Published: 08 August 2016
An ancient Augustinian monastery was chosen as the venue of a very modern young adult encounter. The twelfth in the series of international Augustinian Young Adult Encounters took place at Zaječov near Prague in the Czech Republic in July 2016.
In this monastery founded over 750 years ago as the first Augustinian foundation in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) the Encounter has drawn its theme from the homily of Pope Francis at the inaugural Mass of the Augustinian General Chapter during August 2013: “Restlessness of the Heart among Young People Today. An Augustinian Response.”
The planned number of participants was 305, coming from nations in most parts of the world. The two image below show some of the participants, the first picture on site at at Zaječov and the second picture at the famed Augustinian Church of St Thomas, Prague.
The thirteenth International Augustinian Young Adult Encounter will take place in Panama in 2019.
History of the Monastery
In the year 1262 by Lord Oldřich Zajíc of Valdek founded at Zaječov the Monastery of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. It was the first Augustinian monastery in Bohemia, and marked the arrival of Augustinians in what is now the Czech Republic.
The church in the Monastery is dedicated to Saint Benigna, who is called Svatá Dobrotivá in the Czech language. As will be explained later, the naming of the Church came about because relics of Svatá Dobrotivá came to rest there. This has provided yet more incentive for pilgrims to visit the monastery (picture on the right).
That the monastery was functioning by the year 1266 is indicated by the letter, Ea Quae Judicio of Pope Clement IV (died 1268) who mentioned the Monastery and urged the further expansion of the Augustinian Order. For the next 150 years, that is, through the reigns of Emperor Charles IV (+1378) and his son, Vaclav IV (+1419), the Monastery prospered.
Several members of Lord Oldrich’s family became Augustinians. One of them, Oldrich z Valdek became a canon of Saint Vit’s Cathedral in Prague, and in 1327 donated the relics of Svatá Dobrotiva (martyred in Cologne/Koln in Germany during 453). The relics were solemnly carried in procession to the Monastery and were enshrined there on the Saturday following Ascension Thursday, that year. This pilgrimage is still enacted each year by pilgrims coming from all the Czech Republic.
At various stages during the past 750 years the property was pillaged by invading armies, used as a parish church and school when once religious communities were expelled from the kingdom, and was once completely abandoned. In about 1676 the first church there was demolished and replaced by the present one.
Seven hundred and fifty years later, the Augustinians at Saint Tomas Church in Prague’s splendid Mala Strana, or Lesser Town, have spearheaded the most recent restoration project on the Monastery. The aim is to return it to its former pristine condition and to establish a family retreat center there.
For the past nineteen years annually on the Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter St. Tomas Parish organizes a Marian Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Gracious Madonna at Svatá Dobrotivá Church. This is an older Marian pilgrimage site than Lourdes or Guadalupe, though lesser known. The Monastery is located in the town of Zaječov; it is near the pilgrimage town of Příbram which has Svatá Hora (the Holy Mountain).
The restoration project currently underway at Svatá Dobrotivá Church is of utmost importance to the Augustinians in the Czech Republic; it marks not only a very important pilgrimage site but also the preservation of what was returned to them after Communism fell in 1989. (In the 1950s the Communist government used the monastery for military housing, and later as a Museum of Physical Education and Sport.)
For further reading
For more information on the restoration work, the Svatá Dobrotivá Church and Monastery, or Augustinians, please see www.augustiniani.cz/en
Details of the Augustinian International Young Adult Encounter at Zaječov during July 2016: www.aye2016.eu
Photos Svatá Dobrotivá Church: www.zonerama.com/BoziTelo20151/Photo/1631936/59785182
Another website (with photographs): www.mistopis.eu/mistopiscr/podbrdsko/horovicko/svata_dobrotiva.htm
For the Augnet page on St Tomas Augustinian church in Prague: www.augnet.org/default.asp?ipageid=847