Letters of John Huss Written During His Exile and Imprisonment/Letter 1, To the College of Cardinals

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to the College of Cardinals.



[In this letter, John Huss complains of having been falsely denounced, and humbly demands to be dispensed from being obliged to appear in person. For the same purpose, John Huss makes an appeal to John XXIII.,[2] which has been inserted in his history, accompanied by the testimony of the Academy of Prague.]

I write with the humble submission and respect that is due to your commands, Reverend Fathers in Christ; you who are clothed with an apostolical character, who shine as great lights to enlighten the nation, and who are elevated to power in order to efface the sins of the world, to snatch souls from the snares of Satan, and to succour those who suffer in Christ’s name.[3] I would humbly have recourse to your fatherly counsels, incapable as I am of supporting the burden which weighs me down. The evils that overwhelm me date from the time that a portion of the Church withdrew their obedience from Gregory XII. I then recommended with success, in my sermons before the Barons, Princes, Clergy, and People, their adhesion to the College of Cardinals, for the union of my holy mother Church. It comes to pass that the Reverend Father in Christ, Sbynko, Archbishop of Prague, an adversary of the Sacred College, caused a pastoral letter to be affixed to the doors of the churches, prohibiting all the masters of the University of Prague, and in particular myself, from exercising any functions of the sacred ministry, under the pretext that the masters of the University of Prague, who had adhered to the Sacred College, had withdrawn their allegiance from our Holy Father Gregory XII. and the Holy See. But facts must be judged by their results, and it occurred that the Archbishop was constrained, by the decrees of the Council of Pisa, to approve of the conduct of the masters.—Such was the first origin of the accusation laid against me, and of all my troubles.

The Sacred College of Cardinals having promised many favours to their adherents, I have kept in remembrance these promises, and have placed trust in them, as one should do in the promises of those who are the pillars of the Church. I therefore implore your Reverences, and on my knees I conjure you, to cast a regard of kindness on my misfortune, that I may be dispensed from appearing in person,[4] and from other most painful obligations resulting from it. I am innocent of the things of which my adversaries accuse me; and of this I call to witness our Lord Jesus Christ. I am willing to appear in the presence of the University of Prague, of all the prelates, and of all the people who came to hear me, and before them to give, by word and by writing, a full and absolute account of the faith that I guard in my heart, and to confess it, even at the peril of being burned to death.[5] Your Reverences may be assured of this confession by public documents as well as by the testimony of the University of Prague.

  1. Of all the letters that have been saved of John Huss, this is the only one addressed to his ecclesiastical superiors, the dignitaries of the Church. It is valuable, inasmuch that it shews the respect with which he addressed them, his ardent desire to convince them of the purity of his doctrines, and the fear which he felt of a rupture, without any mixture of weakness.
  2. It is in the text, Scripsit ejus totam; but this pretended letter is the act of appeal drawn up at Prague before a notary, June 23. 1410.—(Hist, et Monum. Johan. Hus. vol. i., p. 112–116.)
  3. John Huss attached to the acts of good priests the efficacy which the Roman Church attributes indefinitely to those of all priests.—See The Reformers before the Reformation, vol. i., book i.
  4. Before the pope.
  5. Etiam igne ad audientiam posito.