Jan Böhm

Jan Böhm* 15. 8. 1824 † 24. 2. 1909
Jan Böhm, quite an extraordinary figure, a peculiar and amiable patriotic priest whose human genuineness prevailed over his priestly dignity, was born in Studénka on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August 1824.

Jan Böhm studied Latin and German at the German Gymnasiums in South Moravia's Strážnice and in Litomyšl. He always struggled with standard Czech so he would use Studénka's vernacular both when speaking to the local folks and during sermons.

Jan Böhm, who would later become the legendary parish priest of Hrabyně, earned his degree in theology in Olomouc and was ordained to the priesthood in 1852. First, he served as a chaplain in Charváty in the Olomouc region. Then in 1855 he was assigned to Chropyně u Kroměříže and finally he served in Kelč until 1859. During the war in Italy, Böhm applied to work at the military hospital in Klášterní Hradisko; however, he did not make it to the battlefield as peace had been declared. After being discharged from the military, he was removed from his position as a chaplain and was sent to Jakartovice, a small community a few miles west of Opava. Nevertheless, only five weeks later he was transferred again - this time to serve in Buzov in the Olomouc region.

On 19 August 1863, Jan Böhm was appointed to the parish in Hrabyně by the Teutonic Knights, where he would serve for 45 years. And it was Hrabyně where he was afforded a real opportunity to fully demonstrate and utilize his abilities. While serving in Hrabyně, he was driven by the idea to build a grand cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The foundation stone was laid in 1885 as the old stone church was falling into disrepair. After all obstacles had been surmounted, the old church was demolished and a new church was built in its place, consecrated in 1887. The three-nave pilgrimage church with a tower built in the Neo-Romanesque style is surrounded by mature trees. A set of Baroque statues by Jan Michael Scherhauf from the first half of the 18th century survived from the original building. Above the main altar is a venerated painting of Mother Mary with Baby Jesus, which is iconographically similar to the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa. The triumphal arch is decorated with a painting depicting parish priest Böhm welcoming pilgrims. The ceiling of the church is decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the Litany of Loreto. The side altars are dedicated to Saint John of Nepomuk, Saint Aloysius and Saint John the Evangelist.

A well-known Silesian revivalist, Jan Böhm was a great patriot and preacher, a caring and modest parish priest and a spiritual leader of the parish, a long-time chairman of the District Beekeepers' Association as well as a member of other organizations, an honorary citizen of Hrabyně, as well as a co-organizer of the patriotic mass meeting held in Hrabyně on 30 June 1889.

Jan Böhm undoubtedly achieved great merits in fostering national consciousness and contributed to the growing popularity of Hrabyně fairs when the town came to prominence as a cultural centre for Czech intellectuals from all surrounding areas.

Kostel sv. BartolomějeNevertheless, Böhm's strong sense of patriotism did not appeal to the local officials, who would go out of their way to thwart his efforts. Furthermore, his aversion to alcoholics as well as his defence of impoverished women and children made him many enemies. His efforts and commitment to the betterment of the community were not officially recognized until decades later, on the occasion of 30th anniversary of his service in Hrabyně, when he was awarded honorary citizenship of Hrabyně. Moreover, his patriotic work earned him honorary membership of the Teachers' Union.

Jan Böhm did not retire until 1908, when he was eighty-four. He died a poor man and was buried at the church. The four decades of his faithful pastoral service are honoured by a commemorative plaque on the front wall of the rectory, which was unveiled to mark the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Through his dedicated efforts and setting an example by his own work and actions, he greatly contributed to the construction of the new church in Studénka in 1880. In 1938 a commemorative plaque was unveiled on the house of his birth in Studénka.