Czechs - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Christianity was introduced to the area during the ninth century by both German and Byzantine missions. By the time the bishopric of Prague was established in 973, Latin had replaced Old Church Slavic as the liturgical language. A serious breach with Rome occurred during the early part of the fifteenth century as a result of the reformational movement inspired by Jan Hus. His "Protestant" legacy became an important aspect of Czech national heritage, having been further reinforced by the efforts at forcible re-Catholicization of the population during the Counter-Reformation and the association of Catholicism with the Habsburg rule. The history of Bohemia accounts in large measure for the nature of post-World War I religious sentiments: the generally lukewarm Catholicism among the Czechs (but less so in Moravia); the fairly devout Protestantism represented by several sects; the establishment of the Czechoslovak Church (a splinter from Roman Catholicism) in 1920; and the rise of agnosticism and atheism. Many urban Czech Catholics went to church only to be baptized and married, and eventually they received their last rites and were buried by a priest. The attitude toward religion was rational rather than emotional. Relations among the members of various religious organizations were marked by tolerance. After 1948 the Communist government became hostile to organized religion and discouraged religious beliefs and observances by a variety of means, including intimidation and persecution. While the relations between the state and the Roman Catholic church were adversarial between 1948 and 1989, there was some resurgence of religious commitment in recent years, especially among young people. Nominally, at least, the country is predominantly Roman Catholic, but reliable figures concerning religious preference have not been available since the end of the last war. Christmas is the only religious holiday officially recognized, even though observances have in part been secularized. While Jan Hus is regarded as a national hero who laid down his life in defense of the truth, St. Wenceslaus (Václav), murdered around 930, is considered the country's patron saint.

Arts. The Czechs have a long and rich tradition in the arts, both folk and elite. Music is the most popular of the arts. There is a great deal of truth in the saying "Co Čech , to muzikant" (Every Czech is a musician). In literature, lyric poetry has surpassed in quality both prose and dramatic writing.

Medicine. Use of medicinal plants, based on empirical evidence gained over centuries, for the most part was replaced by use of synthetic drugs during the course of the first half of this century. In general, Czech medicine has followed the course of Western medicine and at present is keeping up with modern advances. Health care, including hospitalization and drugs, is available free or at nominal cost. Health spas are numerous and popular.

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