Cosmas of Prague

Written by Jan Hasala

Category: Notables

A picture of Cosmas of Prague with text "Cosmas decanus"

Cosmas of Prague

Cosmas of Prague is deemed to be the first Czech historian known for his Czech chronicle “Chronica Boemorum” (Chronicle of the Bohemians). Not much is known about Cosmas of Prague, as the majority of the information about him comes from his works. He was born in Prague and it is estimated he was born in 1045 and lived to be 79-80 years, dying in 1125. This estimate comes from the fact that he referred to himself as “octogenario” in 1125 (or octogenarian in English), meaning he was in his 80s.
Not only was he an historian, but was also a dean at the Metropolitan Chapter at St. Vitus in Prague, as well as a priest, as most if not all educated people were in the church at that time. Being born into a wealthy parson family, he had no trouble achieving high education, studying both in Czechia and abroad.

His work, despite being highly influential and important for understanding Czech history, is not in its entirety an objective and completely reliable one, due to the injection of Cosmas’ thoughts and ideology. The Chronicle of the Bohemians is split into three books. The first one focuses on myths and legends, taking away their reliability. Among the legends is a description of the origin of Czech people during the creation of the Tower of Babylon as well as their rightful claim to their lands. The second book talks about reliable facts which Cosmas has collected and the third one consists of Cosmas’ recollections. The third book was not finished, as Cosmas passed away before he was able to complete it.

Throughout his work, Cosmas gives his input on events he writes about, forming a picture of his time’s attitude. Especially notable are for example the negative feelings towards the Germans and the Polish, as they were seen as usurpers of the Czech land. The Chronicle of the Bohemians was originally written in English.

Even though priests were forbidden to marry, in those days it was nevertheless tolerated for a priest to have a family. Cosmas of Prague was no exception, he was secretly married to a woman named Bozetecha and together they had a son named Jindrich (Henry).