On March 19th 1729, John of Nepomuk (c. 1345-93) was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII (r. 1724-30). Two years later a statue of the saint, the work of the sculptor Agostino Cornacchini (1686-1754), was placed at the south entrance to the ancient Ponte Milvio.
At the base of the statue stands a small angel with his finger to his lips. According to tradition, John of Nepomuk was the confessor to the wife of Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia. The king believed his wife to have a lover and he ordered the saint to be drowned in the Vltava river in Prague for refusing to reveal his name, which he assumed his wife had divulged when taking confession.
On the basis of this account, John of Nepomuk is considered to be the first martyr of the Seal of the Confessional, a patron against calumnies and, because of the manner of his death, a protector from floods and drowning.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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