The starting point of the Bratislava exhibition of more than thirty contemporary Central European artists inspired by the personality of John of Nepomuk was the international painters‘ symposium “Sanctus Ioannes Nepomucenna Medioeuropeansis" held in 1999-2004 in the Cistercian monastery in the West Bohemian town of Plasy. The participants of the symposium were drawing on the historical context as well as on the legend connected to the life story of the famous martyr. The Slovak exhibition is the nineteenth in a line of presentations throughout Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Poland and Croatia. Just as the preceding exhibitions, it is a reminder that the new Europe needs not only successful economy, but also shared cultural and spiritual direction. In the opinion of Aldmar Schiffkorn, one of the curators of the exhibition, Central Europe is a cultural and spiritual area rather than a geopolitical one. It is where John of Nepomuk is known and revered.
John of Nepomukcounts among the most famous Czechs of all times. He was born between 1340–1350 in the Southwest Bohemian town of Pomuk. He studied law and theology in Prague and Padua. Since 1389, he served as the vicar general of the Prague archdiocese. Disfavour with the King Wenceslaus IV, caused by John’s stance in the dissension between Archbishop John of Jenstejn and the King, as well as his reputed refusal to divulge the secret of the confessional, resulted in his martyr's death in the following year. The dead body of John of Nepomuk was thrown off the Charles Bridge into the Vltava river. The tradition of depicting this saint with five stars around his head is linked to a legend suggesting that five stars helped fishermen find his body. Other attributes of Nepomuk include the cross, the martyrs' palm branch, the tongue, sometimes the gesture of his right index finger raised in front of his lips. He is the patron saint of lawyers, the protector of bridges and waters, the symbol of discreetness, reliability and courage.
Reverence of John of Nepomuk spread after the Thirty Years’ War in the Counter-Reformation and Recatholicisation era. The opening of his grave in 1719 contributed to his canonization as well. According to a legend, his tongue was found uncorrupted, a proof of his discreetness – he reportedly refused to divulge the secret of Queen Sophia's confession. (However, as surfaced during a scientific analysis of his mortal remains, the alleged tongue was a piece of brain tissue). After the canonization of John of Nepomuk in 1729, many statues of the saint were erected throughout Central Europe.
City of Bratislava, Bratislava City Museum, The Office for Cultural Foreign Relation of the Federal Province of Upper Austria, The Czech Centre, The Cultural Institute of the Republic of Hungary, The Polish Institute, Austrian Cultural Forum