A Short History of the Archdiocese of Prague
In the year 972 AD the Archdiocese of Prague was mandated by a Papal Bull of Pope John XIII at the request of Czech Prince Boleslav I and in agreement with Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. At that time Czech lands were part of the Diocese of Regensburg whose bishop, St. Wolfgang, also agreed to the formation of the new diocese. In 973 AD the first Bishop of Prague, Ditmars (Dětmar), was installed; his successor, St. Adalbert (sv. Vojtěch), is venerated as the principle patron of the Archdiocese.
In the year 1000 AD the Diocese of Krakow was formed out of the Diocese of Prague. In the same manner the Diocese of Olomouc was created in 1063.
Thanks to the initiative of Charles IV, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, the Diocese of Prague was upgraded to an archdiocese by Pope Clement VI with his Papal Bull, “Ex Superne Providentia Maiestatis”, edited on April 13th, 1344 at Avignon. In this Bull he withdrew the Diocese of Prague and the Diocese of Olomouc from the authority of the Archdiocese of Mainz, elevated the Diocese of Prague to an archdiocese and created a new diocese, that of Litomyšl (which was suppressed during the Hussite War and Social Revolution in the 15th century and which had been a part, along with the one of Olomouc, of the Archdiocese of Prague.) The Archbishop of Prague obtained the right to crown Czech Kings and Queens (by the Papal Bull, “Romanus Pontifex”, of May 5th, 1344) and he became designated also as a Metropolitan and the Czech Primate. Since April 7th, 1348, when the Charles University was founded, he also has held the position of Great Chancellor of the University.
The first Archbishop of Prague was its last bishop, Ernest of Pardubice (Arnošt z Pardubic), who also initiated the building of St. Vitus Cathedral.
The Diocese of Prague had existed for a total of 371 years and was governed during that time by 28 bishops. The Archdiocese of Prague has existed for 667 years at this writing (2011) and has been led by 36 archbishops; 9 of them have been elevated to the College of Cardinals.
In 1421 AD during the Hussite Religious Reform and Social Revolution (in fact, the first European reformation), Archbishop Conrad of Vechta (Konrád z Vechty), defected to the Hussites and subsequently was excommunicated. From that time until 1561 Prague had no archbishop; the archdiocese was administered by Metropolitan Canons.
In 1561 AD Antonín Brus of Mohelnice, the Grand Master of The Knights of the Red Cross, was named Archbishop of the newly reinstated Archdiocese of Prague, obtaining a new seat on Hradčanské Square, still today the Archbishop’s Palace. Also at this time the Diocese of Litomyšl was definitively suppressed.
At times when the Archdiocese became too large to be administrated effectively, new dioceses were created from it: July 3rd, 1655 at Litoměřice; November 10th, 1664 at Hradec Králové; September 20th, 1785 at České Budějovice (editor’s note: birthplace of St. John Nepomucene Neumann who became Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA); and, May 31st, 1993 at Plzeň. The Diocese of Olomouc was elevated to an archdiocese on December 5th, 1777.
In 2007 AD the Archdiocese of Prague consisted of 140 parishes with a total of 912 churches and chapelles, situated in Central Bohemia, an area of 8590 km2. In 2001 this area was home to about 2 million people, 18 % of whom self-identified as Roman Catholics.