Adalbert of Prague : biography
Adalbert of Prague (Czech: , , c. 956 – April 23, 997), was a Czech Roman Catholic saint, a Bishop of Prague and a missionary who was martyred in his efforts to convert the Baltic Prussians. He evangelized Poles and Hungarians. Adalbert was later made the patron saint of Bohemia, Poland, Hungary and Prussia.
Adalbert (named Vojtěch at birth) was born into a noble Czech family of Prince Slavník and his wife Střezislava in Libice nad Cidlinou, Bohemia. His father was a rich and independent ruler of the Zličan princedom that rivaled Prague (see Slavník’s dynasty). Adalbert had five full brothers: Soběslav (Slavnik’s heir), Spytimír, Pobraslav, Pořej, Čáslav and a half-brother Radim (Gaudentius) from his father’s liaison with another woman. Radim chose a clerical career as did Adalbert, and took the name Gaudentius. Adalbert was a well-educated man, having studied for about ten years (970-80) in Magdeburg under Saint Adalbert of Magdeburg. Upon the death of his mentor, he took the name Adalbert. Gifted and industrious, Adalbert soon became well-known all over Europe.
In 980 Adalbert finished his studies at the Magdeburg school and returned to Prague, where he became a priest. In 981 his father, Prince Slavnik, and both his mentors died. In 982, still not yet 30 years old, Adalbert became the Bishop of Prague.“Saint Adalbert of Prague”. Saints.SQPN.com. 1 May 2012. Web. . Although Adalbert descended from a rich family and could afford comfort and luxury, he lived poorly of his own free will. He was noted for charity, austerity, and zealous service to the Church. His duty was difficult even in baptized Bohemia, as the pagan creed was deeply embedded in the peoples’ minds. Adalbert complained of polygamy and idolatry, which still were not unusual among the Czechs. He also strongly resented the participation of baptized Christians in the slave trade.
In 989 he resigned from his bishop’s cloth and left Prague. He went to Rome and lived as a hermit in St. Alexis Benedictine monastery. Four years later, in 993, Pope John XV sent him back to Bohemia, and Adalbert became the bishop again. That time he founded a monastery in Břevnov, near Prague, the first one in the Czech lands. Nonetheless, the nobility there continued to oppose his ministry. Also, according to Cosmas of Prague’s chronicle, high clerical office was a burden to Adalbert, and in 994 he offered it to Strachkvas who was a member of the Přemyslid dynasty and Duke Boleslav’s brother. Strachkvas, nevertheless, refused.
In 995, the Slavniks’ former rivalry with the Přemyslids (allied with the powerful Bohemian clan, the Vršovcis) resulted in the storming of the Slavnik town of Libice nad Cidlinou led by the Přemyslid Boleslaus II the Pious. During the struggle four (or five) of Adalbert’s brothers were killed. Nonetheless, the Zličan princedom became part of the Přemyslids’ estate.
After the tragedy he could not stay in Bohemia and escaped from Prague, despite the Pope’s call for him to return to his episcopal see. Strachkvas was eventually appointed to be his successor. However, when he was going to assume the Bishop office in Prague, he suddenly died during the ceremony itself. Circumstances of his death are still unclear.
As for Adalbert, he went to Hungary and baptized Géza of Hungary and his son Stephen in the city of Esztergom. Then he went to Poland where he was cordially welcomed by Bolesław I the Brave. After the short visit Adalbert went to Prussia with a Christian mission.
Mission and martyrdom in Prussia
Adalbert of Prague had already in 977 entertained the idea of becoming a missionary in Prussia. After he had converted Hungary, he was sent by the Pope to convert the heathen Prussians.Monks of Ramsgate. “Adalbert”. Book of Saints, 1921. Saints.SQPN.com. 30 April 2012. Web. . Boleslaus the Brave, duke of Poland (later king), sent soldiers with Adalbert. The bishop and his followers – including his half-brother Radim (Gaudentius) – entered Prussian territory and went along the Baltic Sea coast to Gdańsk.