In Prague, Bohemia, St. John Nepomuk, canon of the Metropolitan Church. He earned the palm of martyrdom when he was thrown into the River Moldau for refusing to betray the seal of the sacrament I.e., of Confession. Priests are instructed never to reveal anything said to them in Confession, on pain of excommunication. . – Roman Martyrology for May 16
This saint was vicar general to the archbishop of Prague. In 1393 King Wenceslas IV had him tortured, killed, and tossed into the river Moldau for thwarting the king's plan to seize the property of a monastery in Kladrau (Butler, II, 332-33). Balbinus's influential Vita of 1670 repeated an alternative account in which the reason for his murder was his refusal to reveal matters entrusted to him by the queen in the sacrament of confession (Acta Sanctorum, May vol. 3, 671-72). This is the explanation that survives in the Roman Martyrology, but according to the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on Nepomuk, most modern scholars dismiss it as purely legendary.
John's primary attribute is a halo of stars, usually five in number. In the Balbinus account God sent a circle of gentle flames to surround the home in which the saint was born, as a presage of his career of fiery devotion. Then, after Wenceslas had the dead saint thrown into the river, flaming lights miraculously illuminated the body in the water (ibid., 669, 671-72).
Other attributes are a biretta, which he wears in almost all portraits, a crucifix or hand cross, and (less often) a martyr's palm branch. The crucifix is not mentioned in the sources I have consulted; it may be a reference to his zealous preaching, which the sources do emphasize.
Today St. John Nepomuk is one of the patron saints of the Czech Republic and his statue stands on the very bridge from which the king's men tossed him into the Moldau.
Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2018-04-06.