Clerical Administrators since 1320 up till now

In 1295, after a suitable place had been staked out by the locator Jindřich, the king Wenceslas II. founded the town of Plzeň, when the former Plzeň, now Starý Plzenec, had not anymore been sufficient for safety and defense of this region. The newly founded town was named New Plzeň. Simultaneously with its foundation, the church of St. Bartholomew was built together with two monasteries, one for Dominicans and the other for minor brethern of the Franciscan Order.

At that time, the parish church for New Plzeň was originally the Romanic church of All Saints in the municipality of Malice, a living community far before the foundation of the town. For many years after the church of St. Bartholomew had been built, the church of All Saints was still called the „mother" of the town church. In 1322, the church of St. Bartholomew became a parish church and the church of All Saints an affiliated church. Following a resolution by the king John of Luxembourg, both churches were given to the Order of German Knights, which executed clerical administration here till 1546.

The first reference about the church of St. Bartholomew dates back to May 2, 1307, when a Plzeň townsman, Wolfram Zwilinger, bequeathed his kiln and malt house to the church. It is also the very first report that sacred masses had already been celebrated in the church, although the temple had yet been far from finished.

Sources from the oldest times mentioned the first Plzeň vicar Mikuláš Fridlinův in 1320, who was, as it seems, a secular priest. He was followed by vicars belonging to the aforementioned Order of German Knights. Members of this Order were also occupying a number of preacher, chaplain and altar-keeper posts, gradually established at the parish church - there was up to 6 to 10 priests. They also administrated the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, founded in 1320 by a townsman Konrád z Dobřan outside the city walls, subsidizes with many gifts and heritages. The hospital church was abandoned and demolished as late as at the end of the 18th century during the reign of Joseph II..

During the years, the parish church was given many privileges. For example in 1325, prebendary bishops Jakub and Štěpán, apparently as recommended by Jan IV., bishop of Prague, granted indulgence to those who visited the church of St. Bartholomew in Plzeň on the day of this saint or other significant days. Also, on February 5, 1390, the Roman pontiff Boniface granted another indulgence to those attending celebrations on the day of Corpus Christi.

In 1419, resulting from influence of a priest Václav Koranda, one party of Plzeň citizens gave the town in to Žižka, but the town was taken over by the royal army in the following year. Since that time, the Catholic party had the edge on protestants and bravely defended against attacks of Hussites, who sieged the town several times (1421, 1427, 1431 and 1433). Particularly memorable was the Hussite's siege in 1433-34, when Plzeň citizens fought off an army of thirty six thousand invaders led by Prokopem Veliký and Jan Čapek ze Sán. As Ant. Podlaha writes: „Great was the fame Plzeň citizens gained among all loyal catholics at home and abroad for their bravery.". Plzeň citizens added a camel to the town's coat of arms, commemorating their lucky raid to the enemy's camp where they captured this unusual animal. Since then, every year Plzeň citizens pompously celebrated anniversary of their liberation, the so-called „New Feast of Plzeň".

During disputes between the pope Paul II. and the king Jiří of Poděbrady in the 15th century, Plzeň again stood loyally by the Catholic party. For this, the pope allowed them in 1446 to add two golden keys to the coat of arms, as though he wanted to share the papal coat of arms (keys of St. Peter) with them for their loyalty.

In the years 1448-1453 and then 1467-1478, the Prague Metropolitan Chapter relocated to Plzeň. One of the capitulars held the office of the Plzeň archdeacon. Thus, there were simultaneously the an archdeacon and a Plzeň vicar from the Order of German Knights here at those times.

In 1534, the papal legat Petr Pavel Vergerius granted to the Plzeň vicar Matouši Švihovský and to all his successors the right to wear mitre, verge, gloves, ring, shoes and other pontifical insignia on Sundays and feast days inside the town in the parish church. The were also allowed to bestow blessing after sacred masses and other ceremonies. After death of Matouš Švihovský in 1546, the Emperor Ferdinand granted to the Plzeň municipality a disposition right to the chuch of St. Bartholomew, vested in the Order of German Knights up till then. Since those times, secular priests were appointed vicars. After the right to pontifical insignia were given to Plzeň, the local vicars were mostly called „prelates". What happened regularly was that an archdeacon was appointed Plzeň's vicar, and so the title of archdeacon was then connceted with the office of Plzeň's vicar.

Soon after the Society of Jesus arrived in Bohemia, they started negotiations on establishment of a college and schools in Plzeň. The Dominican monastery was intended to be given to them, but in the end this plan was abandoned.

At this time, loyal Catholics of Plzeň received great recognition and appreciation from the apostolic seat. The Pope Gregory XIII learned from the Jesuit Ant. Possevina, how Plzeň citizens were carefully and diligently defending Catholic faith, and sent them a number of deeds granting plenipotent indulgence. The Holy Father also took Plzeň under special protection of St. Peter and the apostolic seat and allowed Plzeň citizens to add to their coat of arms a cross with the sign „In hoc signo vinces" and an angel who protect the whole coat of arms with his cloak. Devotion of Plzeň Catholics at those times were very high, which can be proved by the fact than on Easter in 1578, 14 000 people get to communion in Plzeň.
Since the times of the Emperor Maxmilian, this favorable situation was becoming worse. Gradually,
non-Catholics were coming to the town, some of them even incepted as townsmen later on. Their number was growing, despite all vigilance of the Catholics, and in the end there was a great scandal when the vicar Fabian converted to protestantism.

Plzeň lived through hard times, when the non-Catholic corps started revolting. In autumn 1618, the rebels sent an army led by general Mansfeld against Plzeň. The town bravely defended against sieges and invading, but in the end Mansfeld managed to conquer it. This happened on November 21 1618. The corps subsequently allowed protestantism (Calvinism) in Plzeň. Calvinist services were celebrated in the church of St. Bartholomew, the Franciscan monastery was used for secular purposes and the church of All Saints became a sheep pen. Catholics only had the Dominican church.

Plzeň was liberated as late as in 1621 - the garrison left here by Mansfeld surrendered the town to the Emperor's army. Two years later, the papal nuncio Karel, a prebendary bishop, re-consecrated churches in Plzeň, disgraced by Calvinists.

Cardinal Harrach changed the structure of his diocese - instead of deanships, vicarates were established. Thus, the Plzeň „archdeaconry" only became an honorary title of the St. Bartholomew's parish. However, many times archdeacons were appointed vicars of the newly established vicarate of Plzeň.

During the reign of Emperor Ferdinand III. and Leopold I. (second half of the 17the century), establishment of bishopric in Plzeň was intensively discussed. But for the resistance of Plzeň citizens, who feared this would have limited their patronal rights, this idea was abandoned in the end.

In the following two centuries (particularly in the 19th century), heralded great development of the town - industry, new buildings, annexation of surrounding municipalities. In respect of spiritual history of the town, this is a period of significant archdeacons ( T. Kordík, J. Lindauer, A. Hlavan, A. Střízek), who supported not only religious development of the town, but also greatly contributed to prosperity and growing significance of the town in general.

The historic coverage of the 20th century is quite imperfect and incomplete. Plzeň was greatly damaged during the World War II, when a major part of the town was bombarded and many monuments were in wrecks. The Communist era was another distaster, both for the religious life and for the situation of moinuments in the town. Particularly in the beginning of the 1950's, a large number of friars (Dominicans, Franciscans, Redemptorists), as well as several dozens of female disciples, Sisters of Notre Dame, were displaced from Plzeň into collection monasteries in Bohemia and Moravia. Despite this and thanks to activities and courage of several chaplains, Christian life in Plzeň did not cease to exist, but continued to live on, though quite limited. During the totalitarian period, many communities, particularly the prayer communities, were also of a great significance.

In the end, Plzeň lived to see not only the fall of the totalitarian regime, but also the establishment of bishopric. This happened on May 31, 1993, based on the resolution of the Saint father John Paul II. Ceremonial enthronization was held on July 10 of the same year; and Mons. František Radkovský was appointed the first bishop of the Plzeň.

compiled by ing. Pavel Ženíšek SDB