Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
5
Huss


several years he continued to act in full accord with his archbishop (Sbynjek, or Sbynko, of Hasenburg). Thus in 1405 he, with other two masters, was commissioned to examine into certain reputed miracles at Wilsnack, near Wittenberg, which had caused that church to be made a resort of pilgrims from all parts of Europe. The result of their report was that all pilgrimage thither from the province of Bohemia was prohibited by the archbishop on pain of excommunication, while Huss, with the full sanction of his superior, gave to the world his first published writing, entitled De Omni Sanguine Christi Glorijicato, in which he declaimed in no measured terms against forged miracles and ecclesiastical greed, urging Christians at the same time to desist from looking for sensible signs of Christ's presence, but rather to seek Him in His enduring word. More than once also Huss, together with his friend Stanislaus of Znaim, was appointed to be synod preacher, and in this capacity he delivered at the provincial councils of Bohemia many faithful admonitions. As early as the 28th of May 1403, it is true, there had been held a university disputation about the new doctrines of Wycliffe, which had resulted in the condemnation of certain propositions presumed to be his; five years later (May 20, 1408) this decision had been refined into a declaration that these, forty-five in number, were not to be taught in any heretical, erroneous or offensive sense. But it was only slowly that the growing sympathy of Huss with Wycliffe unfavourably affected his relations with his colleagues in the priesthood. In 1408, however, the clergy of the city and archiepiscopal diocese of Prague laid before the archbishop a formal complaint against Huss, arising out of strong expressions with regard to clerical abuses of which he had made use in his public discourses; and the result was that, having been first deprived of his appointment as synodal preacher, he was, after a vain attempt to defend himself in writing, publicly forbidden the exercise of any priestly function throughout the diocese. Simultaneously with these proceedings in Bohemia, negotiations had been going on for the removal of the long-continued papal schism, and it had become apparent that a satisfactory solution could only be secured if, as seemed not impossible, the supporters of the rival popes, Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII., could be induced, in View of the approaching council of Pisa, to pledge themselves to a strict neutrality. With this end King Wenceslaus of Bohemia had requested the co-operation of the archbishop and his clergy, and also the support of the university, in both ~instances unsuccessfully, although in the case of the latter the Bohemian “ nation, ” with Huss at its head, had only been overborne by the votes of the Bavarians, Saxons and Poles. There followed an expression of nationalist and particularistic as opposed to ultramontane and also to German feeling, which undoubtedly was of supreme importance for the whole of the subsequent career of Huss. In compliance with this feeling a royal edict (January 18, 1409) was issued, by which, in alleged conformity with Paris usage, and with the original charter of the university, the Bohemian “ nation ” received three votes, while only one was allotted to the other three “ nations ” combined; whereupon all the foreigners, to the number of several thousands, almost immediately withdrew from Prague, an occurrence which led to the formation shortly afterwards of the university of Leipzig. It was a dangerous triumph for Huss; for his popularity at court and in the general community had been secured only at the price of clerical antipathy everywhere and of much German ill-will. Among the first results of the changed order of things were on the one hand the election of Huss (October 1409) to be again rector of the university, but on the other hand the a oint PP "

ment by the archbishop of an inquisitor to inquire into charges of heretical teaching and inflammatory preaching brought against him. He had spoken disrespectfully of the church, it was said, had even hinted that Antichrist might be found to be in Rome, had fomented in his preaching the quarrel between Bohemians and Germans, and had, notwithstanding all that had passed, continued to speak of Wycliffe as both a pious man and an orthodox teacher. The direct result of this investigation is not known, but it is impossible to disconnect from it the promulgation by Pope Alexander V., on the 20th of December 1409, of a bull which ordered the abjuration of all Wycliffite heresies and the surrender of all his books, while at the same time-a measure specially levelled at the pulpit of Bethlehem chapel-all preaching was prohibited except in localities which had been by long usage set apart for that use. This decree, as soon as it was published in Prague (March 9, 1410), led to much popular agitation, and provoked an appeal by Huss to the pope's better informed judgment; the archbishop, however, resolutely insisted on carrying out his instructions, and in the following July caused to be publicly burned, in the courtyard of his own palace, upwards of 200 volumes of the writings of Wycliffe, while he pronounced solemn sentence of excommunication against Huss and certain of his friends, who had in the meantime again protested and appealed to the new pope (John XXIII.). Again the populace rose on behalf of their hero, who, in his turn, strong in the conscientious conviction that “ in the things which pertain to salvation God is to be obeyed rather than man, ” continued uninterruptedly to preach in the Bethlehem chapel, and in the university began publicly to defend the socalled heretical treatises of Wycliffe, while from king and queen, nobles and burghers, a petition was sent to Rome praying that the condemnation and prohibition in the bull of Alexander V. might be quashed. Negotiations were carried on for some months, but in Vain; in March 1411 the ban was anew pronounced upon Huss as a disobedient son of the church, while the magistrates and councillors of Prague who had favoured him were threatened with a similar penalty in case of their giving him a contumacious support. Ultimately the whole city, which continued to harbour him, was laid under interdict; yet he went on preaching, and masses were celebrated as usual, so that at the date of Archbishop Sbynko's death in September 1411, it seemed as if the efforts of ecclesiastical authority had resulted in absolute failure. The struggle, however, entered on a new phase with the appearance at Prague in May 1412 of the papal emissary charged with the proclamation of the papal bulls by which a religious war was decreed against the excommunicated King Ladislaus of Naples, and indulgence was promised to all who should take part in it, on terms similar to those which had .been enjoyed by the earlier crusaders to the Holy Land. By his bold and thorough-going opposition to this mode of procedure against Ladislaus, and still more by his doctrine that indulgence could never be sold without simony, and could not be lawfully granted by the church except on condition of genuine contrition and repentance, Huss at<1ast isolated himself, not only from the archiepiscopal party under Albik of Unitschow, but also from the theological faculty of the university, and especially from such men as Stanislaus of Znaim and Stephen Paletz, who until then had been his chief supporters. A popular demonstration, in which the papal bulls had been paraded through the streets with circumstances of peculiar ignominy and finally burnt, led to intervention by Wenceslaus on behalf of public order; three young men, for having openly asserted the unlawfulness of the papal indulgence after silence had been enjoined, were sentenced to death (June 1412); the excornmunication against Huss was renewed, and the interdict again laid on all places which should give him shelter-a measure which now began to be more strictly regarded by the clergy, so that in the following December Huss had no alternative but to yield to the express wish of the king by temporarily withdrawing from Prague. A provincial synod, held at the instance of Wenceslaus in February 1413, broke up without having reached any practical resultfand a commission appointed shortly afterwards also failed to bring about a reconciliation between Huss and his adversaries. The so-called heretic meanwhile spent his time partly at Kozihradek, some 45 m. south of Prague, and partly at Krakowitz in the immediate neighbourhood of the capital, occasionally giving a course of open-air preaching, but finding his chief employment in maintaining that copious correspondence of which some precious fragments still are extant, and in the composition of the treatise, De Ecclesia, which subsequently furnished most of the material for the capital charges brought