Kunhuta´s prayer

Author unknown
Genre Lyric, Poem
Keywords 13th century, Eucharist, Queen Kunigund, religious song
Title (in Czech) Kunhutina modlitba
Title (in English translation) Kunhuta´s prayer
Editor Andrea Svobodová – Kateřina Voleková
Translator Walter Schamschula
Edited source Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, sign. VII G 17d, ff. 146v–151v
Introduction Walter Schamschula – Andrea Svobodová
TEI P5 XML Encoding Matěj Čermák – Michal Mocňák – Ondřej Tichý
Summary of content A religious song intended for the adoration of the Eucharist.
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Introduction to the Text

This poem, known variously as Modlitba Kunhutina (‘Kunhuta’s Prayer’), Kunhutina píseň (‘Kunhuta’s Song’) or under the incipit Vítaj, Kráľu všemohúcí (‘Welcome, all powerful King’), originated at the end of the 13th century in the millieu of Kunhuta (Kunigund, 1265-1321), who was the eldest daughter of King Přemysl Ottokar II, abbess of the Benedictine cloister of St. George at the Prague castle, and a highly educated spiritual personality. The text is included in a manuscript featuring Kunhuta’s exlibris and containing religious readings, prayers, offertoria, and horae (hourly readings). By its contents, Kunhuta’s Prayer represents a mystical contemplation of the Christian dogma of the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi) in line with Thomas Aquinas’ writings and the institution of the religious feast of Corpus Christi by Pope Urban IV in 1264. The poem consists of 38 stanzas mostly composed of four so-called tiradic grammatical rhymes (i.e. one based on an employment of the same rhyming syllable over several neighbouring verses, thus creating an effect of a formal tirade). The rhyme occasionally extends over two or three stanzas and in most cases is grammatical. There are four chief segments: an invocation and greeting of Christ (stanzas 1-4), a transition to the theological exposition with an encomium of the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist (stanzas 5-6), an exposition of the dogma of the Eucharist (stanzas 7-22) and a prayer to Christ requesting assistance in striving to lead a life pleasing to God (for a more detailed content and formal analysis of the prayer see Schamschula 1991, pp. 61-62).

Though there are definite echoes of Thomas Aquinas’ hymn Lauda Sion Salvatorem (Trost 1940) in the poem, an immediate prototype has not yet been found. The sometimes remarkably artful arrangement of the stanzas seems to have been influenced by the important medieval Latin poet Hildebert of Lavardin (1056-1133), while the desire to understand the essence of God, which is here applied to the Eucharist, is based upon Augustinian conceptions. In any event, the text reflects a thirteenth-century Czech poet’s familiarity with the principles of classically-based medieval rhetoric, as is evidenced in the abundant use of rhetorical figures such as the ornatus facilis and difficilis (cf. note to verses 33-48). This abundant employment of rhetorical devices in the Czech environment is an extension of the tendency initiated by the chroniclers Christian and Cosmas which reached a high point at the end of the thirteenth century, when the Italian rhetorician Henricus de Isernia, the tutor of Queen Kunigund, lived at the court of the Přemyslids.

Introduction to the Sources

The prayer has been preserved in one complete copy from the turn of the 13th and 14th century (Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, VII G 17d, ff. 146v-151v, available online), in one incomplete copy from the 1380s with verses 145-152 missing (Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, XVII F 30, ff. 133r-135v, available online), and in one fragment (verses 1-29) from the first quarter of the 14th century (Praha, Národní knihovna České republiky, XII F 9, fol. 80 bis v, available online).

About this Edition

The given transcription was made according to the manuscript containing the complete version, taking into account the edition of Walter Schamschula (cf. Schamschula 1991, see section Existing editions below). The manuscript copy is written in the so-called primitive spelling, the transcription therefore presents the reconstructed standardized form.

The present translation has been taken, with the permission of Walter Schamschula, from the text of his edition. No textual changes have been made to the text, and only obvious typographical errors have been removed (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below). The introductory information, based on Schamschula´s edition, has been supplemented from new contributions on the topic.

Existing Editions

Staročeská píseň o božím těle ze XIII. století, Václav Flajšhans (ed.), Časopis Království Musea českého 56, 1882, pp. 103-122 [mss. VII G 17d, XVII F 30, XII F 9; semi-diplomatic transcription, reconstructed transcription].

Nejstarší památky jazyka i písemnictví českého. Díl I. Prolegomena a texty, Václav Flajšhans (ed.), Praha 1903, pp. 151-156 [ms. VII G 17d; semi-diplomatic transcription, reconstructed transcription].

Nejstarší česká duchovní lyrika, Antonín Škarka (ed.), Praha 1949, pp. 76-81 [ms. VII G 17d; reconstructed transcription].

Výbor z české literatury od počátků po dobu Husovu, Bohuslav Havránek a kol. (eds.), Praha 1957, pp. 212-217 [ms. VII G 17d; reconstructed transcription].

Kunhutina modlitba, in: Česká středověká lyrika, Jan Lehár (ed.), Praha 1990, pp. 127-129 [ms. VII G 17d; reconstructed transcription].

Modlitba Kunhutina/Kunhuta’s Prayer, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 61-71 [ms. VII G 17d; reconstructed transcription].

[Modlitba Kunhutina], Marek Janosik-Bielski (ed.), Praha 2011 [ms. VII G 17d; reconstructed transcription]. Available at: https://vokabular.ujc.cas.cz/edice/ModlKunhA

Existing translations

Modlitba Kunhutina/Kunhuta’s Prayer, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 61-71 [ms. VII G 17d].

Kunhutina modlitba/The Prayer of Lady Kunhuta, in: Anthology of Czech Poetry, Alfred French (ed.), Ann Arbor 1973, pp. 8-17 [ms. VII G 17d; excerpt: verses 1-92, reconstructed transcription, translated by R. G. Vroon and A. Levitsky].

Further Reading

Trost, Pavel: Kunhutina píseň a sekvence Tomáše Akvinského ‘Lauda Sion’, Slovo a slovesnost 6, 1940, pp. 35-37.

Schamschula, Walter: Einige Quellen der älteren tschechischen religiosen Dichtung, in: Ost und West: Aufsätze zur Slavischen und Baltischen Philologie und allgemeinen Sprachwissenschaft 2, Wiesbaden 1977, pp. 159-175.

Selucká, Markéta: Kunhutina píseň, in: Lexikon české literatury 2/II (K–L), Praha 1993, pp. 1060 [encyclopedic entry listing editions and literature up to 1993]. Available at: https://service.ucl.cas.cz/edicee/lexikon/lexikon/252-lexikon-ceske-literatury-osobnosti-dila-instituce-2-ii-k-l

Kunhuta´s prayer


MECZ [online], Kunhuta´s prayer, ed. unknown, trans. Walter Schamschula. KREAS Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Retrieved 12.08.2022, from https://mecz.kreas.ff.cuni.cz/publication/kunhutas-prayer/ Bibtex citation

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