The golden age of Bohemia

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7. The golden age of Bohemia

This period is associated with the name of King Karl IV, also known as Charles IV of Luxemburg and Wenzel or Vaclav. He was the son of a Bohemian princess and Duke John of Luxemburg, born in Prague and raised at the court of Paris where he changed his name from Wenzel to that of his royal godfather Karl. He spoke German, Czech, French and Italian fluently, and as a matter of course, he also read and spoke Latin. In France he learned to appreciate the value of scientific studies. He mastered the arts of diplomacy and court etiquette early in his life. Never before had a German king and Roman kaiser possessed "Hausmacht" (dynastic power) of this magnitude. Immediately after his inauguration Karl began extensive reforms of the legal system, the royal succession, on colonization and commerce. He promoted all types of trade and invited men of great knowledge and outstanding craftsmanship to his homeland. Husbandry and forestry received his particular attention. As a result, the Sudetenlands have had government-regulated forestry maintenance since that time, and in the Elbe valley German winegrowers began with the planting of grapes. The character of Prague bears Karl's imprint. Peter Parler, a famous Swabian architect and sculptor, was Karl's leading advisor in city planning and huge building programs. Along with Parler many German craftsmen came to Prague. Together with Slavic workers they created this magnificent city and Parler's work extended far beyond Prague. Another deed of Karl IV and of particular importance was the founding of a university in Prague, which was the first German university. The students were entitled to the same rights and privileges as granted to students in Paris and Bologna. The Silesian Johann von Neumark, appointed by the kaiser as director-in-office in Prague, laid the foundation there for the New High German written language on the basis of Meissen office usage. At the end of Karl IV's reign (1346-78) the population of Bohemia and Moravia was half German and half Czech. This is evident from parish records, lists of the archbishopric of Prague, town chronicles and books of maxims (Losungsbücher), which reveal linguistic borderlines since the 14th century. Karl IV engaged himself with far-reaching European policies, including marriage contracts. One of his most consequential contracts was the one signed in 1363 at Brünn with his son-in-law, Rudolf IV of Habsburg, Austria. It was a reciprocal testamentary agreement and set the path for intertwining the lands of the Danube-Moldau region.

Karl was one of the most prominent rulers of the Middle Ages and probably the greatest ever to bear the Bohemian crown. Idle is the talk about his nationality. As king of Bohemia he was Bohemian, which at that time meant German as well as Czech; by his education he was French; as Roman-German emperor he could have considered himself a Roman as well as a German. At that time there was little or no awareness for divisive characteristics in language or nationality; more attention was given to common interests. The reign of Karl IV marked a peak and a flourishing period in the history of the Sudetengermans. A deep decline was to commence with his son and successor.



Copyright © by Inge Schwarz 1997 (Heimatstelle Maffersdorf) 
Copyright © by Anton Möller • 2005

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