Adalbert of Prague

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Seal of the Gnesen cathedral chapter with the inner inscription S (an) c (tu) s ADALBERTUS

Adalbert von Prag (baptismal name in Czech Vojtěch , Polish Wojciech ; * around 956; † April 23, 997 ) was Bishop of Prague , Christian missionary to the Hungarians and Prussians , and a martyr . After he became Bishop of Prague in 982, he got into conflict with clerical and secular dignitaries because of his reform policy. His Slavnikid family had sided with the Polish Duke and during his struggles Adalbert left his diocese twice to live as a monk and a missionary. On April 23, 997 he was slain by the pagan Prussians on a missionary trip in an unknown location on the Baltic Sea and then canonized in 999 by Pope Silvester II .


Emperor Otto II. Transfers Adalbert of Prague the crosier . (Depiction on the door of Gnesen Cathedral , 12th century.)
Adalbert, part of the Wenceslas Monument on Wenceslas Square in Prague

Vojtěch was probably born in Eastern Bohemia . His father was the Bohemian prince Slavník ; his mother Střezislava is said to have been the sister of the Přemyslids Wenceslaus and Boleslav and a distant relative of Emperor Otto I. It is more likely that she was the sister of the stepmother or a blood relative of the Babenbergs . Adalbert's stepbrother, Gaudentius , was the first Archbishop of Gniezno . Vojtěch received an excellent education for eight years in the cathedral school of Magdeburg under the director Ohtrich . Adalbert von Magdeburg was archbishop there from 968 and gave Vojtěch the name Adalbert at the second confirmation .

In 981 he returned to Prague and became a clergyman in the entourage of the first Prague bishop Thietmar of Prague . A year later he witnessed his demise.

On February 19, 982, Prince Boleslav II elected him . Due to his great knowledge and contacts abroad, he was appointed Bishop of Prague . The confirmation came a year later on June 3, 983 in Verona. He returned to Prague and stayed there until 988.

His predecessor Thietmar, a Saxon, was very popular as mild and fair. On the other hand, Adalbert met resistance from the local clergy as a result of his zeal for reform. However, he also ran into problems with secular dignitaries. According to Johannes Canaparius , the polygamy practiced by princes and other nobles , the prohibition of which he was unable to enforce, is said to have driven him to leave. He also did not succeed in raising enough money to buy back slaves that the Bohemian prince sold to the oriental traders. On the whole, he was unable to assert himself politically on this point, as the slave trade was a safe, convenient source of income for the privileged class, which also financed the Bohemian army.

He then entered the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino in 988 and from there to the monastery of St. Bonifacius and Alexius on the Aventine in Rome . Greek monks lived there in an ascetic and enthusiastic world of thoughts. It was there that the later Emperor Otto III met him. know and adore who clung to the same mystical, enthusiastic moods.

In 993 he was appointed by Pope John XV. sent back to his diocese in Prague, according to other sources, brought from Rome by the Prague envoy Radla and the monk Kristián. Among other things, he received the promise to found a monastery in Bohemia. With twelve monks who went to Prague with him, he founded the Břevnov monastery , which became a spiritual and religious center of Bohemia for centuries.

The situation in Bohemia continued to worsen. Adalbert was drawn into the increasing conflict between the Přemyslids and the Slavnikids, as his family, especially his brother Sobebor, had sided with the Polish duke in his conquests of Chorbatia and Bohemia. Sobebor fell on the Vltava Bridge in Prague in September 1004, where he and a crowd of Poles had covered Boleslaw I's escape . The clashes with the rulers increased again and culminated in the violation of the church's right to asylum. A woman who had cheated is said to have sought protection from him. The relatives of the betrayed are said to have forcibly entered the church of St. George and then beheaded the woman in front of the bishop's eyes.

In anger at the pagan savagery of the recently Christianized Bohemia, he left his diocese and after a brief missionary work in Hungary, retired to the monastery on the Aventine in Rome. He was deeply friends with Emperor Otto III, whose coronation he attended in Rome on May 21, 996 on the feast of Christ's Ascension. He had a great influence on the religious and political thinking of the young emperor, whom he was also able to win over for his eastern mission plans.

He moved with this to Mainz

Prussian mission and death

St. Adalbert's Cross in Tenkitten (before 1945)

Then Adalbert went to Duke Boleslaw I. Chrobry of Poland. From there he drove to Danzig . to go to the land of the Prussians and spread the gospel . Boleslaw gave him some soldiers to accompany him on the journey. Adalbert, his brother Gaudentius and his escort landed on the Baltic coast in Danzig ( Gidanie / "urbem Gyddanyzc") in 997. After his arrival, he is said to have expressed his amazement that the city was already inhabited by many German-speaking Christians . In the area he is said to have converted many pagan Prussians through a one-day missionary sermon. (The later place Sankt Albrecht ( Święty Wojciech ) could have been such a place.)

With two companions and armed soldiers, he was released after a short journey across the sea on the Prussian coast. The traditions give no information about the place. Adalbert went to the Prussians to preach the gospel to them, but was rejected, beaten, chased away and finally killed with his brother Gaudentius.

In one tradition it was said that he entered a sacred grove contrary to the prohibition, his student and successor Bruno von Querfurt wrote that a Prussian had killed him in revenge for his brother who had fallen in battle with the Poles.

The exact location is not known. It must have been some distance from Gdansk, near the sea

  • In Heiligenwalde ( Święty Gaj in Polish ) a new chapel with relics of Adalbert was built in 1399, probably on a previous church. There he is said to have been slain in the grove / field nearby. Today the place is a place of pilgrimage


Adalbert, skull relic, Prague Cathedral

Soon after his death, in 999, he was canonized by Pope Silvester II . According to the tradition of the time, his life was described in a saint's vita, which is attributed to Johannes Canaparius , but also to Notger von Liège .

According to a legend, the Polish Duke Bolesław I. Chrobry released the corpse for gold equal to Adalbert's weight, which was not buried at the existing bishopric in Poznan , but in Gniezno in the previous building of today's cathedral. Around 1000 his bones came to the newly founded Metropolitan Church of Gniezno . Emperor Otto III. made a pilgrimage to his grave in 1000 and the act of Gniezno took place . In addition, Otto III. Parts of the relics, some of which he handed over to the Adalbertstift founded by him in Aachen , and some of which he brought to Rome, where they are kept in the church of San Bartolomeo all'Isola to this day . In 1039, after the Polish-Bohemian War, the body of the saint was kidnapped by the Bohemian Duke Břetislav I from Gniezno and buried at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague . There the bones were found in a crypt on Domplatz in 1880 and buried in the cathedral church. In Gniezno there are therefore only small remains of the relics that are kept in a precious baroque silver shrine above the high altar.

On the Arch-Cathedral of Gniezno there is a bronze door made in the second half of the 12th century, which shows a cycle of reliefs on the life of St. Adalbert.

His 1000th anniversary of his death was celebrated in 1997, and special postage stamps with the portrait of Adalbert were also issued in Germany and Hungary. In Poland, Gdańsk's millennium was also celebrated.

Adalbert is considered the patron saint of Bohemia , Poland, Prussia and the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest as well as the paternoster maker . Numerous Adalbert churches bear his name.


In the fine arts , Adalbert is usually depicted with a miter and bishop's robe as well as a club, oar or spear, as he is said to have been slain with an oar and pierced with spears. Occasionally he is also depicted with an eagle as an attribute, as an eagle is said to have guarded his corpse until it could be buried in Gniezno around 1000.

The oldest representations of Adalbert are handed down on Bohemian denarii from the 12th century. Many representations date from the 14th century, when he was venerated as the patron saint of Poland and Bohemia. The most detailed representations show him in a cycle on the bronze door from 1175 and in his magnificent silver sarcophagus from 1623 in the Gniezno Cathedral. In Bohemian baroque art he can often be seen together with the other Bohemian patrons Wenceslaus , Ludmilla and Johann von Nepomuk .

Memorial days

1000th anniversary of the death of St. Adalbert: Postage stamp from 1997 , German joint
issue with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Vatican State


On October 14, 2011, the oratorio “Porta Peregrinorum” ( The Pilgrims' Gate ) was premiered by the EUROPERA Youth Orchestra in the Johanniskirche in Zittau . It was composed by Jiři Pavlica and deals with the life and work of St. Adalbert.


There are three biographies of contemporaries:

  • Vita Sancti Adalberti (was traditionallyascribed to Johannes Canaparius . Johannes Fried , however, spoke out in favor of Notger von Lüttich , which was met with approval in research.)
    • German / Edition: Jürgen Hoffmann: Vita Adalberti . In: Adalbert Foundation (Ed.): European writings of the Adalbert Foundation, Krefeld . tape 2 . Klartext, Essen 2005, ISBN 3-89861-387-9 .
  • Brun von Querfurt (follower of Adalbert, but probably did not know him personally): Vita Sancti Adalberti (1008),
    • German in: Lorenz Weinrich, Heiligenleben on German-Slavic history: Adalbert von Prag - Otto von Bamberg , 2005, pp. 70–117.
    • Edition: S. Adalberti Pragensis episcopi et martyris vita prior. ed. by Jadwiga Karwasińska, Monumenta Poloniae historica, Seria nova 4/2, Warsaw 1969.
  • Passio Sancti Adalperti Martiris (around 1000-1025).




Journal articles

Lexicon article


  • Johann Loserth: The fall of the House of Slawnik. A contribution to the history of the formation of the Bohemian duchy . C. Gerold's Sohn, Vienna 1883.

Web links

Commons : Adalbert of Prague  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. A. Hagen: About the St. Adalberts Chapel in Tenkitten. In: New Prussian Provincial Papers. Volume 5, Koenigsberg 1848, pp. 256-276.
  2. According to the prevailing opinion of historians , Libice nad Cidlinou is only an unsubstantiated assumption as the place of birth , see source: Jiří Sláma: Slavníkovci ve středověkém písemnictví , or Michal Lutovský, Zdeněk Petráň: Slavníkovci. ISBN 80-7277-291-0 .
  3. ^ Johann Loserth: The fall of the house Slawnik .
  4. ^ Dušan Třeštík : Počátky Přemyslovců
  5. Hans Hermann Henrix, p. 61f.
  6. Michal Lutovský, Zdeněk Petráň: Slavníkovci. ISBN 80-7277-291-0 .
  7. Neither the clergy, and even less the people, had the power to elect the bishop. At that time this was reserved for state power in Bohemia. Source: Michal Lutovský, Zdeněk Petráň: Slavníkovci. ISBN 80-7277-291-0 .
  8. Nový-Slama-Zachová: Slavníkovci
  9. a b Source: Nový-Sláma-Zachová: Slavníkovci
  10. ^ W. Boguslawski: The Polish rule in the Lausitz. In: Journal of Slavic Literature, Art and Science. Volume I, Issue 1, Bautzen 1862, pp. 150-161. especially p. 156.
  11. a b August Eduard Preuss : Prussian country and folklore . Königsberg 1835, pp. 392-409, No. 25, especially p. 393.
  12. ^ "Ipse vero (Adalbertus) adiit primo urbem Gyddanyzc, quam ducis (Palamiorum Bolizlavi) latissima regna dirimentem maris confinia tangunt." Kazimierz Lucyan Ignacy Römer: Contributions to answering the question about the nationality of Nicolaus Copernicus . Breslau, Priebatsch, 1872 limited preview in the Google book search, with which Danzig is mentioned for the first time in Adalbert's biography, and also as a city ( urbs ).
  13. There are different representations. In the oldest Vita sancti Adalbert from about 1000, in sections 28 to 31; German among others in Hermann Hütter : The life of Bishop Adalbert of Prague. Berlin 1857. pp. 33ff.
  14. ( Memento from January 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  15. George C. Williamson: The book of amber. London 1932.
  16. ^ Zittau: Concert in the Johanniskirche ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Oberlausitzer Kurier and Lower Silesian Courier Bautzen, October 13, 2011.
  17. ^ Johannes Fried: Gnesen - Aachen - Rome. Otto III. and the cult of St. Adalbert. Observations on the older Adalbert life . In: Michael Borgolte (ed.): Poland and Germany 1000 years ago. The Berlin conference on the "Gnesen Act" . Berlin 2002, p. 236-7 .
  18. Bibliography
predecessor Office successor
Thietmar Bishop of Prague