Navalis Prague Festival
May 15th Feast of Jan Nepomuk (ST John’s Festival)
What’s special about the Navalis festival? Well for a start it’s a 300 year-old festival, it happens only once a year on May 15th and it’s the largest Baroque festival on water in the world. When you visit Prague you’ll soon learn about Jan Nepomuk, Queen’s Confessor, patron saint of people that work on the water, protector against floods and drowning. King Wenceslas (note that’s not the “good king Wenceslas” that you have heard about) had Jan Nepomuk tortured to reveal his Queen’s confessions and when he did not reveal them, the king had him thrown from Charles Bridge into the river. The legend is that as he drowned in the river, 5 stars arise from the water. So look out for three things specific to Jan Nepomuk, he carries a cross in his left arm, a palm leaf in the right (palm of martyrs) and has the 5 stars around his head.
Navalis in Latin literally translates as “Crews”. There’s a real Italian and specifically Venetian feel (almost like a late Mardi Gras) to Navalis. It’s probably not a coincidence that of all the saints on Charles Bridge, Jan Nepomuk is also patron saint of gondoliers, he’s one of the Eight patrons of Venice and his statue on next to the Grand Canal.
May 15th marks the celebration, the procession and the festival. The actual Holy Day of Jan Nepomuk is the following day May 16th so you might want to pay a visit to the Jan Nepomuk church in Hradcany on that day. So on the 15th it’s part commemoration and part celebration.
If you want the more religious part then be at St Vitus for 5-30pm. If you want the fun stuff be on Charles Bridge, Manes Bridge or the riverside between those two bridges from 8-30pm onwards. Navalis program below.
The Navalis Program
3pm – Groups of people will begin gathering in the square in front of the main entry to Prague Castle in preparation for the Holy Mass and the horses to be used in the procession will be dressed.
6pm – This is the official Navalis Holy Mass at ST Vitus Cathedral which takes about an hour.
7pm – The Navalis procession begins from the front of Prague Castle and goes down to Charles Bridge where there will be a commemoration at the cross that marks the place from where he was thrown. Then they’ll proceed to ST Francis of Assisi for a religious service so expect the procession to take about 90 minutes. Bring a palm leaf if you are taking part.
8-30pm – The fun starts. Concerts, Gondola and Dragon Boats regatta, little boats and swimming.
9-15pm – Concerts followed by Fireworks @10pm.
Photo Credit: navalis.cz