John of Nepomuk

John Of Nepomuk (more properly POMUK), a very popular Bohemian saint of the Roman Catholic Church, and honored by them as a martyr of the inviolability of the seal of confession. He was born at Pomuk, a village in the district of Klatau, about the middle of the 14th century. After taking orders, he rose rapidly to distinction. He was created a canon of the Cathedral of Prague, and eventually vicar general of the diocese. The queen, Sophia, the second wife of Wenzel or Wenceslaus IV, having selected him for her confessor, Wenceslaus, himself a man of most dissolute life, conceiving suspicions of her virtue, required of John to reveal to him what he knew of her life from the confessions which she had made to him. John steadfastly refused, and the king resolved to be revenged for the refusal. An opportunity occurred soon afterwards, when the monks of the Benedictine abbey of Kladran elected an abbot in opposition to the design of the king, who wished to bestow it upon one of his own dissolute favorites, and obtained from John, as vicar general, at once a confirmation of their choice. Wenceslaus, having first put him to the torture, at which he himself personally presided, had him tied hand and foot, and flung, already half dead from the rack, into the Moldau (March 1393). These historical facts have been considerably enlarged, and embellished with legendary additions, in his biography by Bohuslav Balbinus. According to these, his birth was signalled by miraculous signs, and after his martyrdom his body was discovered by a miraculous light which issued from it, was taken up, and buried with the greatest honor. Several able Romanist writers have frequently attempted to reconcile the points of conflict between the legend and the historical account. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 6, 749 sq.; Pelzel, Kaiser Wenceslaus, 1, 262 sq.; Wetzer u.Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 5, 725 sq. Dr. Otto Abel (Die Sage v. heil. Johan. v. Nep.). supposes the legend to be a Jesuitical invention, and to date from the restoration of popery in Bohemia, to serve as a popular counterpart to the martyrdom of Huss and Ziska. His memory is cherished with peculiar affection in his native country. He was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Benedict XIII in 1729, his feast being fixed for the 20th of March. By some historians, two distinct personages of the same name are enumerated — one the martyr of the confessional seal, the other of the resistance to the simoniacal tyranny of Wenceslaus; but the identity of the two is well sustained by Palacky, Gesch. von Bohmen, 3, 62. See Chambers, Cyclop. s.v.; Aschbach, Kirchen-Lex. 3, 556 sq.

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