John Nepomucene or John of Nepomuk (Czech: Jan Nepomucký, c. 1345 – March 20, 1393) is a national saint of the Czech Republic who was drowned in the Vltava River at the behest of Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. Later accounts state that he was the confessor of the queen of Bohemia and refused to divulge the secrets of the confessional. On the basis of this account, John of Nepomuk is considered the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional, a patron against calumnies and, because of the manner of his death, a protector from floods. He first studied at the University of Prague, then furthered his studies in canon law at the University of Padua from 1383 to 1387. In 1393 he was made the vicar-general of Jan of Jenštejn, who was the Archbishop of Prague. In the same year, on March 20, he was tortured and thrown into the river Vltava from Charles Bridge in Prague at the behest of Wenceslaus IV. He was put to death for defending the laws and the autonomy of the Catholic Church and was revered as a saint right after his death. John of Nepomuk is seen as a martyr to the cause of defending the Seal of the Confessional, by nationalists as a Czech martyr to imperial interference, and by most historians as a victim of a late version of the investiture controversy between secular rulers and the Catholic hierarchy. In 1683 the Charles Bridge was adorned with a statue of the saint; in 1708 the first church was dedicated to him at Hradec Králové; a more famous Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk was founded in 1719. Meanwhile, the process was inaugurated that ended with his canonization. On May 31, 1721, he was beatified, and on March 19, 1729, he was canonized under Pope Benedict XIII. The figure of Saint John of Nepomuk is often encountered in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Poland and Lithuania. He is usually portrayed with a halo of five stars, commemorating the stars that hovered over the Vltava River on the night of his murder. Other symbols associated with this saint are a priestly dress, the palm of martyrs, carrying a cross, and an angel asking for silence by holding a finger over the lips. His tomb, a Baroque monument cast in silver and silver-gilt, stands in St Vitus Cathedral, Prague. A statue of Saint John of Nepomuk has often been erected on bridges in many countries, such as on the Ponte Milvio in Rome.
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