and at the same time the expression of Bohemian unity within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially in the second half of the last century.