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How Drahomíra was dragged through the gateway to Hell

The pagan era ended when a conspiring duchess was dragged down into a gateway to Hell,

One of the dark villains of early Bohemian history is Duchess Drahomíra of Stodor, one of the last of the pagans. Technically, she converted to the new religion of Christianity, but secretly she still kept to the old ways and made sacrifices to the Slavic gods in private. She is still remembered in Prague with an obscure street marker showing the gateway to Hell.

But that is not her biggest sin. She married Duke Vratislav I of Bohemia about 906. Drahomíra gave birth to at least six children: her sons were Wenceslas and Boleslav, who both succeeded their father as Bohemian dukes.

After Vratislav died in February 921, Drahomíra became regent for her son Wenceslas, who was too young to rule. This is the “Good King Wenceslas” of song and legend, though he was only a duke.

Drahomíra had to share the government duties with her mother-in-law Ludmila, who also saw to the religious education of Drahomíra’s sons.

Ludmila, now regarded as a saint, gave the boys a Christian education, drawing them further from the influence of Drahomíra’s pagan ways.

But Drahomíra is alleged to have signed a pact with the Devil, agreeing to hinder efforts to spread Christianity. She put a plan into action to try to turn back the tide of the new religion.

Tomb of Vratislav I at Prague Castle magic bohemia tarot of prague
Tomb of Vratislav I at Prague Castle
Sculptured tombstone of Lumila at Prague Castle m,agic bohemia tarot of prague
Sculptured tomb effigy of St Ludmila at Prague Castle
Drahomíra hires assassins magic bohemia tarot of prague
Drahomíra hires assassins in a medieval illustration. Wikimedia commons

Not everybody likes their mother-in-law, but Drahomíra took a step further than most. She gave silver and horses to two of her guards, Tunna and Gomon, to kill Ludmila. They strangled her with her veil in September 921. The murder happened in the town of Tetín in what is now Central Bohemia.

With Ludmila out of the way, Drahomíra took measures against Christianity, and tried to restore the old ways. But Wenceslas reversed most of her efforts when he came of age in 924 or 925.

Drahomíra wasn’t finished, though. Her younger son Boleslav murdered Wenceslas in the town of Stará Boleslav in 929 or 935. It has been widely suspected that Drahomíra put the idea in Boleslav’s head.
Boleslav repented his bad ways and turned back to Christianity, so all of Drahomíra’s scheming led to nothing in the end.

She became an outcast in her later years, rejected by the public for her deeds. She moved back and forth between castles, but found no friends left anywhere. Finally, she determined to leave Prague and Bohemia behind.

But it was not to be. Her carriage left Prague Castle and got as far as what is now Loretánské náměstí. The round church of St Michael used to stand there. As the coach approached, bells signaled that it was time for prayer. The coach stopped and Drahomíra’s last remaining faithful servant went inside to pray. Drahomíra was furious at being left alone, on display in public. She cursed her fate and Christianity in general.

Reliquary of St Ludmila. magic bohemia tarot of prague
Reliquary of St Ludmila. Wikimedia commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The murder of Wenceslas, magic bohemia tarot of prague
The murder of Wenceslas, from a medieval illustration

But she had long forgotten about her deal with the Devil. The Devil, however, had not. A chasm opened up in the square and sucked Drahomíra down, carriage and all, into the flames of Hell.
Her servant went to get help, but nobody dared to try to go into the smoking chasm to look for the carriage.

The world was not rid of Drahomíra, though. Sometimes at night a fiery coach drawn by black horses can be seen in the area from midnight to 1 am, though nobody has reported seeing it recently and the square is under constant video surveillance due to it being next to a government building.

The spot where this happened was marked first by a fence to keep people from stepping on it and tempting fate, and then for a long time it was marked by Drahomíra’s Column. But that was torn down in 1788 by an order from the City Council.

Now, a large circle of black paving stones set against the white ones of the street marks the outline of where St Michael’s Rotunda (and a later Baroque replica chapel) used to be. A smaller circle shows the location of Drahomíra’s Column.

Statue of St Wenceslas at Vyšehrad tarot of prague magic bohemia
Statue of St Wenceslas at Vyšehrad
Statue of St Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square magic bohemia tarot of prague
Statue of St Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square
Helmet of St Wenceslas magic prague bohemia tarot
Helmet of St Wenceslas from the Crown Jewels
Crown of St Wenceslas magic prague bohemia tarot
Crown of St Wenceslas

Background

The date of birth of Drahomíra of Stodor is fairly uncertain. It is given as either 877 or 890, which is a wide gap. She died after 934 or 936. Her reign as Duchess consort of Bohemia was from 915 to 921, while she was wife of Duke Vratislav I. She was regent of the Duchy of Bohemia from 921 to 924.

Her role in the murder of Ludmila is accepted as historical fact. Whether she had a hand in the murder of Wenceslas depends on the dates. If Wenceslas was killed in 935, as some sources claim, and Drahomíra died in 934 then she would have been dead before it happened.

Wenceslas and Ludmila both are regarded as Christian saints, and Wenceslas is still a national hero. Wenceslas Square in Prague is named for him, and there is a large equestrian statue of him at the top of the square. Wenceslas has his own legends, including that he will return at the head of an army of knights hidden inside a mountain called Blaník. They will come when Bohemia is in its darkest time.

Loretánské náměstí is home to several other legends, with Černín Palace, currently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, home to a ghost of a vain countess. The Loreto across the square has legends about its bells. Inside the Loreto is a Black Madonna and a strange crucified bearded woman called St Wilgefortis.

An archeological survey in 1934 found the remnants of forgotten pre-Christian cemetery and  fallen mehir (standing stone). The type of stone was not indigenous to the area.  These stones have been mounted in the retaining wall at the side of the ravine that runs adjacent to the ministry parking lot.

Loreto in Prague Prague magic Bohemia tarot
Loreto in Prague
St Wilgefortis at the Loreto magic bohemia tarot of prague
St Wilgefortis at the Loreto
Black Madonna at the Loreto magic bohemia tarot of prague
Black Madonna at the Loreto
Image from the Devil's Bible tarot of prague magic bohemia
Image from the Devil's Bible
Remnants of a menhir and pre-Christian cemetery stones magic bohemia tarot of prague
Remnants of a menhir and pre-Christian cemetery stones
Gateway to Hell with Černín Palace and a statue of Edvard Beneš magic bohemia tarot of prague
Gateway to Hell with Černín Palace and a statue of Edvard Beneš

The story of Drahomíra going directly to hell seems to be a way to make it seem like she at least faced some divine retribution for her life of alleged scheming and for her pagan ways. When the story came about is not clear, but her column definitely existed.

A building on Loretánské náměstí is still called House at Drahomíra’s Column (Dům U Drahomířina sloupu). One of its inhabitants was Hana Benešová, widow of the second Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš. A statue of Edvard Beneš now stands near the site of the former column.

In 2011 it was announced that the Václav Havel Library would move to the building but so far that has not happened.

This is not the only entry to the underworld in Bohemia. There is also Houska Castle, which has it own dark legends.

An article by BabaBarock with Raymond Johnston. Copyright BabaBarock Ltd, all rights reserved. Please contact us if you would like to syndicate or otherwise use this article.

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