Kittredge atJesus in Love Blog has a Christmas treat for the followers of the queer saints that she and I both like to explore: “Gay King Wenceslas“. In a notable achievement, she is drawing on some unpublished research, and also has a great image of the famously “good” king – and his page. I don’t want to detract from Kitt’s work, so to see the picture, you will have to follow the link above and read it for yourself. Just for starters, I give you only the standard, soppy picture – and a teaser from the fascinating text:
There’s good reason to believe that Good King Wenceslas was gay. Yes, the king in the Christmas carol.
Saint Wenceslaus I (907–935) was duke of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). The carol is based on a legend about Wenceslaus and his loyal page Podiven. According to the story, it was a bitterly cold night when they went out to give alms to the poor on the Feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26. Podiven could not walk any farther on his bare, frozen feet, so Wenceslas urged him to follow in his footsteps. His footprints in the snow stayed miraculously warm, allowing the pair to continue safely together.
Many details in the Christmas carol are pious fiction, but the king and his page are both grounded in historical truth. Dennis O’Neill, author of “Passionate Holiness,” shared with this blog his unpublished research about the loving relationship between Wenceslaus and Podiven.
Or, for a summary of the full story, see this report from the British paper, the Morning Star:
Despite the Vatican’s rabid homophobia today, with persecution of gay priests and bishops as well as its campaigning against same-sex unions and marriage, the church actually has a rich history of gay players in its colourful history.
As it’s Christmas let’s start with Good King Wenceslas, who as everyone knows went out on the Feast of Stephen when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
This Czech saint was declared king of Bohemia after a domestic coup.
He didn’t rule for long before he was killed by his jealous brother Boleslas. Wenceslas asked for forgiveness for his murderer as his dying wish. A saintly act indeed.
So what’s the story in the famous carol? The king went out on a frosty night with his page to collect logs.
His page Podiven had no shoes but the saintly king simply commanded him to walk in his royal footprints.
Miraculously the footprints proved hot and the page’s feet stayed warm and toasty “where the saint had treaded.”
Podiven, church history relates, was the most trustworthy and closest of all the king’s many young pages. But it seems he was bit special in the king’s affections.
The earliest accounts of Wenceslas’s life mention this close relationship with the page, who is described as a chamber valet to the king.
Wenceslas, it seems, used to wake his page in the middle of the night to join him in doing “charitable works.”
After the king’s murder Podiven was certainly overcome by grief.
Eventually Wenceslas’s brother had Podiven killed to stop him from spreading stories of the saintly Wenceslas and the page’s undying love for him.
Podiven’s slaughtered body, legend has it, remained incorrupt despite being hung outdoors on a gibbet for over three years.
Both Wenceslas and his beloved Podiven are buried side by side at St Vitus Cathedral in Prague.