3763027The Story of Bohemia — Chapter 51895Frances Gregor

Chapter V.



The universal consternation into which the nation was plunged at the news of the death of Hus soon gave place to expressions of indignation and defiance. At first the wrath of the people was turned against his enemies near at hand—the priests unfriendly to his teachings. The enraged people drove them out of their churches, and, in some cases, out of the city, and filled their places with priests of their own choice.

These acts of violence were not restricted to the common people, but were indulged in by the nobility as well. The Bishop of Lytomysl, who had been the chief informant against Hus, was deprived of his church, and his estates divided among the neighboring noblemen.

The Council had sent the bishop as a legate to Bohemia, but the feeling against him was so bitter that he did not dare make his appearance. Not only the nobility, but also the king and queen, were greatly grieved at the death of Hus, for he was much beloved by them; and, besides, his execution was a slight to the Bohemian crown, the Council having no legal right to condemn him to death.

A few weeks after the death of Hus, there was a meeting called composed of delegates from Bohemia and Moravia, and a memorial was drawn up protesting against the action of the Council, and charging the prelates with gross injustice and hatred toward the Bohemian nation. There was also an agreement entered upon, to which were attached four hundred and fifty-two seals of lords and yeomen, by which they bound themselves to protect the free preaching of the word of God, not heeding the orders of any Council, but being governed by their own bishops and the Pope that should be elected. They further agreed that all matters of faith should be referred to the masters of their university. A small number of lords and knights formed a counter union, agreeing to abide by the decisions of the Church and the Council of Constance.

The news of these proceedings, instead of causing the Council to pause in its decisions, only drove it to acts of greater severity. An order was sent to Bohemia commanding the four hundred and fifty-two lords and yeomen to appear before the Council to be tried for heresy. This order also included in the list of the proscribed Jacobek and many of his associates, all of whom had been instrumental in introducing communion in both kinds in their Churches. It is needless to say that this order of the Council was not obeyed.

The Council proceeded in its severe measures. The University of Prague was deprived of its rights and privileges until such time as the Church should see fit to restore them. Great displeasure was also expressed at the Iukewarmness that the Bishop of Olmutz and the Archbishop of Prague showed in suppressing heresy. When the Bishop of Olmutz died shortly after, his place was filled by John Zelezny, in direct opposition to the wishes of King Václav and Queen Sophia. Indeed, the Council would have proceeded even against the king and queen had not Sigmund interfered.

These severe measures had no other effect than that the archbishop suspended the granting of degrees in the university, and also pronounced an interdict upon the city of Prague. This, however, was not heeded anywhere except in the St. Vitus Church on the Hradschin. The masters in the university, heedless of the orders of the Council, continued in their teaching, and from time to time gave their opinion upon questions of faith, the most important of these being that, according to Scripture, both bread and wine were necessary in administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1417).

The university declared Hus a holy martyr for the faith of Christ, and ordered that the 6th of July, the day of his death, be kept as a national holiday.

On the estates of the noblemen, the priests that refused to give communion in both kinds were driven away, and others called to fill their places.

Meanwhile, innovations of a more serious nature arose among the people of Austi, in the southern part of Bohemia, the scene of Hus’s labors at the time when he was exiled from Prague. Hus had instilled into the minds of the people the principle of referring everything to the authority of the Scripture, and they not only followed this principle to its ultimate results, but declared injurious all religious teaching not found in the Bible. They, therefore, abolished the great mass of ceremonial that renders the service in the Catholic Church so imposing. They would have no adoration of the eucharist, no mass, and no auricular confession; if a person was guilty of some crime, he must confess it openly before the whole Church. There were to be no sacraments except baptism and the I,ord’s Supper. In baptism, there were to be no sponsors, the priest performing the ceremony without any promise on the part of the parents. As they could find no proof in the Bible for the existence of purgatory, there were no prayers for the dead. They went to the farthest extremity with the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine being administered daily to both adults and children.

The people holding these views were afterwards known as the Taborites, while the more moderate reformers were called Utraquists or Calixtines.

While these parties or sects were developing their doctrines in Bohemia, the Council of Constance finally succeeded in securing unity in the Church by the election of a new Pope. John XXIII, having been tried for his crimes and misdemeanors, and found guilty, was deposed; Gregory XII, fearing defeat, resigned of his own accord; Benedict XII gave up his honors when Spain, his last support, entering into a treaty with Sigmund, deserted him. Thus the Council was at length enabled to remedy the monstrosity in the Church by providing it with a single head instead of three; but in the other objects for which it had assembled—to reform the Church in “head and members"—it was not so successful.

Indeed, the longer the Council was in session, the more loath were the prelates to interfere in the existing state of affairs; and the extremes to which the reform party went in Bohemia were used as a warning to let well enough alone. As soon as the new Pope, Martin V, was elected (1418), he dissolved the Assembly, promising to call another in five years in Pavia.

Pope Martin approved of all the measures that the Council had passed against Bohemia. He sent orders to the Archbishop of Prague that the exiled priests be recalled and reinstated in their churches, and that the old order be immediately restored. King Václav was to bind himself with a solemn oath to keep the rules and regulations of the one true Roman Church, without any, deviation whatever; should he refuse, he was to be compelled to obey by a crusade against him of all the princes of Christendom.

Thus the Bohemian nation found itself in a predicament wherein it had not been since its adoption of Christianity. The people were divided into two parties, both claiming to seek the good of the nation, but in ways that tended to the destruction of what was most sacred to each other. A large majority of the clergy and laity had adopted new views that could not be laid aside without doing violence both to conscience and character. Freely had the Bohemian nation assumed the yoke of Rome, and the question now arose whether they could as freely lay it aside when its retention seemed inconsistent with their spiritual welfare. It seemed to the people that the Pope had arrogated many powers that the Church did not originally possess; among these was the right of capital punishment, especially in the case of heretics.

Pope Martin and his party, on the other hand, claimed that the papal power was above all nations and kings, and that any one refusing it obedience was to be compelled to submit by the rest of Christendom.

King Václav found himself in a most critical situation. Either he must submit to the Pope, thus violating his own convictions and going against his own nation, or he may side with his nation, and thus run the risk of incurring the wrath of the Pope and involving his country in a war with all Christendom. His sympathies were with the nation, and in this he was sustained by his whole court, and especially by Queen Sophia. Václav hesitated, gave vague replies only to gain time; but when his brother Sigmund showed him the disasters that must follow disobedience, he finally agreed to suppress the innovations, and gave orders that the priests be reinstated in their dioceses (1419).

The king’s order was obeyed in the Churches that were immediately under his jurisdiction; but upon the estates of the noblemen, the Utraquist priests continued to hold the churches. In the city of Prague, the people expressed so much dissatisfaction that the king was obliged to assign them three churches where communion was administered in both kinds.


Many of the old priests being restored to their churches, the people that had adopted the new views found themselves shut out from such church service as they desired. They, therefore, met for worship in the open fields and forests. Some places, on account of their favorable location, became fixed into permanent camping-grounds, to which the people gave Biblical names, such as Mount Horeb and Mount Tabor; it was from the latter that they received the name of Taborites. Their example was followed by the people of Prague, when the three churches assigned for their use proved too small to accommodate the large congregations. In going to their place of worship, the people generally marched in processions, bearing banners and singing hymns. The leader in these public demonstrations was a certain monk named John Zelivsky, a man of great eloquence and wondrous personal magnetism. He was supported in his work by Nicholas of Hussinetz, a former courtier of King Václav.

One day Nicholas, at the head of an immense congregation of people, met the king, and laid before him a petition that more churches be assigned to the Calixtines, since many of them had no place to worship. The king, instead of granting the petition, became angry, and ordered Nicholas to leave the city. As these public demonstrations mostly originated in New Town, where the monk Zelivsky was the preacher in the Church of Mary of the Snow, Václav thought he could prevent their recurrence by changing the officers of that town. He therefore dismissed the aldermen, appointing new ones in their places, with strict injunctions that all such public disturbances should be forbidden.

Nicholas, exiled from Prague, betook himself to the District of Bechyn, and began to take part in the gatherings upon the mountains. Grand Camp-meeting.He early perceived that if the people would maintain their worship, they would, sooner or later, be compelled to resort to arms; and therefore he sought to come to some understanding upon this point with some of the more thoughtful of the Taborites. With this end in view, a grand meeting was appointed to be held on Mount Tabor, on St. Magdalen’s day (July 22, 1419).

The proposed meeting, having been announced at all the local meetings, both in Moravia and Bohemia, on the appointed day there gathered together a vast concourse of people, amounting to some forty-two thousand. This grand meeting was, in fact, a national and religious celebration, and the people manifested so much enthusiasm, patriotism, and zeal for the cause of truth as to move the hearts of even the bitterest enemies of the chalice. As the pilgrims came to the meeting in processions, with flying banners, they were met and welcomed by those who had arrived earlier, and escorted to the place assigned to them upon the camping ground. All distinctions of rank were, forgotten, lords, knights, priests, and peasants mingling freely together. All were brethren, and had all things in common, so that the poor, who had brought but little, fared as well as those that had brought much. The day was spent in preaching, exhortations, taking the communion, and in brotherly discussions about the dangers that threatened their country, and the best means of preparing to meet them. The leaders, however, held secret meetings, where they looked the threatening storm in the face, and discussed the necessity of taking up arms in self-defense. The two men that possessed the greatest influence among the reform party were Nicholas of Hussinetz and John Žižka of Trocnov. Both were men of broad views and much experience, and they early came to the conclusion that it was necessary to prepare the people to defend their rights by taking up arms; but at this time, this subject was broached only to a small number of the most experienced leaders. A message was sent to King Václav that all those present were ready to lay down their lives for the chalice. As might be expected, the purpose of this great meeting was variously explained. A report went forth that Nicholas was planning to usurp the crown of Bohemia, which caused King Václav not a little alarm.

The storm that the leaders of the Taborites thought inevitable burst forth in Prague itself. July 30th, a few days after the meeting upon Mount Tabor, when John Zelivsky, as usual, was leading a large procession to St. Stephen’s Church, he found the doors closed upon them. The angry populace broke open the church, and then went to the New Town City Hall, demanding to know the cause of this, and also asking the authorities to release immediately some persons who were imprisoned there on account of their religious views. As this was refused, the people became so angry that but a single spark was needed to kindle the smoldering fury into flame. Unfortunately, this spark was provided by some thoughtless person in the hall. As John Zelivsky was standing at the head of the procession, holding aloft the eucharist, a window was opened in the hall, and a stone thrown upon him. The infuriated people now rushed upon the hall, forced the doors, seized whom they could, hurling them out of the windows, where they were murdered with such weapons as could be found at the moment. Three aldermen and several other officers thus lost their lives.

The leader in this attack was John Žižka, who afterwards became the great general of the Hussite armies. Žižka, like Nicholas, had been one of the favorites of King Václav, and at this time he was still in his service. In regard to social class, he belonged to the zemans, or smaller land-owners. He had but one eye, having lost the other by an accident.

When the news of these acts of violence reached the king in his summer residence at Kunratic castle, he was thrown into such a paroxysm of rage that he was seized with a slight stroke of apoplexy. As soon as he recovered, he threatened a terrible vengeance upon the offenders, and declared that he would exterminate heresy from the land root and branch.

But upon his return to Prague he found the people of New Town well armed; he therefore made an ostensible peace, biding his time, when his brother Sigmund should come to Prague. Shortly after, he was seized with another fit of apoplexy, from which he died, August 16, 1419.


As soon as the report of the death of King Václav spread through Prague, the people lost all fear, and turned against the churches and monasteries unfriendly to the chalice. The priests and monks were driven away, the furniture smashed, and many beautiful pictures forever ruined. Finally the enraged mob went out of the city, and attacked the Cartusian monastery, setting it afire, and scattering the monks in al! directions. This example of violence was followed in Pilsen, Pisek, Königgratz, and several other towns, the people destroying the convents of begging friars. With the monks, the German people also suffered, since they were almost without an exception enemies of the new teaching.

The more thoughtful of the population did not approve of these unlawful proceedings, and, as soon as possible, restored order and obedience to law in the city; but they knew that, to secure permanent peace, the presence of the ruler was indispensable. The State Diet met in Prague, and drew up a memorial to Sigmund, as heir of the Bohemian throne, to come as soon as possible to take possession of the government; but a clause was added asking him to leave the estates the freedom of the Word of God and communion in both kinds, and to exert himself to induce the Pope to revoke the severe edicts against the nation.

When the memorial reached Sigmund he was just on the eve of a campaign against the Turks. Some of his counselors advised him to go first to Turkey, to subdue his Eastern enemies, and then to Bohemia, to take possession of his throne. As this advice was in harmony with his own inclinations, he gave the viceroyalty to Queen Sophia, appointing as her chief counselor Čenek of Wartenberg, one of the chief lords of the realm. As both Queen Sophia and Čenek favored the Utraquists, Sigmund thought they could keep the country in peace. As to the clause about guaranteeing the freedom of preaching, to this Sigmund gave an ambiguous reply, which the moderate party interpreted favorably, but which was regarded with suspicion by the Taborites, who, remembering his treachery to Hus, placed no faith in his promises. They began to prepare for an armed defense of their liberties. To become united in their efforts, camp-meetings were held upon the mountains, and finally one was appointed to be held in Prague, November 10th. As the people were to come from a great distance, orders were given that they should arm themselves for their own safety during the journey. As this seemed like an attempt to gain possession of the city, Queen Sophia prepared to defend the city, collecting a small force and garrisoning the citadel on the Small Side. The people of the New Town took possession of the fortress of Vyšehrad, driving out the garrison that had heen put there by King Václav.

The first blood shed in the Hussite wars was caused by the Royalists, when the people were on their way to the meeting appointed for the 10th of November. The Royalists, fearing that so many armed people coming to the capital might cause disturbances, sent an armed force into the country to prevent them from assembling. In many places they were successful, but in the districts of Pilsen, Klatov, and Domazlitz (Taus), the preparations had been made in secret, so that a large company of people were gathered together on the 1st of November, and began their march toward Prague, their number increasing as they advanced on their way.

When they reached Knin, they were met by couriers begging them to send assistance to a party of pilgrims from Austi on the Lusitz, who were prevented from proceeding on their journey by a Royalist army, consisting of about 1,300 cavalry, under the command of Sir Peter of Sternberg, then the president of the mines at Kuttenberg. Assistance was immediately sent; but ere they reached their friends, the latter had been attacked and defeated, but few escaping with their lives. As soon as the new party came in sight, Sir Sternberg ordered them to surrender, lest the same fate befall them as the Austians; but before he could put his threat into execution, he saw a much larger force coming from Knin, and, concluding that prudence was the better part of valor, he retired from the field.

The people remained all night upon the hill whose soil had drunk the blood of the first martyrs to their cause. The next day a solemn mass was said, and the dead were buried amidst the deepest expressions of grief, brotherly love, and reverence. This sad duty being performed, they resumed their march, and reached Prague without any further molestation.

It is seen that the guilt of the first bloodshed in the Hussite war was with the Royalists, which proved a great advantage to the popular party, since they could do no less than take up arms in self-defense. It seems that this very question had been provided for some months previous by the leaders, John +Žižka and Nicholas of Hussinetz. They had laid before the doctors of the university the question, asking for a formal decision, whether it was right and proper to take up arms in defense of the Word of God, since Christ had ordered Peter to put up his sword when he unsheathed it to defend his Master. They did not need this opinion for themselves, having long ago settled in their own minds what must be done; but they felt that they needed the moral support it would give them with their followers.

Long discussions were held by the various faculties, and finally a report was agreed upon that declared that, although it was not right nor justifiable to carry on an aggressive war for the spread of Christianity, yet, when a cruel enemy threatened the destruction of God’s people, it was not merely right, but a sacred duty, to take up arms in self-defense. It need hardly be added that the leaders made good use of this decision.

The news of the disaster that had befallen the pilgrims reached Prague the very same day. By the orders of Priest Ambrose, the alarm-bells were sounded in all quarters of the city. The people, gathering in crowds in the public squares, and hearing the sad tidings, offered to go at once to help their brethren. Nicholas and Žižka, however, turned their energies to another quarter; namely, to the danger that threatened them from the Royalists stationed on the Small Side.

Their first attempt was to get possession of the stone bridge, which was guarded by a strong force of Royalists. Their attack was answered by the roar of artillery, that had recently been introduced into warfare, and for this reason filled the hearts of the people with terror. After a sharp skirmish, the victory leaned toward the popular army; but the fighting continued far into the night along the streets of the city. The burning of houses, the ringing of the fire-bells, the roar of the artillery, and the continual skirmishing in the streets, together with the plundering and pillaging, made it “a night of sorrow and consternation, wailing and mourning, as if the judgment-day had come.” During the night, when the Royalists saw that they were losing on all sides, they were seized with a panic, and Queen Sophia, with some lords, fled to her castle of Kunratic. The spoils gained by the people were immense. The victory was ascribed to Žižka, whose fame, from this day on, continually increased.

Although the victory was decisive for the popular party, the fighting did not cease; for the Royalists, receiving re-enforcements, soon returned to the scene of action. For a long time victory fluctuated between the two sides; but when the Royalist army was constantly augmented by aid sent by lords, knights, and cities, who declared war against Prague, the popular party was induced to treat for peace. An armistice was entered upon that was to last till the 3d of April of the following year, the lords agreeing to protect the administration of communion in both kinds. Žižka, however, with several of the more zealous reformers, did not approve of this. They left the city with such troops as willingly went with them, and marched into the vicinity of Pilsen, where they tried to get possession of the towns and fortresses ignoring the armistice entirely.

When the news of this battle reached Sigmund, he gave up the campaign against the Turks, and returned home, going as far as Brunn, Moravia (December, 1419). Here he was met by messengers from both parties, each laying before him its grievances. The popular party presented a petition asking that he guarantee to the nation the freedom of the Word of God, and the use of the chalice in communion. Sigmund promised to take the matter into consideration when he reached Bohemia, and to do justice to all parties. In the meantime, he ordered them to cease from persecuting priests that refused to give communion in both kinds, and to remove the barricades from the streets of Prague. The messengers returned home much disappointed; for they saw that the reply was a virtual denial of their request.

Queen Sophia resigned the government, and Čenek (Vincent), of Wartenberg, was appointed regent, with two lords to assist him. Sigmund did not go to Bohemia at once, but turned to Silesia, where he hoped to raise an army large enough to crush all opposition at one blow.


During the armistice, the cruelties perpetrated by the miners of Kuttenberg were worse than open watfare. When once blood had been shed, each party thought it had the right of retaliation. The miners had always been enemies of the Bohemian people. This was partly due to the fact that they were mostly German immigrants, but chiefly because, as miners, they were granted many privileges, both on account of the superior skill required of them, and on account of the dangers to which they were exposed. This made them regard the native husbandmen with contempt. Besides this, Kuttenberg was the second city in the kingdom, and there was considerable rivalry between its inhabitants and those of the capital. Thus, when the people of Prague declared against the dogmatic claims of Rome, those of Kuttenberg made every effort to prove their unquestioning allegiance to papal authority. To show this more effectively, they followed the example of Constance, and burned every heretic who was so unfortunate as to fall into their hands.

As the number of victims that chance threw into their hands seemed too small, regular bands were organized, whose aim was to secure as many heretics for burning as possible, and to keep up the zeal of the brigands a liberal reward was provided—one kopa[1] Prague groschen for a Hussite laic, and five kopas for a priest. The business of kidnaping heretics proved so lucrative that little discrimination was used, and many people were put to a horrible death whose sole fault was that they were Bohemian peasants. At last so many heretics were daily brought to the city that the executioners became weary of the task, and cast about for some method to expedite the work. It was decided to use the abandoned mines for this purpose. Hundreds of victims were hurled together alive into the common grave, where they perished from the wounds received in falling, or from starvation. In a few short weeks about 1,600 persons were thus murdered.

The evasive reply of the emperor, and the cruelties that the miners were allowed to perpetrate without any protest from the Royalists, showed the people what they might expect from their enemies, and they spared no pains to prepare themselves for the coming contest. Nicholas of Hussinetz tried to fortify Green Mountain near Nepomuk, but he was dislodged from the position by the lords from the neighboring castles. Žižka, at Pilsen, was more successful. The city was soon in his hands, the fortifications repaired, and even some monasteries were used as a means of defense. Still, he was in constant danger of an attack, and, as he could not fully trust the citizens of Pilsen, he decided to seek a place of greater security. Such a location was found about fifty miles southeast of Prague, in a spot where now the city of Tabor stands. Here the Lusnitz, an affluent of the Moldau, winds around a craggy hill, forming a peninsula, the neck of which is scarcely thirty feet broad. This narrow neck of land Žižka pierced with a deep ditch, and fortified with a thick wall, so that the place was quite cut off from the surrounding country. Only one side of the hill was accessible, and on this declivity the soldiers pitched their tents. The whole place was surrounded by fortifications and strong towers, so as to be impregnable to any engine of war then known. This became the rallying point of the Taborites. In course of time, houses were constructed, and Tabor, as the place was named, became quite a town. During the whole of the Hussite wars Tabor remained the asylum of disaffected spirits of all kinds. Not only the peasants, but the large land-owners came here, ready to sacrifice all for their religion. Here all were equal; here all enjoyed both religious and political liberty; and here there arose the most extreme views in regard to government and religion. Indeed, in this little town could be found the germs of most of the modern Protestant sects, and also of modern Socialism.

The extreme views held by some of the Taborites were not at all in harmony with the religious ideas of the leaders, Žižka and Nicholas; but finding themselves powerless to stem the general current of thought, they strove to turn the enthusiasm into channels that would lead to the general good. Žižka organized a regular form of military government, placing the town under four lieutenants but as he excelled all in wisdom, dignity of bearing, and military skill, he soon became the acknowledged head of all the Taborites.

Žižka possessed the rare gift of being able to adapt himself to all conditions of men, and to turn to his own advantage the most adverse circumstances. As his troops were composed almost entirely of peasants, he adopted weapons that they could use with the greatest advantage. Flails heavily covered with iron, clubs covered at the end with heavy iron spikes, were the ordinary arms, with which his men did such fearful execution that the Royalists feared more the flail of the peasant than the sword of a regular soldier. As the war went on, Žižka developed the method of fortification known as the wagonburg; but this will be spoken of in another connection.

While Žižka was making fortifications at Tabor and organizing an army out of the peasants that flocked thither from all directions, the Emperor Sigmund was likewise making preparations for war, but on so grand a scale that the heart of a less intrepid warrior than Žižka would surely have failed him. Large bodies of men were recruited from all his dominions—from Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia. Nor was this all. Pope Martin raised against Bohemia the most dreadful weapon that could be used in those days—a crusade was declared against the country, in which all nations were invited to participate, abundant indulgences being promised to all who should aid it either in person or by contributing funds. Sigmund invited the princes of Germany to meet him in Breslau, to consult together how, at one blow, they could crush out all opposition in Bohemia. The arrival of the distinguished guests at Breslau was honored by an act of signal cruelty. John Krasa, a citizen of Prague, being in Breslau on business, was ordered to be arrested, because he had defended Hus and had taken communion in both kinds; and when he refused to recant, was dragged about the city tied to a horse’s tail, and afterwards burned alive. After these preliminary proceedings, Sigmund had the Pope’s legate proclaim the crusade, and then preparations were made to invade Bohemia.

The news of these proceedings filled the land with consternation. The people saw that the coming contest was to be a life-and-death struggle for them, and they prepared to meet it like men.

At this time the ruling spirit among the people of Prague was the priest John Zelivsky, who has already been spoken of in connection with the storm in the city hall of New Town. Being a man of great eloquence and burning zeal for his nation’s welfare, the proclamation of the crusade against his country roused his indignation to the highest pitch, and he at once began to hurl the thunderbolts of his wrath both against the Pope and the emperor. Borrowing his figures of speech from Revelation, he called Sigmund “the sevenheaded dragon”[2] that had come into the world to destroy the new-born child—the truth lately discovered—and for which all the faithful were to fight, and if needs be die, since through it salvation would come to the world. “He said their mother, the Church, had not merely become a stepmother, but a monster that devoured her own offspring. With bloody hands she had raised the cross, that symbol of peace and grace, using it as a standard under which bloodthirsty hordes were to rally to the destruction of faithful believers in Christ.” Such words uttered by a beloved preacher, whose own sincerity no one could have called into question, roused the people to a frenzy of enthusiasm, so that they were not only willing to fight, but eager to lay down their lives for their country and their religion.

The Royalists, and especially the Germans, became alarmed, and prepared to leave the city, thinking they could return as soon as Sigmund arrived; for they had no doubts as to his ability to subdue the heretics. They were not at all hindered in this exodus, so that about seven hundred found their way to the neighboring towns.

While these things were going on, a deputation of Bohemian lords, among whom was the regent, Čenek of Wartenberg, went to Breslau to make another attempt to bring the king to some favorable terms. But they were given so cool a reception that Čenek returned to Prague full of grief and bitterness. He saw that there was no alternative for him but to become the enemy either of his country or of his king. His patriotism finally triumphed, and he decided in favor of his country. Forming a league with several powerful lords, they issued a proclamation to the nobility of the realm, inviting them to join this league. They declared that as the freedom of the Word of God and the general good of the nation was threatened, it behooved all loyal sons of Bohemia to refuse their allegiance to Sigmund, since he had not been elected by the lords of the realm nor had been crowned King of Bohemia, but had shown himself to be the cruel enemy both of the kingdom and the people. He had cast the deepest insult upon the nation, charging it with heresy, and had permitted the miners of Kuttenberg to perpetrate the foulest atrocites. Moreover, he was guilty of misdemeanors too numerous too mention. It was further declared that no Bohemian, at the penalty of being deprived of honor, goods, and life, could separate his interests from those of his nation, but must retain his natural love for his country and help it in this hour of need. This proclamation was sent to all parts of the country, and proved so effective that one lord after another sent letters to the camp of Sigmund severing his allegiance from the crown. Indeed, the disaffection toward the emperor was so great that secret messengers were sent to the King of Poland offering him the crown of Bohemia.

The burning of John Krasa at Breslau, the declaration of the crusade, and the barbarous acts of the miners, led the other parties to acts of retaliation. This was especially the case with the extreme Taborites, who regarded the monks as the chief cause of the miseries with which the country was afflicted. They looked upon monasteries as the dens of wickedness, the strongholds of Satan; and whenever they could, they tore them down, murdering the cowled inmates. Historians speak with great regret of the many works of art that were thus ruthlessly destroyed by these wild fanatics. At this time, according to the historian Æneas Silvius, Bohemia excelled all other countries of Northern Europe in the magnificence of its temples. Whoever has studied the history of the country up to this date, can not doubt the truthfulness of this remark; for whenever a king or great lord committed some infamous crime, he quieted his guilty conscience by donating a part of his ill-gotten wealth to build and endow a church or a monastery. Charles IV, although one of the best kings the country ever had, in his religious fanaticism robbed the country by spending vast sums of money for these purposes. He filled the land with greedy monks and priests, who ate out the substance of the peasant, the widow, and the fatherless, and poisoned the moral atmosphere with their licentious living. The evil now threatening the country could be traced directly to those priests and monks; and had the people regarded them with indifference, they would have showed criminal stupidity.


The armistice agreed upon in Prague the year previous was now drawing to a close, and both parties were preparing for the coming struggle.

About the close of April, Sigmund, together with his allies, entered Bohemia with an army of 100,000 men. City after city fell into his hands, and the prospect of withstanding his power seemed so small that many of the noblemen, becoming alarmed, returned to their former allegiance. Among these the most noted was the late regent, Čenek of Wartenberg, through whose efforts so many of the lords had been won for the popular party. Now he not only deserted the people, but committed an act of basest treachery. Under pretense of treating for an armistice, he received two messengers from the king, William Zajic of Hasenburg and Ernest Flaska of Pardubic, and made a secret treaty with them, promising to deliver the fortress of Prague into their hands. When the news of this treachery transpired, the city was filled with amazement and grief. Čenek’s flag was taken down from the Old Town Hall, rent as his faith had been rent, and hung upon a pillory, beneath which was placed a hat with his coat of arms painted beneath it, as a sign that he had acted in an underhand manner.

Then the infuriated multitude, deprived of their leader, seized what arms they could, and rushed upon the fortress, if possible to regain, by desperate valor, what had been lost through treachery. The attack, made in so disorderly a manner, was not successful; but the traitor Čenek became alarmed, and made his escape by a secret passage.

The fortress of Vyšehrad, having fallen into the hands of the Royalists some time previous, the people of Prague were now in a most precarious condition. With a strong force of the enemy at Hradschin, the Small Side was entirely at the mercy of the Royalists, and the New Town was constantly threatened from the fortress of Vyšehrad.

As the large stone buildings on the Small Side afforded protection to the enemy whenever they wished to sally out to search for heretics, the authorities decided that it should be destroyed. The inhabitants were therefore removed to the other two towns, and the buildings given over to the flames. The soldiers of the fortress, in retaliation, attacked the Old Town, destroying several of its buildings.

While these things were going on at Prague, the Imperial army was approaching nearer and nearer, and the people began to fear that certain destruction awaited them. In this extremity, they made another attempt at reconciliation. Sigmund was now at Kuttenberg, where the messengers met him. As was the custom in those days, they brought him rich presents, and, kneeling before him, begged him to pardon the disturbances that had been made in Prague; that they were ready to open the gates of the city to him and break down the fortifications that had been made; but, at the same time, they begged that they might not be debarred the use of the cup in communion.

Sigmund, feeling sure of victory, gave them a very hard reply. He declared that he had taken a solemn oath to exterminate all heresy with fire and sword, and that he would not recede from this should it cost him his kingdom; no, not if all the inhabitants of Bohemia should perish, their habitations be turned to dust, and the land be turned over to strangers. Moreover, he was determined to do this, should it cost him all his possessions, his body, and his soul. The messengers then asked him to show some justice and mercy, upon which he replied that the people should pull down the barricades, take their arms to Hradschin or Vyšehrad, and then, when he came to Prague, he would show them some mercy.

This last effort for a reconciliation meeting with so cruel a rebuff, the people began to prepare for a desperate resistance. Messengers were sent to the Taborites, beseeching them to come to their aid, and they willingly responded to the call. The Taborites, from the beginning, had placed no confidence in the promises of Sigmund, and, instead of looking forward to a reconciliation, they strained every nerve to be prepared for war. Now they were able to send good, excellently-drilled, and well-equipped soldiers to the help of Prague. The troops were commanded by the four lieutenants of Tabor, Žižka being chief in command.

Sigmund, hearing of the re-enforcements sent to Prague, thought it a good opportunity to capture the fortress of Tabor; but, although the besiegers were twenty to one of the besieged, they were defeated and pursued, so that they fled, leaving rich spoils for the ever needy Taborites.

In the spring of 1420, Sigmund reached Prague, together with the armies of the allies, that were commanded by some of the most illustrious princes of Christendom.

The imperial army wasted fourteen days in skirmishes that were fruitless of results; but while this was going on, another effort was made to effect a peaceful settlement of the difficulty. The leaders of the Taborites, the chief men of the city of Prague, and other persons of note tarrying in the city, met together, and drew up four articles, which, if guaranteed to them by the king, they would agree to make peace. These were the celebrated “Four Articles of Prague,” that afterwards played such an important part in the Hussite Wars.

These Articles were as follows:

I. The Word of God is to be freely preached throughout the Kingdom of Bohemia and Margraviate of Moravia.

II. The sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ is to be given in two kinds—bread and wine.

III. The priests and monks are to be deprived of their worldly goods and compelled to live a life of poverty, to serve as a pattern of humility to others.

IV. All crimes called mortal sins are to be punished according to the laws of the land, without any regard to the position of persons committing them.

These articles were sent for consideration to the Pope’s legate, but his reply was of such a character that the people saw that all further attempts for peace would be futile, and they therefore prepared for the coming struggle.

The forces of the allies were so stationed as to command all the highways leading into the city of Prague but one;The Battle of Vitkov. and Sigmund determined to gain possession of that one, and, by cutting off all connection between the city and the country, compel it to surrender by starvation. But so sagacious a commander as Žižka was not unmindful of the importance of keeping a free communication with the country. The road in question was on the east side of the city, in what is now the suburb of Karlin, on one side of which is an elevation called Vitkov, which commands the country for quite a distance. Upon this elevation Žižka made a strong fortification, surrounded by ditches and breastworks, and here he took his stand with a strong force. Among these were also some Taborite women, who were not a whit behind the men in working upon the fortifications.

The day of the grand attack was fixed by the allies for the 14th of July. The army was divided up, and the different divisions were to fall upon the city from several directions at the same time; but the force stationed at Vitkov was doomed to be the first to meet destruction. The Meissen cavalry, together with the Austrians, Germans, and Hungarians, to the number of 25,000 men, came forward to the attack, intending to make short work here, and then join the rest of the forces in attacking the city itself, the garrison from Vyšehrad sallying out to their assistance as soon as they should be needed. The plan of attack was so well laid that success seemed inevitable.

The Meissen cavalry, commanded by Henry, Count of Isenburg, made the first attack. Blowing their trumpets, they fell with great impetuosity upon one of the fortifications. The garrison fell back, all except twenty-five men and seven women, who declared that a Christian should rather die than retreat before Antichrist. At this point the division under the direct command of Žižka came forward, and for a while the general himself was in great peril; but his followers succeeded in beating back the attack with their powerful flails. That moment was one of intense anxiety, both to the people of the city and to the army at Vitkov. All seemed lost! The women, children, and old men who could not fight were upon their knees, wailing and beseeching Heaven to aid their cause. Within an hour the crisis was over, the tide turned in favor of the Taborites. The besiegers were repulsed, falling back in great disorder. The victors pursued the flying enemy, forcing them down a precipitous height, where many perished, being trampled upon by the horses that rushed on in the wildest confusion. Many more perished in trying to swim across the river.

This defeat filled Sigmund’s heart with bitter sorrow; and, what was even worse, discouraged his army, so that the rest of the plan had to be abandoned. Indeed, the defeat seemed to have a demoralizing effect upon officers as well as upon privates. The German princes, out of spite, caught and burned every Bohemian they could get hold of; and when the Bohemian lords objected to this, they were charged with favoring heretics. Then the allies began to fire their cannon upon the city, for which they were severely reprimanded by Sigmund, who told them not to destroy his inheritance needlessly. Then nature itself came to the assistance of the besieged. The allies had neglected to bury the dead. It was July, and the stench arising from the dead bodies of men and horses, not only attracted swarms of insects of all kinds, but poisoned the air with pestilential vapors, causing much illness and suffering. The allies, thinking only of their own safety, one by one left the army of Sigmund, and all further attempt to capture the city was consequently given up.

The day at Vitkov—afterwards known as Žižkov—was a glorions victory for the Taborites, its moral effect being even greater than the material. The people felt encouraged and strong, ready to redouble their efforts for their cause. Žižka, however, did not indulge in any idle elation. He regarded this as the beginning, and immediately began to make preparations for the great struggle which he expected, and which surely would have come had not the army of the besiegers become demoralized.

The Reformers, seeing that the advantage was on their side, again began to treat concerning the Four Articles of Prague. A meeting for this purpose was held under the open sky in the Small Side; but no practical results were reached.

In the midst of the confusion, while the German princes were leaving the Imperial army, Sigmund was crowned King of Bohemia in the cathedral at Hradschin, July 28, 1420.

Žižka remained in Prague for some time; but his followers offending the citizens of Prague by breaking into and pillaging churches and convents, he thought it best to withdraw again into the country.

After the victory of Žižkov, the Pragites turned their attention to the fortress of Vyšehrad. The Battle of Vyšehrad.They secured the assistance of a number of Utraquist lords, and some Taborites, who hastened to their aid from some of the neighboring towns. The great danger that threatened the garrison was the scarcity of provisions. Sigmund made every effort to relieve them, but was baffled in all his attempts by the vigilance of the besiegers. After his coronation, Sigmund withdrew to Moravia, and as soon as his army was reorganized, he started, with a force of 20,000 men, to aid the garrison at Vyšehrad. The commander of the fortress, pressed by want and suffering, made an agreement with the besiegers that if Sigmund did not arrive upon a certain day, he would surrender, having no doubt that the promised aid would come in time.

Sigmund came about the time he was expected. The besieged saw his army with flying banners, and followed by a long line of wagons loaded with provisions. The besiegers turned to meet the coming enemy, and the signal for battle was given; but just a few minutes before, the time of the armistice had expired, and, pound by their word of honor, the troops from the fortress could not go to the help of their sovereign. As the battle progressed, they became fired with enthusiasm and implored their officers to let them go to aid their friends, but this was strictly forbidden.

The battle raged with great fury, and although Sigmund had a much larger force, he was defeated, leaving the battlefield in great confusion. He marched to Kuttenberg. This battle proved especially disastrous to the Moravian lords, twenty-four of whom were left upon the battlefield. Most of them had accepted the new faith, but had not severed their connection with the emperor, deceiving themselves that some reconciliation would soon be effected, which would leave them enjoying both the good-will of their ruler and their religion.

After the battle, the garrison of Vyšehrad surrendered as had been agreed. The victorious generals complimented them highly that, in a time of so great a temptation, they still had preserved the time-honored faithfulness to the given word. Wagons were provided for them in which to take away their private goods, and a guard was sent to protect them on their way. Some of them, overcome by the consideration with which they were treated, left the side of the king, joining the popular army.

After the battle, as the men and women wandered among the dead and wounded, their hearts were filled with compassion. They remembered that they were brethren, people of the same nation and speaking the same language. The Tborite priests alone were without pity; they ordered that the bodies remain unburied as food for wolves and vultures. But this cruel command was not heeded. During the night many willing feet hastened to the battle-field, and loving hands with tenderness performed the last rite to the fallen soldiers.

After the disastrous defeat at Vyšehrad, Sigmund, as has been said, fell back to Kuttenberg, where he tried to make the people believe that he had won a signal victory. To make up for his losses, he plundered the estates of noblemen, not even sparing those that had not yet taken up arms against him. The Hungarian division of Sigmund’s army, stationed at Nimburg, committed fearful depredations upon the surrounding country. Villages were plundered and sacked without mercy, and the inhabitants subjected to the most atrocious cruelties.

The effect of these lawless acts was that many lords, who still had adhered to the king, now threw up their allegiance and joined the popular party. They were also influenced, to some extent, by a proclamation issued by the army in Prague, wherein it was plainly shown that Sigmund was the enemy of the Bohemian people, since, in the battle of Vyšehrad, he had placed the Bohemians and Moravians in the most dangerous places, showing far more care and consideration for the Germans and Hungarians. The leaders now openly declared their intention of depriving him of the crown and electing a king of their own choice.


Some old historians represent John Žižka, the first great commander of the Hussites, as a bloodthirsty savage, and his followers as extremely fanatical and cruel. The Hussites were cruel, ’t is true; but not more so than the crusaders that invaded their country. Judging the people from a modern point of view, both parties were exceedingly cruel and bloodthirsty; but the fault lay more with the cruel times than with the individuals. Still it may be said, in palliation of the acts of the Hussites, that their enemies began the deeds of cruelty. It will be remembered what horrible atrocities were committed by the miners of Kuttenberg, and that without even a reprimand from their sovereign. The burning of the citizen Krasa, in Breslau, before the very eyes of the first princes of Christendom, was an act of inexcusable lawlessness that could not be left unavenged by the Hussites.

Even before the battle of Vyšehrad, the mayor of Litomeritz, to please his sovereign, ordered seventeen citizens to be drowned, simply because they favored the new teaching. He did not spare the lover of his own daughter, who, finding her pleading all in vain, flung herself into the river and perished with the rest of the victims. The Hussites retaliated.

At the surrender of Ricany, Žižka ordered eleven priests to be burned alive. The soldiers shut them up in a deserted hut, and, unmindful of their pitiful cries, their promises that they would conform to the “Four Articles,” the hut was set afire, and they were left to perish in the flames.

This horrible deed was overmatched by one committed by the Kuttenbergers, February, 1421. The town of Chotebor, having fallen into the hands of the Taborites, under their leader Hromadka, was again besieged by a band of miners from Kuttenberg. Being hard pressed, Hromadka agreed to surrender, on condition that the garrison should retire unharmed. But no sooner did the miners gain possession of the town, than, totally disregarding their word of honor, they seized three hundred of the Taborite soldiers, shut them up in barns, and burned them alive. Some four hundred more were reserved for even a worse fate, being hurled alive into mines and left to perish of starvation. The leader, Hromadka, with two Taborite priests, was taken to Chrudim, and all burned in the public market-place.

These acts of barbarism were somewhat counterbalanced by those of Žižka, at the siege of Chomoutov, the following month. The city was strongly fortified, and, the inhabitants, feeling perfectly secure, roused the besiegers to the highest pitch of fury by their taunts, imprecations, and blasphemies. In their madness the Taborites attacked the walls with such fury that an opening was made in several places at once, upon which the infuriated soldiers rushed into the city, murdering every one they met, sparing only some women and children, and leaving thirty men alive, to bury their neighbors, as they said. About 2,500 persons perished in Chomoutov on that day.

The Taborites possessed a means of retaliation that the Catholics did not. Churches and monasteries were very sacred and dear to the Catholics, and these were ruthlessly plundered and destroyed by the Taborites, the Catholics being unable to retaliate, since the former had no churches nor monasteries.

The victory at Vyšehrad greatly encouraged the Hussites, and they no longer concealed their design to deprive Sigmund of the crown of Bohemia.War Continued. They called upon all the States to resign their allegiance to the king, threatening to compel, by armed force, those that still refused to do so. Žižka had been so successful in the southern part of Bohemia, gaining so many towns, that Ulric of Rosenberg, one of the most powerful lords, made a treaty with him, agreeing to give his subjects the freedom of “The Four Articles of Prague.” Such concessions extorted from the Catholic lords would have been productive of greater results had the Hussites themselves been in harmony with each other. John Zelivsky, who, at this time, was the virtual ruler of Prague, tried to introduce the Taborite worship into the city, but was opposed in this by the more conservative citizens. He also opposed the sending of the embassy to the Polish king, and in this he was upheld by Nicholas of Hussinetz, who, next to Žižka, was the most influential leader among the Hussites. Nicholas said that they ought to have a king of their own people, not a foreigner. At this time it was supposed that he was not disinterested in this, but that he desired to secure the crown for himself. As the embassy was sent in spite of the opposition of Nicholas, and several other matters were also arranged contrary to his wishes, he left the city in anger; but, on the way, met with an accident that ended his career. His horse became unmanageable, Nicholas was thrown off, and his leg broken. He died from the effects of the injury, December 24, 1420.

A contemporary author, speaking of the death of Nicholas, says: “Some citizens of Prague, who had adopted the religious views of the Taborites, mourned for him greatly; but others rejoiced, giving thanks to God that he had removed from their midst this deceitful man, whose counsels led not to peace, but to dissensions among the parties.” Still it can not be denied that the death of Nicholas was a great misfortune to the Hussites; for he excelled all the other leaders in sagacity and political wisdom. Žižka, although a great general, was no statesman, consequently there was no one who knew how to take advantage of the victories gained, turning them to the public good.

In the spring of 1421, Žižka won many victories, gaining possession of many towns in the southern part of Bohemia. He besieged Pilsen for several weeks; but the inhabitants defended themselves so valiantly that he was satisfied with making a treaty with them, in which they agreed to give full freedom to “The Four Articles of Prague.”

After leaving Pilsen, Žižka went to Chomoutov. The account of this battle, and the fearful cruelties there perpetrated by the Hussites, have already been related.

The frightful catastrophe to the town of Chomoutov, whose fortifications had been regarded impregnable, made the hearts of the people fail them with terror, and they did not wait to see the dreaded enemy at their gates, but sent messengers offering to give themselves up to the mercy of Žižka. Thus, without striking a blow, the Taborites gained possession of numerous small towns, besides the important ones of Melnik, Kaurim, Kolin, Nimburg, and Caslav.

Among the towns struck with terror at the approach of the Taborites, none trembled with fear as the miners of Kuttenberg. And they had cause. For three years they had enjoyed the pleasure of murdering Bohemian peasants, and their treachery to the prisoners of Chotibor seemed to be a climax to their infamous course against the Hussites; and now their guilty conscience told them that they could look for no mercy from the approaching enemy. They determined to fight to the last extremity, selling their lives as dearly as possible. They sent as large a force as they could muster against the Taborites at Kolin, but seeing the large force of the enemy, their heart failed them, and they returned to the city, bearing the sad tidings that their only hope lay in the mercy of the enemy. Messengers were immediately sent to the Hussite camp, who implored the leaders that their city, the gem of the Bohemian Crown, be spared, and the inhabitants allowed to remove in such time as the Hussite leaders should designate. The petition was accepted on condition that the inhabitants, men, women, and children should form a procession, and go out to meet the Hussite army, asking forgiveness for their crimes. The day for this ceremony was fixed for April 25th, when the procession, headed by a priest bearing the holy eucharist, went out of Kuttenberg and marched as far as Sedlec, where, meeting the Hussite army, they knelt down, asking forgiveness of God and the Commonwealth of Prague. The monk, John Zelivsky, stepped before the procession, and, after enumerating their crimes, he exhorted them to repent and do better in the future. He spoke with so much earnestness that both sides wept aloud, and finally united in singing a well-known hymn, begining with “We praise thee, O God,” the penitents singing one verse, and the Hussites the other. The Kuttenbergers then begged that Peter Zmrzlik, a man of much wisdom and moderation, be appointed dictator of the city, and this petition was also granted. Then the Hussites that were to assume the government were taken into the city amid great rejoicings, the people praising God that they had been saved from the impending destruction.

The reconciliation between the people of Kuttenberg and the army of the Hussites was followed by that of Čenek of Wartenberg. After the capture of Kolin, this lord had offered to return to the Hussites, but they rejected his offers, saying that they could not trust him, unless he come with his whole force to help them in the siege of Jarmirn. Being in earnest, he accepted the condition. Coming before the army near that city, he knelt down before the holy eucharist, and publicly confessed his sins. John Zelivsky asked him: “Sir Čenek, dost thou acknowledge that thou hast sinned against God and the Commonwealth of Prague?” He replied: “I do so acknowledge.” The priest continued: “Dost thou beseech God and the Commonwealth to forgive thee?” “I do,” replied the penitent. He then went to Prague, where a treaty was drawn up between him and the city.

The humiliation of so great a lord as Čenek was not without important results. Shortly after this, Ulric of Rosenberg announced to the Hussites, in the name of Sigmund, that His Majesty was willing to treat with them in regard to the Four Articles of Prague.

This declaration was followed by an event that astonished the people still more. Conrad, the Archbishop of Prague, to the consternation of all Christendom, openly declared for these same Articles. He did this with some limitations and a letter to Sigmund, in which he clearly stated his reasons and his motives for this; but this only added greater moral strength to the act.

The people of Prague celebrated this event with ringing of bells, and singing of “Te Deum laudamus;” but the Taborite priests regarded it with suspicion, calling it “but the healing of the monster Antichrist.”

The immense estates of the archbishop at once became the property of the Commonwealth, since, according to the Third Article, such possessions were forbidden to the clergy. This deed, so magnanimous in the sight of the Hussites, was looked upon by the Church as utterly wicked, and deserving of the severest punishment. Conrad was therefore excommunicated by the Pope, and John Zelezny, the Bishop of Olmutz, appointed his successor.

June 7, 1421, the fortress of Prague surrendered to the city, and by this the power of the Hussites was so firmly established in Bohemia, that they determined to carry the war into Moravia, to gain possession of the cities that had remained loyal to the emperor. They were met on the borders by some Moravian lords, and it was agreed to hold a General Diet of all the States belonging to the Kingdom of Bohemia, where they were to discuss matters of faith, but chiefly provide for some regular form of government for the whole kingdom. But before speaking of this Diet, several phases of the Hussite war will be related.


The feverish excitement that the people fell into at the beginning of the war, led them into the wildest fanaticism and the most extreme beliefs. A prophecy got spread abroad that the world was soon to be destroyed by fire, like the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; and only five cities that were loyal to the chalice were to be saved. The time had come, said the prophets, when Christ was no longer to rule the earth in mercy but in wrath, and all the wicked were to be rooted out of the earth, the Taborites being chosen as the avenging angels to perform this task. This being accomplished, Christ himself would descend from heaven to remain with his faithful till the end of the world. Then there would be no need of baptism, nor of Scripture teaching; for children would be born pure, and people would be wise and in grace, having the law of God written in their hearts. There would be no kings, no rulers, nor subjects; all would be equal, and have all things in common.


Some of the fanatics, however, could not wait till the millennium should come, but attempted to bring it about by force. They carried their fanatical notions to such lengths that they were ordered to leave the town of Tabor (February 1421). About three hundred of them left the Taborites, threatening vengeance upon their faithless brethren. Some of them went to such extremes with their extravagant views that they at times discarded all garments, saying that they were in a state of innocence. About this time, Žižka returned to Tabor, and learning of the disturbances caused by the fanatics, and that they had gone about plundering villages and murdering the inhabitants who would not accept their belief, he sent a small force against them. Some fifty of them were taken prisoners, and when they refused to abjure their errors, they were ordered to be burned. The rest of the Adamites, as they were called, fled and found a refuge upon a small island in the river Nezarka, near Veseli. Here they lived together in the wildest licentiousness and wickedness. At times they fell upon the neighboring villages, plundering the people, and carrying away young maidens, who were compelled to submit to the embraces of their captors. Their leader was called Adam, hence their name Adamites. Žižka again sent a small force against them, which routed them completely. All were put to death, except two, who were sent to Prague to explain their belief to the doctors of the university.


All the Bohemians who had adopted some of the doctrines taught by Hus, and as a consequence had thrown up their allegiance to Emperor Sigmund, were called Hussites; but the Hussites themselves were divided into two parties or sects—the Taborites and the Calixtines, or Pragites, since Prague was their chief city.

Among the Taborites were a number of distinguished men, whose religious views were far ahead of their times. And yet, at this time, no one was so far advanced in intellectual development as to advocate freedom of religious opinion. All believed it right to burn heretics. However beloved Hus had been, and however his death had been mourned, the people never complained that the Council of Constance had no right to burn him if he were a heretic, but because they burned him having failed to prove his heresy. The rock upon which Hus was wrecked was the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope and Church. And yet the followers of Hus, each in his own person, claimed this very infallibility. They claimed the right of private interpretation of Scripture, and the conclusion they reached seemed to them the only true one; and they were as ready to charge with heresy all who differed from them, as the Church was ready to persecute them for disagreeing with her teachings.

At this time the two great occupations of the Bohemian people were war and the study of religious doctrines; and as each one claimed the right to interpret the Scripture in his own way, there were taught by the different priests all the creeds of the modern Protestant Churches. The priests that were the leaders, were the monk John Zelivsky, Master Jacobek of Meis, Master John of Pribram, and Peter Payne the Englishman, who usually went by the name of Master English. Payne, on account of his zeal for the teachings of Wycliffe, had been expelled from Oxford, but had received a warm welcome at Prague, being made one of the masters of the university. At first he sided with the Utraquists; but later he became a most zealous Taborite. What varied opinions were held in regard to religious matters may be judged from the following event: The Taborite priests were invited to Prague to discuss the advisability of using vestments during the ceremony of mass; but when they came they were confronted with seventy Articles, showing them into what errors they had fallen. Some of the more important charges were that they wanted to abolish all holidays except Sunday; that they disbelieved in purgatory and the intercession of saints; that they served mass without any ceremonial and in the vernacular; that they abolished fasts; that they held all church ornaments, such as pictures and statuary, as sinful; and finally, one of the most heinous of heresies was, that some claimed that, in the sacrament of the communion, Christ was present only spiritually, not corporally.

The more moderate of the Taborite priests denied most of these charges; but quite a number held them, and acknowledged it openly. Among these, the most prominent was a young priest from Moravia named John Houska. Houska taught that the bread and wine taken at communion remained unchanged, and that it was sinful to worship these symbols as though they were the real body and blood of Christ. This doctrine spread so rapidly that the Taborite priests became alarmed, and sent Jacobek and Pribram to Prague for counsel how to deal with this new heresy. In the meantime the discussions concerning these points became so bitter that Houska, with three hundred followers, was driven from the camp; but thinking better of it, the priests recalled him, determined, if possible, to induce him to abjure some of his errors. Not being willing to give up as much as they desired, he decided to return to his own country. On his way thither he was captured, together with his associate, Prokop. He was at once asked what he thought of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Houska replied promptly that Christ had but one body, which was in heaven, and consequently the eucharist being in many places at the same time, could not be in his body. “The pious lieutenant, unable to bear such blasphemy, began to beat him with his fists, and would have burned him upon the spot, but that the priest Ambrose begged that he might have him for a while to instruct him in better doctrine.” After laboring with him for two weeks without any success, he sent him in chains to Raudnitz, where Archbishop Conrad was then staying, to deal with him as he saw fit. Both Houska and Prokop were cast into a dark dungeon, and, after two months of fearful suffering, they were taken out again, tortured, and then put to death. While suffering fearful agonies, they were urged to ask the people to pray for them, to which Houska replied: “We do not need your prayers; pray for those that need them,” “And thus saying much more that was dreadful and offensive to the ears of pious people, the said Martin was shut up in a barrel and burned, together with his disciple. May God be praised for this!” Thus wrote an eye-witness of this horrible tragedy.

The few writings left by the unfortunate Houska prove him to have been a man of great learning and eloquence, and far less fanatical than most of the Taborite priests. The guilt of his martyrdom may be placed equally at the door of the Taborite leaders and of the moderate Hussites in Prague.


June, 1421.

The calling of the Diet at Caslau was the first attempt, during the war, to renew in Bohemia a government based upon the laws of the country. For two years the country was almost in a state of anarchy, and, as a consequence, many evils had sprung up. All the States of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia were invited to send delegates to the Diet, in order that some measures should be devised to provide for the government of the whole realm.

King Sigmund at this time was in Hungary protecting his dominions against the encroachments of the Turks; but he urged the lords still loyal to him to attend the Diet to protect his interests. Safe-conducts were provided for all, so that they might be secure, both against power and the laws.

After much discussion the Diet agreed upon the following articles:

1. All were to abide by the Four Articles of Prague, governing themselves according to them, and defending them against all enemies.

2. Sigmund was no longer to be acknowledged King of Bohemia, for he had openly scoffed at those holy truths, and, moreover, had willfully destroyed both the lives and the honor of the Bohemian people.

3. The government of the country was to be intrusted to a committee of twenty persons—five from the nobility, four from the district of Prague, two from Tabor, five from the knighthood, and four from the cities.

4. All religious difficulties were to be referred to a Synod meeting at Prague, and composed of the most illustrious clergymen of the land.

The messengers of Sigmund brought a letter from their sovereign, wherein he humbly agreed to submit to the wishes of the people, and, in case of disturbances, to see to it that the old condition of affairs was restored.

In reply to this, the Diet drew up a memorial in which were enumerated all his crimes against the country. Sigmund was charged with carrying off the crown and crown jewels and many treasures from the church at Hradschin and from the fortress of Carlstein. He had also appropriated to his own use the funds of the widows and orphans. He had dishonored the nation by allowing two of her most excellent men, Hus and Jerome, to be burned as heretics; and had consented that the Pope should excommunicate the nation and declare a crusade against it. If he wished them to acknowledge him their king, he must see to it that the disgrace be wiped out, the property unlawfully taken restored, all grievances redressed, and his opinion in regard to the “Four Articles” precisely stated. Then, if he further guaranteed to them all the ancient liberties of the realm, they would take him back as their lawful sovereign. The States now addressed Sigmund in about the same spirit that he addressed them a year previous, when, standing at the head of a vast army of crusaders, he felt confident of a sure and speedy victory.

The Diet closed with much satisfaction and harmony among the delegates; but the provisions made for the government of the country, although seemingly wise, proved entirely inadequate. The executive power, backed neither by high authority nor physical force, proved too weak to command respect and obedience.

One of the aims of the Diet of Caslau was to secure unity in the Church; but in this they were no more successful than in providing a stable government. It would, indeed, have required miraculous power to unite the widely-differing sects under one Confession of Faith. John Zelivsky, the ruling power among the lower classes, although a fanatic and a demagogue, was the only one who succeeded in keeping up a semblance of concord between the Taborites and the Hussites of Prague. This was so difficult a task that even he was at times put to his wit’s end, and obliged to resort to stratagem and intrigue to accomplish his purpose.

By means of a stratagem, Zelivsky succeeded in consolidating the governments of the Old Town and New Town, and then, asking the people if they did not desire the same unity in the Church, he so intimidated the Calixtines that the Taborite worship was established also in Prague.

Shortly after, the Synod met in Prague. All the influential priests and theologians of the kingdom were present, and many excellent measures were decided upon and recommended; but, in absence of any strong government, all such recommendations remained a dead letter.


While the Diet was in session at Caslau, the princes of Silesia raised an army of 20,000 men, and invaded Bohemia in the neighborhood of Nachod. They tried to make the Hussites weary of the war by making it as fearful as possible. The unarmed inhabitants of the villages were murdered without mercy; many of them had their limbs hacked off, and were left to perish miserably.

At the request of the people near Meis, an army was sent from Prague to compel the towns of that neighborhood to accept the “Four Articles.” The Battle of Brux.Several monasteries were taken and burned; and, on July 21st, the town of Bilin fell into the hands of the Hussites. The whole neighborhood was soon in their hands, except the strong fortress near the city of Brux. The garrison defended themselves with much valor; but re-enforcements coming to the besiegers, all seemed lost, and the unfortunate people begged that they might be permitted to leave the fortress with their lives. This request would have been granted but for a certain fanatical priest, who declared it would be the height of folly to let them escape, so that they could take up arms again in another place; but that, since God had delivered them into their hands, they should be dealt with as the elders saw fit.

This priest, however, wrongly interpreted the will of God. A strong force, coming to the assistance of the besieged, fell upon the over-confident Hussites with such impetuosity that they were completely routed. Those that were taken prisoners were burned without mercy.

When the news of this disaster reached Prague, there was great mourning and weeping. The priests bemoaned the cruel conduct of their brethren, and in their sermons showed that Almighty God had sent this as a punishment upon them. When at first they had fought with humility, showing mercy, success smiled upon them everywhere; but now, when the brethren had become degenerate, fighting more for plunder than for the truth, robbing the poor of their possessions and murdering their neighbors with more cruelty than the heathen. God had become angry, and had sent this calamity upon them. Therefore it behooved them to repent, in order that God should turn away his wrath and again receive them into his favor.

A greater calamity even than this befell the Hussites shortly after. While Žižka was besieging the fortress of Rabi, in July, he lost his second eye, and so became totally blind. The news of this caused great sorrow among the people; for Žižka was unquestionably the ablest general in the army, one that it would not be easy to replace. But as soon as the wound healed up, the great chief, not at all disheartened, returned to his men, taking charge of the army as before. Indeed, it seemed that, with physical blindness, his spiritual insight became all the clearer; for the victories he gained after this were more brilliant than those he gained before. He was conducted to the field of battle in a car that was kept close to the principal standards of his army, and everything relating to the locality of the place, the strength and position of the enemy being explained to him by his lieutenants, he gave his orders accordingly. By this means he was enabled to command his army and to perform the most skillful strategic movements, almost as well as while he had his eyesight.


As Sigmund was still engaged in the war against the Turks, the German princes held a Diet, where they agreed themselves to continue the crusade against Bohemia.

Being urged, both by the emperor and the Pope, to spare no pains in their preparation, they raised an army of 200,000, and prepared to invade the country from the west near the city of Eger. Among the distinguished personages at the head of the army were the five electors, the Archbishops of Mayence, of Kolin, and Treves, and many of the princes of the empire. As Sigmund expected soon to end the Turkish war, he agreed to invade the country from Moravia, while the allies came in from the opposite direction.

Before beginning the march, the soldiers received orders to give no quarter, but to destroy utterly all heretics, except little children who as yet were too young to understand such things. This order was literally obeyed, the troops murdering every Bohemian they met, since Bohemian and heretic were supposed to be synonymous terms.

The first encounter between the crusaders and the Hussites was at Zatetz, where there was gathered a large number of people, The Battle of Zatetz.who had fled from their homes at the approach of the invaders. The city was protected by a force of 6,000 men, among whom was a division of 600 cavalry. The allies made several attempts to capture the city, but were repulsed each time. After a siege of several days, news came that re-enforcements from Prague were coming to the assistance of the besieged. This, at its best, could have accomplished little against the vast army of the crusaders, had not their power been weakened by dissensions. As at the siege of Prague, each petty prince was restless under the command of another, whom he regarded in no way superior to himself; consequently there was no unity of action, without which an army can not win success. Then, too, the troops were disheartened by the unsuccessful attacks upon the city. When, therefore, the news came that the Prague army was coming under the command of Žižka, who had never yet lost a battle, the crusaders were seized with a panic, and, setting fire to their camps, fled in wild disorder. The besieged, seeing this, sallied out, pursued the flying enemy, killing large numbers, and bringing many prisoners into the city.

The German princes attributed this defeat to Sigmund’s failure to co-operate with them, as had been agreed; but the common soldiers themselves mocked the cowardice of their leaders, saying that they were possessed of so great a hatred for the faithless Bohemians that they not only refused to meet them, but would not even look into their faces.

It would almost seem incredible that so vast an army should be defeated by so small a force; and that not in one instance, but in many. But the reason for this is not strange. The Bohemians were upon their own territory, fighting for their homes, their country, and their religion, It often happened that their wives and children were in the camp with them, so that defeat meant death to those they held most dear, and, generally, suffering and insults worse than death.

The crusaders, on the other hand, had no such interests at stake. Their wives and children were safe at home. Many of them were fighting for a principle that they only half believed, and many more merely for the plunder they hoped to gain. Defeat, therefore, did not mean much to them—a little disgrace that could easily be attributed to the lack of ability of their commanders.


One of the things that the Diet of Caslau did in regard to providing a permanent government for the country, was to send an embassy to Poland, offering the crown of Bohemia to the ruler of that country. This, however, was not the sole aim of the embassy, the Bohemians wished to form an alliance of friendship with the northern and northeastern Slavonic nations. The messengers asked nothing more than the freedom of the “Four Articles,” and they had hopes that this condition would be accepted, since these nations in their practice were already Utraquists.

Vladislav, the King of Poland, fearing to offend the Pope, refused the proffered crown; but his nephew, Vitold, the Duke of Lithuania, anxious to form an alliance that would strengthen him against the inroads of the Prussians, not heeding the wishes of his uncle, himself began to treat with the messengers, if possible, to secure the crown for his own country.

Hearing of these negotiations, Sigmund determined to make an end of them. He therefore sent messengers to the Polish court, offering his twelve-year old daughter Elizabeth to the king, who was a widower; and, when objections were made to her extreme youth, Sophia, the widow of King Václav, was substituted in her place, with a wedding dowry of the whole of Silesia. This marriage, however, never took place, the messengers sent to negotiate the final arrangements being captured by the Hussites. The Bohemian embassy was also captured on its way home, the attendants being all put to death, and the ambassadors cast into prison, where they remained until redeemed the following year.


While the allies were retreating from Zatetz, Sigmund was preparing to invade the country from the south. His army numbered 80,000, and was under the command of the great Italian general, Pipa of Ozora. Having formed an alliance with Albert, the Duke of Austria, that prince came to his assistance with a force of 12,000 men.

With so large an army, commanded by so great a general, for some time success crowned every undertaking. In Moravia, city after city fell into the emperor’s hands, and Prague began to fear the threatening danger. Yet, in the very face of destruction, the people could not lay aside their religious dissensions, which at times led them into acts of barbarous cruelty. Their lawless proceedings so embittered the nobles that many of them deserted the popular cause, returning in their allegiance to the emperor. Among these the most noted were Ulric of Rosenberg, and Čenek of Wartenberg. The authorities of Prague sent a small army against Sigmund, which accomplished nothing, being disappointed in the aid it expected from the renegade noblemen.

In this critical moment, Brother Žižka, as he was commonly called, again proved the best friend of the country. At the call of Prague, he immediately repaired to the city with as large an army as he could muster. As soon as the report spread that Žižka was coming, the bells were rung, and processions were formed that went out to meet him, as if he were a general already returning from a glorious campaign. He remained in the city a few days, discussing with the authorities how best to meet the coming danger, and equipping his army for the campaign. December 8th he started for Kuttenberg, where he intended to await the Imperial army. The Prague army, under its own leader, followed him the next day.

The war that now followed between Sigmund and the Hussites was one of the most interesting of that age. Never before had it been so clearly shown how a small army, actuated by high moral principles and commanded by an able general, was able to cope with vastly superior forces. Sigmund had a well-disciplined, splendidly-equipped army, accustomed to fighting, at least three times as large as that of the Hussites, and commanded by the renowned General Pipa, of Ozora. Both men and generals, therefore, went to the scene of action fully confident that now, at last, the power of heretics in Bohemia would be forever broken.

In the campaign the Hussites had not only to compete with vastly superior forces, but, what was even worse, with treachery. When Žižka arrived at Kuttenberg, he was received with every appearance of joy, which, however, was only feigned. It will be remembered how kindly the miners had been treated by the Hussites the year previous; this kindness they now rewarded with the blackest ingratitude. A plot was formed to murder all the Hussites. When, therefore, the Hussite army left the city to go out to meet the Imperial forces, the work of destruction began. The miners and other Catholics fell upon the unsuspecting people, and ruthlessly massacred all who could not give the word agreed upon, not even sparing helpless women and little children. They were aided in this bloody work by the soldiers of Sigmund, who had, through treachery, found means to enter into the city. With the loss of the city, Žižka found himself cut off from all means of obtaining provisions, and, after several unimportant actions, he got so hedged in by the Imperial forces that his army was in great danger of being cut to pieces by the enemy. By great exertion he succeeded in keeping up the spirits of his troops, and finally, by a daring strategic move, he succeeded in extricating his army from its critical position.

Seeing that his army was not sufficiently strong to cope with the Imperial forces, Žižka appealed to the people to send him re-enforcements. This appeal was so promptly responded to that, in a short time, he was prepared to meet the enemy. Sigmund, confident of victory, was spending the holidays in Kuttenberg, thinking he could attack and defeat the Hussites at his leisure. On the 6th of January (1422), Žižka returned and attacked the Hungarians with such impetuosity that they were thrown into disorder and fled in all directions.

Sigmund, fearing lest his own army should fall into the hands of the Hussites, prepared to leave the city; and to prevent the Hussites from using it as a means of protection, he ordered the people to move out, and then set it afire. But the Hussites came in time to put out the fire, and thus a large part of the city was saved.

The Hussites, mindful of the atrocities committed by the miners and the Hungarians, were so eager for revenge that they could not be restrained from pursuing the enemy, who were marching to German Brod. While the Hungarian cavalry were crossing the River Sazava, the ice gave way, and many perished in the river. Five hundred wagons filled with clothing, money, jewels, and provisions, fell into the hands of Žižka.

At German Brod another fierce battle was fought, and again the Royalists were defeated. The women and children were ordered to leave the city, and all the men were put to the sword, and the city burned to the ground. It remained seven years without an inhabitant. After these reverses, Sigmund retired to Moravia, having lost some 12,000 men.

The wholesale slaughter of the men at German Brod did not meet the approval of Žižka. It offended both his religious feelings and was a direct violation of his principles of warfare; consequently he never ceased to regret it to the day of his death. He would call his troops to German Brod “to do penance in the place where they had sinned.”

After the battle of German Brod the Hussite army returned to Prague, where there had been great troubles on account of the religious dissensions, caused mostly by John Zelivsky and his followers.

The presence of so many Utraquist lords, and especially of Žižka, led the moderate citizens to hope that something might be done to free them from the bondage to the fanatics. The people of the Old Town were mostly moderate Utraquists, while those of the New Town were extreme Taborites, or followers of John Zelivsky. After many violent demonstrations and stormy debates, it was finally agreed that the officers of the city should resign, and new ones be elected in their places. After the new aldermen were installed into office, four priests were appointed to manage the religious affairs of the city. These were Jacobek, Peter Payne the Englishman, John Cardinal, and John Zelivsky. All matters of faith were to be referred to this committee, and those refusing to submit to their decision were to be driven from the city, and if still obstinate, to suffer capital punishment. Peace being restored, Žižka retired to Tabor.

When the new aldermen were elected it was found that the Utraquists were in the majority; so, taking advantage of this, they determined to redress some of the wrongs they had endured under the despotic rule of Zelivsky. Being violently opposed by that priest, they decided that it would be for the good of the community to put him forever out of the way. To accomplish their design they resorted to treachery. They invited him and some of his friends to the Old Town City Hall, saying that they wished to consult with them on some important matters. Suspecting no evil, they came. After the pretended consultation, the executioners entered the room, and, without any explanation, took possession of the prisoners. Zelivsky did not seem to be alarmed, and, with great presence of mind, begged the aldermen to reconsider the matter, since such an act could not but entail serious consequences. But they were obstinate in their folly, and ordered the executioners to take the prisoners into the court and behead them immediately.

The City Council had taken every precaution that no riot should arise from this. The hall was well guarded, and troops had been stationed in all the public squares. But the bloody deed did not long remain a secret. The blood being washed away, some of the water flowed beneath the wall into the street and told the dreadful tale. The whole city was in an uproar; the bells rang the alarm; the constantly-swelling crowd rolled towards the Town Hall like the waves of the ocean. Hasek of Wallenstein, with a force of several hundred men, went among the people, trying to quiet them by telling them that nothing had happened to their priest. They demanded, if all were well, that his person should be immediately produced, and when he began to make excuses, they called him a traitor and a murderer, and would have torn him to pieces upon the spot had he not succeeded in galloping off through the crowd and saving himself by flight. The aldermen fled through the back passages of the hall, and the guards followed their example. The people, breaking into the hall and going into the court, soon found the bodies of their murdered friends. The head of their beloved pastor was recognized, taken out, and exhibited to the multitude. At the sight of this ghastly spectacle, their grief knew no bounds. Some wept, some tore their hair, some fainted from agony, and some relieved their feelings by frightful curses and imprecations against the perpetrators of the deed. The head was passed from one to another until it remained in the hands of a certain priest, who carried it about on a platter, his own grief being so great that he could not utter a word. It is needless to add that the aldermen were hunted down and put to death without mercy. It had been well had they listened to the warning words of their victim. Not only did they lose their own lives, but the evil they brought upon the city was worse than that which they had tried to redress. For many days the mob ruled the city unhindered, and finally restored the very government that had been overthrown with so much difficulty. Then the death of John Zelivsky was a serious loss to the Hussites. Although a great fanatic, he was the only one capable of acting as a mediator between the Taborites and the people of Prague, which, in times of peril, proved of incalculable value.


The defeat of the Imperial army at Kuttenberg and at German Brod had the effect of breaking up the alliance between Vladislav, the King of Poland, and the emperor. The Polish king now gave his cousin, Vitold of Lithuania, permission to accept the crown of Bohemia, which he did, not in his own person, but in behalf of his nephew, Sigmund Corvinus. Being a devoted Catholic, he sent letters to the Pope explaining and justifying his conduct. He begged His Holiness to remove the interdict from Bohemia, and to treat the people with kindness; for he felt assured that most of them were now anxious and ready to return into the bosom of the Church; that it was only in this hope that he accepted the crown for his nephew Corvinus.

Sigmund Corvinus was a young man of much promise. Wise and thoughtful beyond his years, he added to great amiability of manner, energy of will and warlike valor. Besides this, he had always cherished a sincere love for the Bohemian people. The Bohemians were rejoiced that such a king was to rule over them, and felt greatly encouraged to have their independence of the emperor acknowledged by another State.

Sigmund Corvinus raised an army of 6,000 volunteers, and marched into Moravia by way of Silesia. The emperor, hearing of his approach, and believing his army much larger than it really was, became alarmed, and retreated into Hungary, burning the camps and destroying the fortifications behind him. Sigmund Corvinus’s first attack was upon Olmutz, where he was repulsed with a loss of 500 cavalry. Thence he went against the town of Unicov, which soon surrendered. Here he took the Lord’s Supper in both kinds, to show that he accepted in good faith the “Four Articles of Prague.” A Diet was called at Caslau, where he was formally accepted King of Bohemia. He then went to Prague, where he was received with many public demonstrations of joy.

The people that awaited the Polish prince with some misgivings were the followers of John Zelivsky; for they instinctively felt that he would ally himself with the moderate party and so deprive them of their regained prestige. And their fears were not unfounded. Although the young king was very prudent, and avoided interfering in any of the established customs of the country, he soon discovered that if peace and order were to be maintained, the city government must be in the hands of the more moderate citizens. The aldermen, perceiving that the more influential people were taking sides with the king, finally resigned, and a better class of men were appointed in their places.

To aid the authorities in securing and keeping order, the king issued a series of regulations by which the city was to be governed.

It was declared that the year of Jubilee had come; therefore it was the duty of all to become reconciled with each other, that past offenses were to be forgotten, and the exiled called back. Both the king’s troops and those of Prague were strictly forbidden to play checkers and other games, to swear or use improper language, and to quarrel. Should any one so far forget himself as to draw his sword, he was to lose his hand; and if he wounded another, his head was to pay the forfeit. The inkeepers were forbidden, under penalty of death, to keep women of loose character.

Another regulation referred to the coinage of money. This was strictly forbidden in all places except Prague and Kuttenberg, in which cities were kept the royal mints of the country.

It seems that a great deal of poor currency was afloat. An old writer speaks of this as follows: “In the year 1421, they made the groschen out of chalices and monstrances, and called them ‘chalicelets;’ and later, when they lacked silver, they made money from brass with the royal stamp, and these they called ‘flutelets;’ and they made money from kettles, candlesticks, and other brass utensils; and they made these brass flutelets in the fortresses, in the beer saloons, in the gardens, and in the villages, and they made so many that everybody had enough. And then, when the peopie refused to take the money, they wrung their hands, being deprived of their estates.”


While Sigmund Corvinus was still in Moravia, he sent a letter to Žižka ordering him not to pillage the country any more, but to show his obedience to his king. As Žižka was one of the most disinterested generals the world had ever seen, and on several occasions had really rescued his country from imminent destruction, the tone as well as the contents of this letter greatly offended him, and the reply he sent was written in a similar spirit. The king, seeing his mistake, changed about face, and soon a complete reconciliation was effected between himself and his illustrious chief. After that Žižka wrote to the people of Prague as follows:

“With God’s help, Amen!

“May it please you to hear, Lords and Brethren, that we, together with the Taborite brethren, have accepted his Princely Grace as our helper and the chief ruler of this realm. We desire to grant His Grace willing obedience; and, with God’s grace, in all lawful measures to be helpful to him. We also beg you, that henceforth ye lay aside all anger, ill-will, and hatred, and finally forgive each other, so that ye can honestly pray: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ But if ye still refuse to do this, quarreling among yourselves and raising riots, then know that after this day, we, with God’s help, together with His Grace our King, and with the help of all the faithful, mean to see to it that due vengeance is meted out, let the offender be whosoever he will. . . . See to it that ye obey the authorities, and love each other as one man; for then God will be with us and his holy grace, and he will grant us success in eyery good undertaking.

Brother John of the Chalice.”

The reconciliation between Sigmund Corvinus and Žižka was so sincere, that they addressed each other by the titles of father and son; but all the Taborite chiefs were not so magnanimous, and from this trouble came later.


As soon as peace and good order were established in the city of Prague, the king determined to lay siege to Carlstein. This fortress, built by Charles IV, was situated upon a precipitous height, and built so strong as to be impregnable to all the engines of war then in use. Here were kept the crown, crown jewels, and many valuable documents. The Bohemians wanted to get possession of these for their new king; for they did not know that Sigmund had carried them out of the country.

The garrison consisted of goo men, and the besiegers numbered 25,000; but, although they exhausted all the known methods of attack, they could not compel the fortress to surrender. Finally a truce was made for a year. The garrison were permitted to open their gates to the emperor should he come, but not to render him any assistance against the Hussites.

The year 1422 was very unfortunate for the Hussites. Not only did the soldiers fail in all their undertakings, but another serious misfortune befell the country. Vladislav, the King of Poland, had no rest from his priests until they induced him to break up the alliance with Bohemia. Entering into a treaty with the emperor, he ordered his cousin of Lithuania to recall Sigmund Corvinus. The young king was very loath to leave the throne that he had ascended so auspiciously, and he tarried as long as possible; and when he was at last obliged to go, he expressed his sincere regret, and also the hope that his departure should be only temporary. In this hope the Bohemian people were disappointed; for the Polish king not only agreed to recall Sigmund Corvinus permanently, but even raised an army to aid the Emperor Sigmund against the Bohemians.

This same year the German princes met at Nuremberg, and agreed to fit out a third crusade against Bohemia. Coming to the conclusion that the cause of their previous failures were too many chiefs, they decided to place the command of the army into the hands of a single general, and selected for this purpose Frederick the Margrave of Brandenburg. But when the time came to begin the march, so few princes had responded to the call, that now, indeed, there was but one general but no army, as before there had been a great army but no general, or rather so many generals that their mutual jealousies fustrated all unity of action.


The crusade of 1423 having failed, the Bohemians were left unmolested; but this very security seems to have been the means of awakening the old hostilities between the parties. After the departure of Sigmund Corvinus, Prague was governed by Sir Hasek of Wallenstein, and William Kostka of Postupitz. Both of these were zealous Hussites, who desired to go further in religious innovations than most of the masters of the university, and for a while it seemed that they would hold the same position that John Zelivsky did—be the mediators between the Calixtines and the Taborites; but the old friendship could no longer be maintained, since the former, especially those belonging to the nobility, leaned more and more to the Catholics. Finally an open rupture occurred between the parties. Just how it came about is not recorded by any writer of those times; but in the spring of 1423, Žižka carried on a war against the Calixtine lords, and the people of Prague against the Taborites. Among the disaffected lords was Čenek of Wartenberg, who changed sides for the third time. He was at the head of a conspiracy among the noblemen, who were plotting to destroy the power of the Taborites, and then, after some sort of understanding about the “Four Articles,” accept Sigmund as their king. Žižka, secing that by such a proceeding all that had thus far been gained would be lost, could not, as a faithful “soldier of God,” suffer this to go on unhindered. In April, a battle was fought between him and Čenek of Wartenberg, in which that nobleman met with a disastrous defeat.

At the same time the Pragites, together with some of the Royalists, were besieging the Taborites in their fortress of Krizenetz, not far from Wozitz; but after remaining near it for several weeks, they gave up the siege, having met with more damage than they were able to inflict upon the enemy.

Delegates from all parties finally met at Konopist, and some sort of a peace was patched up. How much the dogmas of religion were mixed up in the events of this war, is shown by the fact that in this treaty it was decided that vestments in religious service were the ordinance of the Church, and not one of the commands of the Scripture; hence they were not obligatory. Still, to show their good-will, some of the Taborite priests served mass with vestments, and some of the Calixtines without them.


In the fall of 1423, Žižka invaded Moravia. Not meeting with much opposition, he took village afler village, until he got to the boundaries of Hungary. The Hungarians, it seems, did little to hinder his march; for they hoped to inveigle him farther and farther into their territory until he should be so far that they could cut off his retreat and utterly destroy his army. But the wary chief recollected himself before it was too late, and then there began one of the most masterly retreats known in history. His camp, composed of several hundred wagons, with considerable artillery, began to move back to Moravia, going across rivers, forests, mountains, and being constantly harassed by the pursuing enemy. The Hungarians, determined not to let their prey escape them under any circumstances, made many fierce attacks; but being repulsed each time, they finally declared that Žižka was no man, but the very devil himself.

Meanwhile, the people of Prague, with some Utraquist lords, were again discussing the advisability of coming to some understanding with Sigmund. This, however, caused so much bitterness among the parties that civil war was the result. The reaction among the Pragites seemed so utterly wicked to the Taborites, who could not endure the thought of making any compromise with “Antichrist,” that in their zeal to appear loyal to their convictions, they became intolerably fanatical, so that Žižka himself could bear it no longer, and left Tabor, making his home among the Horebites, a more moderate branch of the Taborites, whose seat was at Königgratz. By this act, however, he did not resign his position as commander-in-chief of their armies

The year 1424 was the last and also the bloodiest of Žižka’s life. All the old chronicles agree that he did nothing but give his nation one cruel blow after another. By shifting their faith, the Calixtines had aroused his suspicions. He regarded them as hypocrites, and as such they were more hateful to him than open enemies. Žižka divided people into three classes: sincere Christians, open enemies of God and the truth, and insincere Christians, or hypocrites. The last he regarded with a most deadly hatred. He wanted all Bohemians to belong to the first class, and he thought it his duty to do all in his power to exterminate all hypocrites, or, as he called them, the enemies of God. However cruel he was, he was not selfish, his single purpose being at all times the good of his nation. He was exasperated the more against the Utraquist lords by receiving a warning that they had hired an assassin to murder him for a reward of 2,400 groschen.

In January, 1424, Žižka marched against the Utraquist lords and defeated them at Skalitz near Jarmirn. But some time after he was surrounded by them in Kosteletz, and, doubtless, would have been cut to pieces had not his friends come to his rescue. From Kosteletz, Žižka retreated towards Kuttenberg, pursued by an overwhelming force of the enemy. Finally, finding a favorable position near Malesov, he fortified himself with his wagons, and awaited the enemy. The description of this battle gives such an excellent idea of his mode of warfare that it will be given verbatim:

“Žižka, with his wagons, betook himself to a certain elevation, and shutting himself up, awaited the enemy, who were pursuing him in the belief that he was retreating before them. The commanders gave the order for attack even before all their troops had come up.

“Žižka prepared for battle in the following manner: The wagons were placed wheel to wheel, and the sections were ordered to take their positions; first the cavalry, and then the infantry. Then several provision-wagons were separated from the rest, and filled with stones, and placed in the midst of the cavalry so that they could not be seen. When about half of the enemy had crossed the valley, the signal for attack was given to the cavalry, while the infantry regulated the motion of the wagons. As soon as the enemy was near enough, the wagons were ordered to be let down upon them, and these wagons coming down broke their ranks. At this moment the cannon, were fired and the rest of the troops rushed to the assault. Against this mode of warfare the usual military tactics were found to be useless, for the retreating troops, meeting with the rest, pushed them back before them in confusion. And thus Žižka won the battle, and the arms, wagons and provisions; and this while he was blind in both eyes.”

Among the persons of note that had fallen in this battle is mentioned Andrew of Dub, Žižka’s son-in-law, and this is the only record that gives any intimation that he had a son-in-law, who belonged to the nobility.

After this battle, Žižka turned against Kuttenberg, which he captured without much difficulty. By this victory he deprived the city of Prague of its chief source of income. From Kuttenberg he went to Kaurim, then to Bohemian Brod, and finally to Nimburg, all these cities surrendering without much opposition. Leaving these cities, Žižka went to attack Pilsen, but the people had made such ample preparations for their defense that he was obliged to raise the siege without accomplishing anything.

The continual dissensions among the Bohemians would have wrought their ruin had not similar dissensions kept the German princes from any united action against them. Indeed, Sigmund was charged with lukewarmness in putting down Hussitism in Bohemia, and some went so far as to charge him with leaning to it himself. On January 17, 1424, the electors met in Bingen, and agreed that they could dispense with an emperor, that the imperial scepter could be held by each alternately.

The news of this agreement filled Sigmund with wrath, and he decided to ask for no further aid of the treacherous princes, but to seek to cement yet more closely the friendship between himself, the Duke of Austria, and Vladislav of Poland. For this reason he repaired with his whole court to Cracow, where preparations were made for extirpating all heresy both in Bohemia and Poland.


At the urgent but secret requests of the Bohemian lords, Sigmund Corvinus finally broke his promises to the Polish king, and returned to Prague June 29, 1424. He had an army of 1,500 cavalry, all volunteers, among them many who had deserted from the ranks of Vladislav’s regiment that he intended to send to the aid of the emperor.

The news of this filled the Polish king with rage and grief, and he ordered the estates of his nephew to be immediately confiscated to the crown. But what caused him the bitterest sorrow was that, notwithstanding all his lamentations and protestations, the European nations refused to believe that he had not been privy to the act. When, therefore, he sent a force of 5,000 men to Moravia to aid the Imperial army, they were sent back by the Duke of Austria, who feared that the cause might be hindered rather than aided by them.

Prince Sigmund Corvinus, coming to Prague not backed by any authority, was no longer regarded as a “king called and chosen,” but merely as a private individual, whose noble qualities had greatly endeared him to the people. The people of Prague, however, chose him as a sort of governor (Starosta), but his authority did not extend beyond the limits of the city.

At this time, Albert, the Duke of Austria, was carrying on a vigorous war in Moravia with such success that soon he had the whole country in his power.


When Žižka raised the siege of Pilsen, he went to Zatetz, from thence to Laun and Klatov, and gathering a large army in these cities, he determined to march against Prague itself, since it seemed to him the chief obstacle to the spread of the gospel, and was, moreover, the seat of the unfaithful nobles, who were constantly trying to make an alliance with the enemies of God. It was reported that he intended to destroy the city utterly, not leaving one stone upon another.

Although the soldiers were devotedly attached to him, still they felt very reluctant to attack a city that from the earliest times had been venerated as the “Mother of Bohemia,” and they did not hesitate to express their dissatisfaction in loud murmurings. The citizens of Prague were filled with apprehension and terror, and earnest discussions were held in all parts of the city how best to meet the threatening danger. Finally, envoys were sent both from the City Council and from Sigmund Corvinus to treat with the offended chief and dissuade him from his purpose. Among the envoys was Master John of Rokycan, a man distinguished for his learning and eloquence, and—what had the greatest weight with Žižka—a man of unquestionable sincerity. By appealing to all that was noble, Rokycan finally succeeded in turning him from this design. He was probably aided in the attempt by the common danger that threatened them from Moravia. A treaty of peace was made, the violation of which was to cost either party 12,000 kopas[3] Prague groschen. Žižka, however, did not have much faith in the treaty, for he remarked that he feared it would not last any longer than the peace of Konopist made the previous year.

The Hussites, again united, began to make preparations to go against the enemy in Moravia. The army was in three divisions—Žižka with his Taborites, Sigmund Corvinus with the Pragites, and the army of several lords who had joined the expedition. An old chronicler says: “When they reached the borders of Moravia and turned to attack the fortress of Pribeslav, they were met by an enemy that even the invincible blind chief could not withstand. Not far from this fortress, Brother John Žižka was taken ill of the plague, and exhorting his dear brethren to fear God and defend the truth for an eternal reward, and commending his soul to God, Žižka ended his life the Wednesday before St. Havel’s Day (October 11th). The body was taken to Königgratz and buried by the side of the main altar in the Church of the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, it was taken to Caslace, and placed in the Church of St. Peter and Paul.”

The Taborites, especially those of Horeb, mourned for Žižka as though he had been a father to them all.
As they could find no one worthy to take his place, they remained without any chief, and afterwards went by the name of Orphans.


John Žižka, or rather John of Trotznov, was born at Trotznov, in the circle of Bechyn. He began his public life as a page of the Emperor Charles IV, and afterwards followed a military career, serving in the armies of Poland. There he distinguished himself on many occasions, particularly at the battle of Tannenberg, in 1410, where the German knights were defeated. Returning to his native land, he became chamberlain to King Václav. The insult offered the Bohemian nation by the burning of Hus at Constance made a deep impression upon his mind, and, brooding over how the wrong might be avenged, he embraced the first opportunity to take sides with the people against the hierarchy of Rome, and finally became the great champion of Hussitism. Indeed, without Žižka there would have been no Hussitism; the adherents of the new doctrine would have been crushed out like the Waldenses before them.

Žižka was a fanatic, but he was more than a fanatic; he was an enthusiast for the law of God, for human liberty and equality. The principles advocated by the Taborite branch of the Hussites were such as would have ultimately led to a pure democracy. Žižka hated feudalism, and one of his aims was to destroy all social distinctions based on birth. For this reason he loved not the Germans; for he saw in them the friends of castes and the enemies of democracy. He was an ardent Slavonian, because at this time the Slavonic nations still retained many of their primitive democratic institutions.

Žižka was not ambitious. The chief leader of the Taborites, he was never called by any other name than Brother John of the Chalice. He cared not for wealth, for government, nor for glory.

The historian, Æneas Sylvius, says that the Emperor Sigmund, seeing that whatever Žižka undertook prospered, and that the eyes of all Bohemians were turned to him, conceived that it would be well to become reconciled to him and bend him to his will.

He therefore offered him the government of the country, the chief command of his army, and a large sum of money, in consideration of which he was to help him to regain the crown of Bohemia. But Sigmund had mistaken his man—Žižka cared nothing for all these things. Had he been desirous of wealth, he could have obtained it without the help of Sigmund. In the numerous victories he had won over the Imperial army, he had secured rich spoils; but all this he used for the public good, keeping nothing for his own use. His brother, Jaroslav, remained a common page, and his Aunt Anna was so poor that she was obliged to accept support from the city of Prague.

Some have denied Žižka all literary culture, but this is a great mistake. As every one in the camp of the Taborites could read and write, it is not at all probable that the leader alone was illiterate. The well-known hymn that the Taborites used to sing when going to battle—“Ye Warriors of the Lord”—was believed to have been composed by him, which shows that he was a scholar of no mean ability.

As regards religious belief, he was not so fanatical as most of the Taborites. Had he had his own way, the religious reform in Bohemia would not have gone to such lengths, but would have stopped with the doctrines advanced by Hus, and there would have been less argument and more practical piety. With him religion, piety, and goodness were synonymous terms, and he could not conceive of a person being irreligious and yet good and noble. As for himself, he was disinterested in all his dealings, perfectly sincere and upright, true to a given promise, magnanimous at times to an open enemy, but unrelenting in his severity against all half-hearted hypocrites. At times he was very cruel; but the age was cruel, and often he merely followed the example set by the more cruel enemy.

As a warrior he belonged to that small number of generals who, having fought in many battles large and small, never met with a defeat. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that, as a rule, he had to fight against fearful odds, the enemy being larger in numbers, better disciplined, and better equipped,

The blindness of Žižka had this advantage for the Bohemians: his military skill passed to a considerable extent to his lieutenants. Compelled to see through their eyes, he taught them to observe very closely all the advantages that nature offered, or those that could be gained by a judicious division and arrangement of the forces. Doubtless it was the skill and experience thus gained that enabled them to withstand the attacks of the enemy after his death.

The death of Žižka seemed an irretrievable loss both to the Taborites and Calixtines. Indeed, the whole nation was filled with dismal forebodings, while the enemy rejoiced that now at last had come the time for the humiliation of Bohemia and the extermination of all heresy. ’T is true, with the death of Žižka, the power of Hussitism was forever broken, as well as the growing principles of democracy crushed out. Yet Palacky remarks that the death of this great chief must be regarded as a favorable incident, since it relieved the country of a leader who would have continued a bloody war for a principle that had not sufficient basis in the minds of the people. The Taborites were in the minority, and their democratic principles, both in society and religion, could not have withstood the constant pressure of feudalism.


After the death of Žižka, the war was still carried on, although earnest efforts for a reconciliation were made from time to time. Sigmund Corvinus, especially, tried hard to pour oil upon the troubled waters. For some time the Bohemians believed that a reconciliation would be effected, since they were willing to make many concessions. But they had yet to learn that Rome never advanced; that they must re-establish the old state of affairs, or she would never make peace with them.

Although the Orphans of Mount Horeb had said they would choose no commander, since they could find no one worthy to succeed Žižka, they soon found that a chief was indispensable, so they chose Kunes of Belovitz. The leader of the Taborites was John Hvezda of Vicemelitz, aided by such able men as Bohuslav of Swamberg, John Rohac of Dub, and the two priests, Prokop the Tonsured, or the Great, and Prokop the Small.

The campaign in Moravia was continued under the leadership of Sigmund Corvinus. Some advantage was gained; but, owing to dissensions in the camp, nothing of importance could be accomplished. When the campaign in Moravia ended, the Pragites again began to wage war against the Taborites. The latter marched against Prague; but, aside from gaining some small towns, their undertaking was fruitiess of results.

In 1425, their great leader, Hvezda of Vicemelitz, was mortally wounded; but, about the same time, the Calixtines also lost an able leader in Čenek of Wartenberg. Finally, the tide being greatly in favor of the Brethren, as the Taborites and Orphans were called, twenty-two lords and knights made a truce with them, agreeing to give the freedom of the “Four Articles” upon their estates.


The event at Radkov is a small but graphic illustration of some of the peculiarities of the mode of warfare in those days. The Orphans, besieging the town of Radkov in the circuit of Kladrau, broke down the wall and entered the town. The inhabitants set fire to their houses, and took refuge in the large stone mansion of the mayor. The besiegers waited till the fires were down, and then, surrounding the stone house, began to dig under the foundations. This induced the mayor to come down to treat with them. It was agreed that the women and children should be set at liberty, but that in passing out every man would be searched. When this was announced to the people, their priest asked if he and his two chaplains were included in this agreement. To which the mayor replied: “No, indeed, dear Sponsor, the Hussites show no mercy to priests.” Then the priest began to lament, saying: “Alas! how basely ye have beguiled and betrayed me; may God himself pity me! When I wanted to leave you to escape, ye said I should remain; that ye would stand by me, through good and evil, in life or death; that it was not becoming for a shepherd to leave his flock; and, behold, now the flock forsakes its shepherd!” Then the citizens, with tears in their eyes, begged him not to lament, that they would save him yet. “They therefore offered to dress him and his chaplains in women’s clothes, and thus, in disguise, lead them out of the city. But the priest replied to this proposal: “God forbid that I should so far forget my office and dignity! I am a priest, not a woman; but you men, consider how basely ye deliver me to death, saving yourselves!” These protests, however, availed him nothing. The chaplains were dressed as women, and each one given a child to carry. One by one the prisoners then descended the stairs, the men being seized as they passed, and the women and children let go. Thus all escaped, except those who had hidden in the cellars, they being smothered when afterwards the house was set on fire. Now, when all had descended, the pastor remained above with several young men—apprentices—who, having no means wherewith they might redeem themselves, refused to be taken prisoners. But when they saw all their friends surrendering themselves, their heart failed them, and they too went down, delivering themselves into the hands of the enemy. Thus the pastor was left alone with an old country priest. These were then brought down by the soldiers. Their liberty was offered them if they would recant; if not, death by burning was the alternative. The brave priest replied: “God forbid that, in the fear of a short agony, I should betray the holy Christian faith! I taught and preached the truth in Prague and in other towns, and in that truth I am ready to die.” Then they brought bundles of straw, and, fastening them to his body, set it afire, allowing him to stagger hither and thither, till death made an end of his agony. The country priest likewise perished. The disguised chaplains got safe out of the house; but one of the children began to cry, and the chaplain trying to soothe it, was betrayed, and immediately put to death.


While the Hussites were warring among themselves, Sigmund was making every effort to gain the co-operation of the princes of the empire. The Pope also announced new indulgences to those who would join the crusade; but these having been repeated so often, seemed to have greatly deteriorated in value, people refusing to risk their lives for something so intangible. The princes, too, were very dilatory in sending their quota, so that Sigmund felt the necessity of looking elsewhere for help. To induce Albert of Austria to fight with still more energy, he ceded to him still more territory. He also won to his side Frederick the Margrave of Meissen, by the cession of new territory.


Albert of Austria again prepared to invade Moravia. The Bohemians, seeing the threatening danger, laid aside their own quarrels, and Pragites, Taborites, and Orphans united their forces against the common enemy. Albert was driven from Trebitz, which he was besieging. The Hussites then invaded Austria and took the town of Retetz. There they met with a grievous misfortune in the death of one of their best commanders, Bohuslav of Swamberg. His place was taken by Prokop the Great, or, as he was often called, Prokop the Tonsured. Next to Žižka, he proved to be the ablest commander in the Hussite army.

Prokop was the nephew of a wealthy knight and merchant in the city of Prague, who, adopting him as his son, allowed him many privileges, taking him with himself in his travels through several European countries. Upon returning home, he was ordained as a priest. Adopting the most extreme views of the Hussites, he was charged with heresy, and cast into prison. Being released, he went farther in his innovations than most of the Taborites, as is proved by the fact that he took a wife.

As chief of the Taborites, he was only their commander, not a soldier; for he never bore arms and never personally took part in any battle. Like the modern commander-in-chief, he planned the campaigns and the battles, leaving the other generals to carry out his plans.


Early in the spring of 1426 the Bohemians invaded Moravia, and won the town of Breclav, near the Austrian frontier. Then they directed their attention to the northern part of Bohemia, where their enemies were strengthening their positions by the assistance of the Margrave of Meissen, to whom Sigmund had ceded the cities of Aussig and Most (Brux).

After the various divisions of the Bohemian army had gained some smaller towns, all united and began to besiege Aussig. The siege being pressed with much vigor, the citizens became alarmed, and sent couriers in all directions, imploring the towns to send immediate re-enforcements. At this time the princes of the empire were holding a Diet at Nuremberg, hence could not at once respond to the appeal. Still the call was not left unheeded. Katherine, the Duchess of Saxony, in lieu of her absent husband, gathered troops in Saxony, Thuringia, Meissen, and Lusatia, until she had an army of 70,000 men. The Bohemians, hearing of the preparations making against them, also sent messengers to their countrymen, imploring aid, and an army of 25,000 men, commanded by Sigmund Corvinus, came to their assistance. The Taborites were commanded by Prokop the Great.

When the German army reached the borders of Bohemia, Duchess Katherine made them a short but very earnest address, exhorting them not only to valor but also to care and prudence. The two armies met June 6, 1426. An old historian writes as follows:

“When on Sunday morning the Germans were drawing near to Aussig, the Bohemians sent them kind letters, saying: ‘If now God help you that you take us in battle, and if God help us so that we take you, let us show each other the same mercy.’ But the Germans, puffed up by pride, and confident of victory, replied that they would never feed heretics. Receiving this hard answer, the Bohemians took a solemn oath to show mercy to no one.

“Although they were loath to begin the battle on Sunday, they saw that it could not be avoided; and so, falling upon their knees, with great humility they implored the help of God. Prince S. Corvinus went among the soldiers, exhorting them to valor and perseverance.

“Prokop the Great, being the chief in command, ordered the troops to fortify themselves with their wagons, of which they had about 500, and await the onset of the enemy. About noon, during great heat and sultriness, the Germans rushed furiously upon the wagon fortifications and succeeded in overthrowing the first row of wagons. The Bohemians held back until the Germans were well tired out, and then in their turn rushed upon the enemy, doing fearful execution with their heavy flails, and slaughtering large numbers of cavalrymen by tearing them from their horses with their long hooks, and either killing them at once or leaving them to be trampled underfoot. When, by this unexpected onset, the Germans were thrown in disorder, the Bohemians sallied out of their fortifications, attacking them with such fury that they all turned and fled. Then there followed such a slaughter of the enemy that the river flowing to Aussig seemed to flow with blood. But the larger part of the enemy perished in the flight, some from heat, some from dust and thirst, and some being overtaken and slain by their pursuers. The Bohemians kept their oath to show no mercy; for not even the commanders could control the fury of the soldiers. This was the bloodiest battle in the Hussite war, the dead left upon the field numbering about 15,000. The booty taken was so great that the victors in scorn pitied the Saxons, who, in addition to their defeat, incurred the displeasure of the Pope by providing heretics with provisions and munitions of war. The city of Aussig was plundered, set afire, and utterly destroyed, so that for three years it remained without an inhabitant.”

The glorious victory at Aussig had a very unexpected result. The Bohemians, intoxicated with success, relaxed their vigilance, and, instead of following up the victory, began to quarrel among themselves. Prokop the Great insisted that their immediate duty was to follow the enemy into its own territory, and secure some favorable terms of peace. This, however, was opposed by the Pragites, who declared that their forces were not sufficiently strong to carry on an offensive war. The debate waxed so hot that for a while it seemed that the leaders would resort to arms.

The effect of the defeat upon the Germans was just the opposite. At first they were overwhelmed with shame and grief; but they soon roused themselves, and began to plan how they might retrieve their losses. The princes who, at the Diet of Nuremberg, had tried to shift the responsibilities of the war upon the shoulders of their neighbors, now became united, and made vigorous preparations for a new campaign.

Several important engagements now followed, among these being the siege of Breclav, in Moravia. Albert of Austria surrounded the town with a force of 40,000 men, and cutting off all supplies determined to starve it into surrender. When all seemed lost, Prokop the Great suddenly appeared before the city, defeated Albert, and compelled him to retreat with loss and disgrace (November, 1426).

That the cause of the emperor did not look very hopeful is proved by the fact that Ulric of Rosenberg, one of the stanchest of Catholics, made a treaty of peace with the Taborites, and that against the earnest remonstrance of the emperor, who wrote to him as follows: “All good people can see how the Taborites are striving to inveigle you and some other lords into their snares; but, for Heaven’s sake, take counsel together and devise some means of saving yourself without being taken in so shamefully by those knaves.” But Ulric, looking to his own safety, and to the preservation of his estates, gave no heed to these words.


The Polish prince, Sigmund Corvinus, was at all times greatly beloved by the people; but not reading aright the signs of the times, he committed an act of indiscretion, which at once hurled him from the pinnacle of his glory, and almost cost him his life.

After the war had continued so many years and no definite results were secured, the people began to grow weary, and a great reaction set in, in regard to religious matters. The people of Prague spoke with displeasure of the extreme views of the Taborites, and even declared the teachings of Wycliffe heretical. The followers of Hus now began to fear that if the teachings of the English reformer were allowed to fall into disrepute, the same fate would inevitably follow those of their own great teacher; and to prevent such a misfortune a grand disputation was appointed to be held during the Christmas holidays.

The disputation was held before a large concourse of people, among them Prince S. Corvinus. It seems that the opponents of Hussitism had the advantage; for it was shortly after this that that prince determined to bring back the Bohemians into unity with the Church. He therefore fitted out a secret embassy to Pope Martin, telling him that now was a favorable time to bring back the people into the bosom of the Church. The Pope received the news with great joy, and immediately began negotiations with the two uncles of Corvinus, Vitold and Vladislav, to get their co-operation in bringing about the desired result. Prince Sigmund Corvinus, however, overreached himself. When the news of these secret negotiations transpired among the people of Prague, it was found that the reaction was by no means so great as had been supposed.

When Master John Rokycan, then the most popular preacher in Prague, announced from the pulpit of the Teyn Church what had been done, and explained the full significance of the act, the people were roused to the highest pitch of indignation. The fire-bells were rung; the people gathered in the public squares, ready to take up arms against the “traitor Corvinus.” The prince was seized by the city authorities, and for a while imprisoned in the city hall; but later, he was taken to the fortress of Waldstein in Boleslav, where he was kept in close confinement, none of his friends knowing the place of his incarceration. The men who had so ably defended papal sovereignty against Hussitism were exiled from the city, and nothing more was said of going to Rome to beg the Pope’s pardon.

Although the action of Sigmund Corvinus was regarded as treason, yet it must be admitted that that prince had no evil designs against the country. The people were weary of the war, and longed for peace. They would have returned to the bosom of the Church had the Church been willing to make some reasonable concessions. But Rome would hear of nothing but unconditional surrender and unquestioning obedience, and this the Bohemians could not grant without doing violence to all their convictions

The Bohemian leaders now became convinced that, if they would gain anything, it must be gained by compulsion. They therefore decided to turn the streams of blood into the territory of their enemies; to adopt the principle of Rome, “Vexatio dat intellectum,” and extort from the Church what could not be obtained in any other way.

The chief supporter of this policy was the Taborite leader, Prokop the Great. It will be remembered how, after the battle of Aussig, he advised the commanders to follow the enemy into their own territory, but was opposed in this by the more moderate leaders. Had this advice been followed, much bloodshed would have been avoided. Time proved the wisdom of his opinion, and now, by common consent, his policy was adopted, and he was accepted as the commander-in-chief of all the Bohemian armies.

The Taborites and Orphans now had the ascendency, and immediately began to carry war into the enemy’s territory. This they did, not merely to harass the enemy, but to gain plunder, since their army, being mostly composed of the poorer people, was always in need, and now more than at the beginning of the war, since agriculture had so long been entirely neglected.

Invading Austria with a force of 16,000 men, they won a glorious victory at Svetla, gaining much booty, and leaving 9,000 of the enemy upon the battle-field. Then they invaded Silesia and Lusatia, where they secured large quantities of provisions.


The years 1427 and 1428, Sigmund was engaged in the war against the Turks, so that the duty of carrying on the war against the Hussites devolved upon the Pope and the German princes.

The Pope issued a bull declaring another crusade againt Bohemia. He chose as his instrument to carry on the great work, Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, who had recently been made a cardinal. On account of his high position and his uncommon intellectual gifts, the Pope had every reason to hope that he would carry the war to a successful issue. The cardinal took hold of the work with great energy. Taking his retinue and a small army, he traveled through Germany, preaching the crusade against Bohemia with so much zeal and eloquence that soon he had a vast army at his command. The heavily-armed troops numbered 36,000 men; and the light-armed were estimated by some as 80,000, while other writers say 200,000. The armies were commanded by the princes and bishops from all parts of Germany,—from the west, the Princes of the Rhine, Alsace, Switzerland, Suabia, Bavaria, and the Netherlands; from the north, the Dukes of Upper and Lower Thuringia, the Princes of Hesse, Brandenburg, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Pomerania; from the east, those of Silesia, Lusatia, and Prussia; and from the south, Albert of Austria, and the Archbishop of Salzburg.

In the camp of the crusaders the strictest discipline was enforced; in fact, everything possible was done to insure success.

In presence of this terrible danger, the Bohemians again became united, and even some Catholic lords, who had hitherto been the avowed enemies of the Hussites, now joined the standard of Prokop, to help to protect their country against the invading host. But although no efforts were spared to obtain new recruits, the country was so exhausted that an army of only 30,000 men could be raised. July 12th, the army of the Taborites passed through Prague with 300 wagons; the next day they were followed by the Orphans with 200 wagons; and the following day came the main army under Prokop the Great; and then the smaller divisions under the various lords. All these marched toward Pilsen, where they expected to meet the enemy. The crusaders entered Bohemia the month previous, encamping at Eger, Kommotau, and Tachov (Taush).

At first the allies had agreed to invade the country from four directions; but some of the princes failing to be prepared in time, the design was given up, and it was decided to lay siege to the town of Miess. The garrison was under the command of Pribik of Klenov, who was regarded as an invincible warrior, and consequently the town was defended most valiantly. Still it would have been but a question of time when they would have been compelled to surrender, had not the Bohemian army come to their assistance. What now follows would seem incredible, were it not authenticated by trustworthy historians.

When, on the 2d day of August, the Bohemian army was seen approaching Miess, such a panic seized the German troops that they left besieging the town and commenced retreating to Tachov (Taush), which they reached just as the Bishop of Winchester was entering it from another direction. Seeing the retreating troops, he demanded to know the meaning of it. Amazed at such cowardice, he rushed before the flying soldiers, stopped them, and exhorting them to be mindful of their honor, their soul’s salvation, and their God, and unfurling the standard of the Pope, he led them back to the battle. Thus it was that on the fourth of August the German army took its stand at Taush, ready to meet the enemy. But when the Bohemians made their appearance, the heart of the Germans again failed them. Even before the battle commenced, they began to flee in all directions in the wildest confusion. In vain were all the exhortations of the cardinal; in vain did he seize the flag of the empire, and, tearing it into shreds, hurl it at the feet of the commanding princes with frightful curses and imprecations. At last, not wishing to fall himself into the hands of the heretics, he, too, was compelled to seek safety in flight. The Bohemians, pursuing the flying enemy through the forests, killed many thousands of them, and gained immense quantities of spoils. They then turned to besiege Tachov, which, although strongly fortified, was compelled to surrender in a few days. Among the prisoners taken were a number of noblemen, who, upon giving their word of honor that they would not try to escape, were allowed to be at large; but they broke their promise at the first opportunity.

After the surrender of Tachov, the army besieged the fortress of Raupov, whose owner saved himself by agreeing to help the Hussites in the siege of Pilsen.

Pilsen, as of old, defended itself so valiantly, and the fortifications were so strong, that the siege was raised; the Hussites being content with a six-months’ truce, and an agreement to hold public disputations during the Christmas holidays. The Hussites were always eager for a public disputation, and yet, as a rule, such disputations had no other effect than to confirm each party in its old opinions.

Of the two armies that were to invade Bohemia from the east and south, only the one from Silesia kept its agreement. A decisive victory was won over the Orphans at Nachod; but when news reached the German camp of the misfortune at Tachov, nothing more was attempted, and finally this division also entered into the general truce.

The defeat of the Germans at Tachov, and the subsequent failure of the whole crusade, made a deep impression upon the whole of Christendom, and various reasons were given as the cause. Some of the princes in command were charged with treachery; but Cardinal Henry probably found the real cause. He declared that, against the Bohemians, they did not so much need large numbers as a small, well-disciplined and well-organized army under able commanders. A Diet being called at Frankfort, that prelate laid his plans for the subjugation of Bohemia before the princes, and another crusade was immediately declared. The Pope sent a letter of condolence to the cardinal, assuring him of his sympathy, and expressing his perfect confidence in his ability to bring the next crusade to a happy issue.


For some time there was peace in the land, and the friends of Sigmund Corvinus embraced the opportunity to make plans to rescue that prince from his imprisonment. They held in grateful remembrance his devotion to the good of their country, and his misfortune seemed to them the more grievous since they knew not the place of his confinement nor how he fared. Having agreed to do something to rescue him, they broached the subject to some of the more zealous Hussites, and, receiving no encouragement, they turned to the Catholics. A conspiracy was formed in which it was agreed to gain possession of Prague and deliver it into the hands of Sigmund, in consideration of which he was to set the Polish prince at liberty. The plot was well laid, and doubtless would have proved successful had it not been betrayed. William Kostka, of Postupitz, one of the conspirators, could not endure the thought of delivering Prague into the hands of its arch-enemy, and so he revealed the plot to the authorities. When, therefore, the conspirators entered the city with a force of 600 cavalry, and gave the signal “Holy Peace,” instead of meeting with a welcome from their friends, they were surrounded by their enemies. Seeing they were betrayed, they tried to save themselves by flight. About a hundred were slain, two hundred taken prisoners, some were drowned in trying to cross the river, and a few escaped by hiding among friends in the city. The priest Rokycan, anxious to prevent so much bloodshed, rushed among the soldiers in the thickest of the fight, and saved several lives by shielding the fugitives with his priestly robe.

To avoid similar outbreaks, the Hussites set Sigmund Corvinus at liberty, and, furnishing him with a strong escort, allowed him to return to Poland. The nobleness of character of this prince is shown in the fact that, after receiving such treatment, he cherished no ill-will against the Bohemians; but at all times defended their cause while at home, and finally returned to them offering his services as a volunteer.


After the unfortunate event in Prague, the armies of the Taborites and the Orphans, returning from the siege of Pilsen, were most welcome, especially as they brought large quantities of military stores. It was decided to besiege the city of Kolin, the Prague army uniting with the other two for this purpose. The besiegers remained before the walls for three months and exhausted every ingenuity of war, and yet without success. Finally the citizens refused to defend it any longer, and it surrendered, the inhabitants being allowed to withdraw unmolested.

After the siege of Kolin, the three armies marched into Moravia, and, meeting with no opposition, they devastated the country as far as Hungary.

The year 1428 was fruitless of results to either side. Among the crusaders a great deal had been planned, but little carried out. Cardinal Henry having been recalled to England, the zeal of the German princes soon waxed cold.

Then, too, the tax imposed for the new crusade was so grievous that the people refused to pay it, and such part of it as was paid was retained by the princes to help to equip their own armies.


In the beginning of the year 1429, Sigmund came to Pressburg, where he remained with his court for several months. In March of the same year, Prokop the Great invaded Austria, and as he was the virtual ruler of Bohemia at this time, the Moravian lords thought it a good opportunity to bring the two rulers together for the purpose of discussing the advisability of making peace.

The plan was proposed to Prokop by Menhart of Hradetz, a nobleman trusted alike by Catholics and Hussites. Prokop at once consented, but remembering Sigmund’s treachery to Hus, he would not place himself in his power unless hostages were given. This request being complied with, the Hussite chief, with a retinue of two hundred distinguished men, repaired to Sigmund’s court.

It seems that Sigmund at this time had a sincere desire to make peace; consequently he received the envoys with great kindness and consideration. He laid before them his legal right to the crown, his natural love for their country, and exhorted them to abjure all innovations and return to the faith of their fathers; and if they could not do so at once, they should refer the case to the Council of Basil, to be held in two years; but in the meantime they should enter into a truce with all Christian nations.

The Bohemians replied that not they, but the opposite side, had departed from the customs of the primitive Church, and that there could be no peace until the Church returned to the teachings of Christ and his disciples. As to the coming Council, should it prove to be like that of Constance, they could not expect any justice from it.

Finally, it was agreed to hold a Diet in Prague, Sigmund promising to send delegates.

During the negotiations, the Bohemians addressed Sigmund as king, meaning thereby the King of the Romans and of Hungary; for they would not acknowledge him King of Bohemia. He bore the slight with patience; but when they presumed to advise him to accept their faith, that then they would rather have him for a king than any other prince in the world, he became angry, and called upon God to witness that he would rather die than err in faith.

As a faithful Catholic, Sigmund did all that was possible for him to do. It is singular that it never occurred to any one at this time, that the interpretation of the Scripture by the opposite side might be as correct as its own.

The proposed Diet was held at Prague, May, 1429, the discussions lasting a week. The Bohemians agreed to refer their case to the Council of Basil, if it would be composed of delegates from all Christendom; not only from Rome, but from Greece, Armenia, and Constantinople, and the authority to be the Holy Scriptures.

Such a Council as the Bohemians demanded was an unheard-of thing, except in the early Christian Church, and Rome would by no means consent to it. The Popes, as a rule, hated all Councils; how could they favor one like this?

Thus all hopes for a reconciliation came to naught, and both sides again prepared for war.

As soon as it was known that the negotiations for peace were fruitless of results, another crusade was preparing against Bohemia. This was again to be commanded by Cardinal Henry, who sailed from England with a force of 5,000 men. But when he landed on the Continent, he received orders from the English king to go instead to the aid of the English in France. He was exceedingly reluctant to give up the crusade; but his troops were glad to go, and doubtless would have deserted his standard had he refused to obey the order. The cardinal’s failure to come to their assistance so discouraged the German princes, that nothing was accomplished that year.

The Bohemians, however, were not idle. Led by Prokop the Great, they invaded Lusatia, took several towns, and returned home with immense spoils. Another plundering expedition was made the same year by the united armies of the Taborites, Pragites, and Orphans. The army numbered 40,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry and 2,500 wagons. They marched northward to revenge themselves upon the Germans in those countries, who had shown themselves to be their most bitter enemies. Their object was not conquest, but to harass the enemy according to the principle adopted at the beginning of their taking the offensive—“Vexatio dat intellectum.” At Leipsic a large army, commanded by the Margrave of Brandenburg, prepared to obstruct their march. The Hussites, placing their carts in order, went to meet the enemy. There was some skirmishing; but the great battle that both sides expected never took place, and the Hussites continued their plundering expedition. An old chronicler says: “Then the Bohemians divided, so that each division with its wagons marched independently of the other, and the five armies made terrible destruction, and in all these German lands there was no one that dared oppose their march.”

When they came to the town of Plavna, they decided to spare the inhabitants, because the town was subject to one of the lords of Pilsen. But being in want of certain provisions, they sent a few men under a flag of truce to obtain them. But no sooner did the people get sight of the abhorred heretics than they raised a riot, attacked the men, and murdered them to a man. The Hussites then fell upon the town, and put all the people to the sword.

The fate of the people of Plavna made the inhabitants of other towns tremble with fear. Wherever the Hussite army appeared, they either fled or surrendered, accepting such terms as the enemy offered.

A curious fate befell the city of Bamburg. At the approach of the Hussites, the people immediately prepared to leave the city, cursing the chapter and the bishop who had prevented them from making fortifications. Some 500 of the fugitives remained near the city, and when, after waiting for several days, no Hussites made their appearance, they returned to the deserted city and plundered it worse than the enemy would have been likely to do.

At last the tide of devastation and misery was stemmed by the exertions of Frederick, the Elector of Brandenburg. He had just returned from the Imperial Diet held at Pressburg, and, obtaining a safe-conduct, immediately repaired to the camp of the Hussites to try to make a treaty with them. He was joined by envoys from the cities of Bamberg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, and by John, the Duke of Bavaria. A truce of six months was agreed upon, and the cities redeemed themselves from further molestation by paying the Hussites 50,000 Rhine guilders. A public disputation was also to be held at Nuremburg, with the understanding that what was there proved from Scripture was to be accepted by both sides. Owing to the interference of the Pope, this disputation was never held.

The Bohemians now prepared to return home. The Elector Frederick was so pleased with the leaders that he escorted them with his retinue as far as the frontier, exchanging many civilities with them, which made him to he suspected of heresy.

As Eger had not joined in the agreement made, when the Hussites came near they began to devastate the country, upon which the citzens saved their city by paying 1,700 guilders.

A part of the army returned to Prague as early as February; but the rest were delayed many days on account of the slow progress of the wagons heavily laden with spoils. It was said that it required six to twelve horses to haul a wagon, and that then they were obliged to move slowly. In Palacký is found the following remark: “Never before had the Bohemians made such a glorious expedition into Germany, nor is there any record that any one ever heard of such a thing. Had they been ambitious like the early Čechs, they might have marched even to the Rhine, and conquered many lands; but taking much booty, and enriching themselves with gold, they returned to Bohemia.”


The great expedition of the Bohemians into the German States as far as Leipsic and Nuremberg had the effect of drawing the attention of all Europe to Bohemia. The people asked: “What is this nation that, turning out of the beaten path, can not be brought back by the united efforts of the Pope and so many princes, nor humbled and rendered harmless? Why does it struggle against established customs? What is its faith, and what does it demand?”

During the ten years of the war, the Bohemians had sent numerous manifestoes to the various European nations in which they vindicated their actions, throwing the blame of the storms and disorders upon the hierarchy of Rome; and as the war continued, these documents were read with more and more interest, and produced an effect that was by no means desirable. Thus, in France, there were various disturbances; sects were formed who took their confession of faith from these manifestoes. Even in Spain the people began to question the propriety of all the lands being held by the clergy and nobility, and the common people being treated little better than slaves. Such questions were dangerous to established customs; and to this was added another especially dangerous to the Church—if the cause of the Bohemians was not just, why did God permit them to be so uniformly successful? Indeed, in course of time, the term heretic lost much of its stigma. The Bohemians were unquestionably heretics; and yet they seemed to enjoy the favor of Heaven even more than some of the faithful. These were some of the moral gains; but, on the other hand, there were losses that counterbalanced them. The Bohemian nation, although victorious, could not escape the demoralization incident to a long war. On every side could be seen villages and towns broken down, castles and fortresses in ruins, the owners being either murdered or wandering about the country homeless. The fields remained untilled, the estates were neglected, and the trade with other nations was entirely cut off. In addition to this, the moral deterioration was so great that all peaceful occupations and arts were neglected, people finding it easier to depend upon plundering their enemies for providing themselves with the necessaries of life than upon the labor of their hands.

The army, too, lost its character; the godliness and integrity common in the time of Žižka were now almost unknown. Whenever there was a call to arms, the peasants and small tradesmen hid themselves, and when compelled to enlist, deserted at the first opportunity. The deficiency was made up by volunteers from other lands, especially from Russia and Poland; but there were also some Germans and other nationalities represented. Indeed, among the Taborites and Orphans was found the refuse of all lands and nations. These disadvantages were made up by the superior generalship of the commanders, and the experience gained in a long and continuous war.


The continued success of the Bohemians led many princes to enter into feudal relations with Prokop the Great, although they had been strictly forbidden by the Church to form any alliances with the heretics.

This state of affairs greatly disturbed the hierarchy of Rome; for the Pope and cardinals saw that Hussitism and Rome were two forces that could not exist side by side; for should the former prosper, the latter must in the same proportion decline. Therefore the Pope made every effort to establish peace among the various European princes and unite them in another expedition against Bohemia.


The people now began to look with much hope to the Council of Basil, that had been appointed to be called March 3, 1431. A general opinion prevailed that mild measures would surely accomplish what physical force could not. And many of the people believed that the Bohemians erred in faith through ignorance, and that as soon as they were properly instructed, they would gladly return into the bosom of the true Church. It is needless to remark that the Bohemians themselves cherished no such ideas, nor did the Pope, Martin V. In fact, he held all Councils in abhorrence, since they had invariably infringed upon the rights of the Popes, and as far as it lay in his power, he determined to prevent or postpone the calling of the proposed Council. All at once, he was obliged to give up this opposition, and that in a very unexpected manner. When, on November 8, 1430, the city of Rome was celebrating the promotion of three prelates to the chairs of cardinals, among them the renowned Julian Cesarini, a strange manifesto was found nailed upon the principal door of the Vatican. This manifesto purported to be written by “two of the most enlightened princes of Christendom,” urgently demanded the calling of the Council, and declared that since the Pope and cardinals opposed this they were to be regarded the friends of heretics, and princes and subjects alike were to refuse them obedience.

It was never discovered who the authors of this document were, but it was generally supposed that Frederick of Brandenburg and Albert of Austria were the guilty parties. Although anonymous, the manifesto made a deep impression upon the higher clergy of Rome, who forthwith began to make preparations for the calling of the Council, although Pope Martin still seemed reluctant to do so. He spared no pains to push the preparations for the crusade, still hoping that the difficulty would be settled by means of the sword.

Pope Martin was not only a great ecclesiastic, but a shrewd politician, and from past experience he knew that the Bohemians would never submit to the mere dictum of the Papal See; and to make concessions would but weaken the power of the Church. He therefore placed his most able prelate, the Cardinal Julian, at the head of the coming crusade, sending him to Germany to rally all the princes under his banner. Giving him almost unlimited powers, he urged him with the most earnest protestations to go out and persuade both prince and peasant to join the crusade personally, or further the cause with their contributions, abundant indulgences being promised as a reward.

But ere he could see the fruits of his labors, Pope Martin died. It is a most significant fact, speaking volumes in itself, that this Pope, so exceedingly zealous in putting down heresy, and so importunate in begging all Christians to contribute their mites for the undertaking, died leaving a fortune of five millions of florins, which he bequeathed—not to the cause—but to his nephew, the Prince of Salerno.


After the death of Pope Martin, a Diet was held at Nuremberg, in which most of the German princes were present. The plan of the coming campaign was discussed and agreed upon, and Cardinal Julian was requested to travel from State to State to rouse the people to greater enthusiasm. His efforts were crowned with so much success that in a moment of joyous anticipation he wrote to King Sigmund, asking him to assign to him some little province in Bohemia. And yet at the very eve of the campaign, whether to conciliate the Bohemians or put them off their guard, he sent them the following letter:

“I, Cardinal Julian, cherish in my heart no more ardent desire than that the kingdom of Bohemia should return into the unity of the Church; therefore, I come bringing the land, not destruction, but good-will and peace, the renewal of good old customs that had fallen into neglect, and the building up of the honor and glory of God. Therefore, let the people meet me with confidence; for know that whoever will return into the bosom of the Church will be received as a brother, and the joy at his conversion will be as great as at the return of the prodigal in the Scripture. We find no pleasure in going to war with you, but we can not stand by idly while godliness languishes, churches are destroyed, pictures of saints desecrated, and the holy eucharist trampled under foot. Do not be deceived that a few men, casting aside all authority and law, are wiser than the whole Christian Church. What can soldiers, citizens, and peasants teach you? Do they understand the Word of God better than the doctors of the university? Therefore, return to the Church with confidence; you will find not only forgiveness and grace, but loving favor, such as a child can expect from its mother.

“May our Lord and Savior, who redeemed us with his precious blood, grant you Bohemians the heart to join us in faith for the salvation of your souls and the peace and honor of the kingdom of Bohemia!”

Many copies of this manifesto were sent over the country, but proved fruitless of results. The active preparations for war on the part of the German princes convinced the Bohemians of the emptiness of all these phrases. They therefore were not at all shaken in their purpose, and made vigorous preparations for the coming tempest.


The decisive action in the last crusade against Bohemia took place at Domazlitz, August 14, 1431.

The Bohemian armies—the Pragites, Taborites, and Orphans—were united under the command of Prokop the Great, and numbered about 50,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and 3,000 war-wagons. The crusaders, under the command of Cardinal Julian, had 90,000 infantry, 40,000 cavalry, and also many wagons. The Bohemian army awaited the enemy in the vicinity of Pilsen; but the latter not appearing, they went out to meet them to the Bavarian frontier. As they still failed to make their appearance, the Bohemians, fearing they might get out of provisions, sent the divisions in all directions to supply this want.

This unexpected return of the troops deceived the enemy. It was taken for a retreat caused by dissensions in the camp, and the crusaders at once determined to take advantage of it. Arriving at Tachov, August 1st, and seeing the Bohemians unprepared for battle, Cardinal Julian insisted that battle be given without delay; but his counsel was overruled by the other commanders, who declared that the soldiers were too wearied with their march, and therefore that the battle had better be postponed to the following day. The next morning they found the walls of Tachov repaired, and the garrison ready for battle, consequently the siege was given up. The enemy then turned to Brod, and taking the village, all the inhabitants were put to the sword. These devastations were continued for some time, the people being murdered without mercy, regardless of the fact that many of them had never accpeted the chalice. Seeing how these actions harmonized with Cardinal Julian’s manifesto, the Bohemians understood what they had to expect, should they be defeated.

August 7th, the crusaders separated their army into three divisions—the first under the Duke of Saxony, the second under the Margrave of Brandenburg, and the third under the Duke of Bavaria. The following day they marched to Domazlitz.

The Bohemian commanders hearing of the coming of the enemy, hastened to bring the various divisions together, and, August 14th, the whole army also marched to Domazlitz. “It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when the report spread in the camp of the crusaders that the Hussites were approaching, and the battle beginning; and, although they could not yet be seen, being fully a mile distant, the Germans heard the rumbling of their wagons, and also the sound of the fearful war song, ‘Ye Warriors of the Lord,’ and their hearts were filled with a strange fear. Cardinal Julian, accompanied by the Duke of Saxony, ascended a certain elevation that commanded a view of the whole army, and immediately sent word to the commander-in-chief that this hill should be occupied without delay. Suddenly he perceived that the German camp was in a strange motion, the soldiers running hither and thither, the noise and confusion growing apace, the wagons dragged out of the lines and going in opposite directions, the riders scattering in small bands, trying to outride each other, but all tending backwards and not toward the enemy. ‘What is the meaning of this!’ exclaimed the cardinal in terror. ‘Why do they fling the provisions out of the wagons?’ But ere he could recover from his amazement, news came from the Margrave of Brandenburg that all the soldiers had taken to flight, and that it was not possible to restrain them. At the same time he was urged to be mindful of his own safety, and hasten to the woods, ere it should be too late. And truly the flight now became general. On all sides were to be seen wagons driven without any order, the drivers lightening them by hurling out the provisions by the wayside. Almost stunned by this unexpected turn of affairs, Cardinal Julian was carried away by the flight of the others, until he found himself at the entrance to the woods. Here he recollected himself, and finally succeeded in making one of the divisions take a stand, at least to cover the flight of the others. But the Bohemians, falling upon them, killed a large number, and the unfortunate cardinal, whose soldiers suffered the most, found himself in great danger, not so much from the Bohemians as from the crusaders, who were exceedingly enraged against him, because they thought he was the cause of all their misfortune. The Bishop of Wurzburg saved him by taking him among his own troops, where, dressed as a private, he rode a whole day and night without stopping to partake either of food or drink. The panic among the troops was so great that some who were citizens of Nuremberg, upon returning to that city, in the confusion of their minds, sought accommodations at the public inns, forgetting that they had homes in the city. The Bohemians remained for the whole night among the abandoned wagons, taking spoils and drinking wine from the large casks. The next morning many prisoners were taken of soldiers who had hidden themselves among the branches of the trees. Of the 4,000 wagons, hardly 300 found their way back to Germany; consequently the spoils the Bohemians obtained were very great—beautiful flags and banners, all manner of arms, money, gold and silver utensils, costly robes, powder, and provisions; and what gave them special pleasure was the Pope’s bull calling out the crusade, and Cardinal Julian’s golden crucifix, his hat and robe. These last trophies were kept in Domazlitz for about two hundred years.”

Hearing of the disaster at Domazlitz, the other armies of the crusaders became discouraged, and left the country without attempting anything.

While the victory was celebrated in Prague, Prokop the Great hastened into Silesia, where the Germans were besieging some towns. Disposing of them quickly, he marched into Moravia, where Albert of Austria was committing fearful depredations. No decisive battle was fought, but the enemy was pursued as far as the Danube.

“Thus in a short time, the country was freed from all enemies, and flags with pictures of the sacred chalice, the symbol of domestic unity and enthusiasm, floated without hindrance on all the public buildings, to the great joy and comfort of its worshipers and fear to its enemies,”


The victory at Domazlitz was in its results the most important action of the Hussite wars. After twelve years of continuous struggle, Europe found herself as far from conquering Bohemia as at the beginning of the war. Indeed, the nations saw that they had not even succeeded in impoverishing the country, but rather had enriched it, and, what grieved them sore, had carried into it many precious articles that could never be replaced. After the battle of Domazlitz, the general opinion prevailed that peace must be had at all costs. The Bohemians had desired this at all times, but could not accept it with the conditions imposed; now the European nations were ready to treat with them as with equals, giving their demands a proper consideration.

Nor was this all; the European nations were brought to a new line of thought, which, without the struggle, would not have come into existence. This was the awakening of the spirit of progress and reform in the Church. The abuses in the Church were indeed great and apparent to all; but no one dared propose any radical remedy. When the news of the defeat at Domazlitz reached the prelates gathered at Basil, it filled them with consternation; for they recognized in it the finger of God, punishing them for their neglect of the work of reform that for so many years had been needed and desired. They therefore determined to go to work with earnestness to redeem, as far as possible, what had been lost by their neglect.

The three questions that the Council determined to discuss and settle were—(1) The extermination of heresy; (2) Reform of the Church in head and members; (3) How to bring peace among the nations of Europe.

Early in the session, the Council sent a letter to the Bohemians, urging them to send their delegates, and assuring them of the sincere desire of the fathers to enter into some peaceful agreement with them. Among other things, is found the following:

“We have heard that you often complained that you could get no free hearing, such as you desired. The cause of this complaint is now removed; now you shall have opportunity to have such a hearing as you yourself desire. The Holy Ghost himself will be the highest judge. He shall determine what is to be believed and held in the Church. . . . We beg you to send to us from your midst, men upon whom rests the Spirit of God in hope—sober, God-fearing men, lowly of heart, desirous of peace, and seeking not their own good, but that of the Church of Christ. And may the Lord give you and all Christians peace in this world, and eternal life in the next! Amen.”

Although the Council expressed such a willingness to give the Bohemians a fair hearing, the fathers did not take into consideration that there were three religious sects in Bohemia, differing from each other even more than the Church of Rome differed from them. The Bohemians, however, realized this fully, and before giving any reply to the Council, called a meeting of delegates from the sects to decide on what should be demanded from the Council.

The Orphans, being more moderate than the Taborites, were willing to come to some agreement; but the Taborites, as usual, looked upon all compromises as the “snares of the devil.” To vindicate their want of tractability, they sent a manifesto to the German nations, in which were the following statements: “We are surprised that you, Germans, place so much faith in the Pope and his priests, who grant you pernicious indulgences, authorizing you to murder us. These indulgences are a fraud and a deceit, and whoever puts his trust in them shall perish soul and body. Whoever can redeem his brother from death, and neglects to do so, is guilty of that brother’s death. If, then, the Pope can save people from sin and damnation, then nobody will be lost; and if he neglects to do so, he himself destroys all that are lost. The priests are like the devil when he tempted Christ—promising him the whole world, when it did not belong to him. Do not believe the priests when they tell you that it is not proper for laics to discuss religious questions. They say this from fear, lest they be shamed in their ignorance. True faith is of such a character that the more it is opposed, the stronger it grows.”

This manifesto was found nailed to the door of the City Hall in Basil. Being in the German language, the fathers of the Council had it translated into Latin, and then issued a letter which they regarded as an answer to the charges of the manifesto.

After much negotiation, the three sects in Bohemia agreed to go to the Council, but discuss nothing whatever until they were granted the “Four Articles of Prague.” A Diet was held in Eger, where delegates from the Council met those from Bohemia, and it was decided upon what terms the Bohemians should be received in Basil. It was also decided that, in all religious questions, the authority should be the Holy Scripture, the practice of the primitive Church, and the decisions of Church Councils

The Bohemian deputation, numbering some three hundred persons, started for Basil, December 6, 1431. Among the lay delegates were William Kostka of Postupitz, and six other men of eminence. The delegates from the Churches were John Rokycan, Peter Payne, Prokop the Great, Nicholas of Pelhram, Ulric of Znoima, and three others.

On their way they were received with every mark of honor; the Council, and especially Cardinal Julian, being determined to win their good-will even before they reached Basil. The crafty prelate knew beforehand that the Council would never accede to their demands, and he imagined that the delegates, blinded by the favors received, would finally cease from demanding the liberties purchased by so much bloodshed and suffering. In this he was mistaken; for men made of such stern stuff as Prokop the Great, Payne, and Rokycan, could not be turned from their purpose by any such blandishments.

When the delegation was approaching Basil, it was decided to finish the journey by water; and as it had been expected to come by land, it reached the city before the inhabitants were aware of it; but the news spread as if by magic, and the aldermen went out to welcome the new-comers ere they could get ashore. The people rushed out to see the strange men. Æneas Silvius writes: “The women, children, and servants crowded into the windows, pointing out this one and that one. They wondered at the strange costumes, the style of dress never seen before, at their terrible countenances and wild eyes, saying that what they had heard of them was probably true. Nevertheless, the attention of all was riveted upon a certain Prokop; for they said that it was he who had carried on so many wars, and won so many victories over the faithful, had taken and destroyed so many cities, brought to ruin so many thousands of people—a man equally feared by friend and foe, since he was a general, bold invincible, unfailing in labors, and fearless in perils.”


Cardinal Julian opened the session with an impressive address, which was followed by a discourse by John Rokycan on the text, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” The speaker said they came to Basil to seek Christ—Christianity—as it was taught in the primitive Church. Then followed discussions that lasted for several days. Rokycan defended the Utraquist doctrine; Ulric of Znoima, the free preaching of the Word of God; Peter Payne spoke against the secular power of the clergy; and Nicholas of Pelhram advocated the punishment by secular authorities of crimes committed by the clergy. Rokycan, speaking with great eloquence and moderation, was listened to with breathless attention. The others, and especially Peter Payne, did not possess so much self-restraint, and consequently indulged in bitter invective against the Council of Constance. The fathers drew up twenty-eight articles, containing erroneous doctrines, and asked the Bohemian delegates to explain their position in regard to these; but they would enter into no discussion until a decision had been made in regard to the “Four Articles.”

The Council resorted to all sorts of subterfuges to induce the delegates to submit to the Council unconditionally, “since it was under the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost;” but remembering the Council of Constance, that likewise claimed to be under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and yet had not scrupled to murder their beloved Hus, they gave little heed to this assumption, and continued to insist upon Scriptural proofs.

It seems that Pope Eugene, the successor of Pope Martin, himself did not have much faith in the infallibility of the Council, for he issued two bulls trying to dissolve it. This, however, was prevented by both King Sigmund and Cardinal Julian.

When the Bohemian delegates would not consent to submit to the dictum of the Council, Cardinal Julian said: “We say the Church is with us; you, that it is with you. Let us become united and be one body; then there will be no question as to where the Church is. The Pope has now joined us, the emperor is with us, as well as many princes; therefore join us, and the unity will be complete.”

The Council would make no concessions; the Bohemians, as delegates, could not; consequently it was decided to refer the matter to a Diet to be held in Prague. With many expressions of friendly regard from both sides, the delegates prepared to return home. Just before leaving the Council chamber, Prokop the Great asked leave to speak. He said that he had noticed that some members of the Council imagined that he had, with his own hands, put people to death. He declared that for the whole world he would not be guilty of a falsehood, and that he could say with truth that he had never shed a drop of human blood, much less put any one to death. He did not deny that he had been the commander in many battles where large numbers of people had perished, but that he could not be blamed for this, since he had repeatedly urged the Pope and cardinals to make peace and work for reform in the Church. Now that the Council was called, he implored it to make those reforms that the nations were longing for with sighs and tears. He also exhorted the fathers to cease persecuting people who did not agree with them in doctrines; for example, such as the Waldenses, who, although poor, were good and honest people.

April 14th, the Bohemians started for home, accompanied by the delegates that the Council sent to represent it in the Diet to be held in Prague.

The respect shown the Bohemian nation by an assembly composed of representatives of all the nations in Christendom, is one of the most noteworthy events in history. Never before had Bohemia been so honored and so feared, and never before did Pope, prelate, and priest resort to so much artifice to win her favor and friendship. The reign of Charles IV is regarded as the “Golden Age” of Bohemian history; and yet, to secure the favor of the Church and keep peace, Charles IV was obliged to resort to all these artifices that now the Church employed to secure the favor— not of some great ruler, nor of the powerful noblemen who counted their blue blood far superior to that of the peasants—but of the common people, upon whose claims they had for ages looked with scorn. The movement known as Hussitism was the movement of democracy and progress, and the victory gained was the victory of democracy and progress over aristocracy and ecclesiastical despotism. As far as the demands of the Bohemians were concerned, ’t is true they gained but little, and that little was finally wrested from them; but in considering how Bohemia was treated at the Council of Constance when she had a legitimate ruler upon the throne, and how she was treated now, when all was done in the name of the people, one must acknowledge that some tremendous force must have been brought to bear against that most despotic of despotic governments, the hierarchy of Rome; and, in looking over the long years of war, one sees that this power was the intelligence and strength of character of the common people. In the latter years of the war, there is almost no mention of the nobility. At the beginning, we remember how the people rejoiced when so great a noble as Čenek of Wartenberg espoused their cause, yet he proved unstable, treacherous, and incapable. The victory was won by the people, and for the people; and although it may be said that it came a century too soon, it will forever remain a glorious illustration that the strength of a nation lies in its middle classes.


The Diet at Prague met June 12, 1433. Rokycan delivered the opening address, and welcomed the Basil delegates. The sessions were prolonged many days, since it seemed next to impossible to come to some agreement. During one of the debates the Basil delegate charged the Bohemians with spreading their doctrines by means of fire and sword, to which Prokop the Great replied:

“As to wars, may God Almighty bear me witness, not we, but your side, began the war by raising against us the bloody cross. You devastated our country with fire and sword in the most frightful manner; we, however, with God’s help, were able to withstand this unjust oppression, and will withstand it still further until peace is secured by the acknowledgment of those blessed truths contained in the ‘Four Articles.’ We further would inform your honor that we hold in abhorrence the evils incident to war, and that we reprove those who are guilty of them; and we carry the burden of war only because we desire such a peace as shall, secure unity in the Church, reform in morals, and all the blessings that you yourself desire to attain.”

The Basil delegates, not succeeding in bending the Diet to their wishes, resorted to intrigue. Calling a secret meeting of nobles, they represented to them how unbecoming it was that they, the rightful rulers of the kingdom, were so degraded that they were compelled to obey persons who were not even worthy to be their servants; and they showed them that this state of affairs must continue unless they found help in peace and unity with the Church when the old condition would be restored. From that time on, the noblemen spared no pains to induce the Diet to come to some agreement with the Church. Finally it was agreed that the “Four Articles,” with some limitations, would be granted, and the delegates returned to Basil, much disappointed that they could not secure a truce during the session of the Council, this being violently opposed by Prokop the Great, who held firmly to the principle “Vexatio dat intellectum.” He declared that not until the “Four Articles” were settled “according to God” could they have peace, true and uncorrupted, with all Christendom.

When the delegates gave their report to the Council at Basil, the fathers held several secret sessions so as to avoid all interference from the Pope, and finally agreed to grant all the Bohemians had asked. This, however, did not settle the difficulty. Questions immediately arose in regard to the method of taking the communion, the Bohemians insisting that the Utraquist way be introduced into all the Churches. This the Council refused to grant, the negotiations were broken off, and it seemed that all was lost.


While the negotiations between the people and the Council of Basil were going on, there were other forces at work, not only to secure peace at all costs, but to restore the power of the nobility. In 1433 the emperor secured the services of Sir Ulric of Rosenberg, then the most powerful Catholic noble, who, in consideration of receiving from that ruler several fortresses, agreed to do all in his power to help to establish him upon the throne of Bohemia. Through the efforts of this noble, and many other disaffected ones, a league was formed between the Catholic and Calixtine nobles, whose aim was to secure peace at all costs, and restore the nobility to its old position in the State. These nobles proceeded in their plans with so much caution that the people suspected nothing; and even Prokop the Great gave his consent, when it was decided to place the government of the land into the hands of Ales of Risenberg, a rather poor nobleman, but who, for that very reason, so much better answered the purpose of the league. When the league felt quite strong, being joined by most of the nobles, as well as by the Prague citizens of the Old Town, they issued a proclamation inviting all the other States to join them for the peace and order of the realm, and declaring public enemies those who refused to do so. This was a virtual declaration of war against the Taborites, who at once prepared to meet this domestic enemy.

The first battle was fought at New Town in Prague, where the Taborites had many adherents; but, although they defended themselves with much vigor, they were defeated and compelled to leave the city.

(May 30, 1434.)

When Prokop the Great left Prague with his army, he marched to Kolin, where he was joined by the army of the Orphans. The two armies then turned back to meet the army of the nobles that had marched against them from Prague. They met them near the village of Lipan, about four German miles from Prague; and here was fought one of the saddest, most bloody, and unfortunate battles in the whole Hussite war. It was the final struggle between Catholicism and feudalism on the one side, and Protestantism and democracy on the other,

On one side stood almost all the noblemen of the country, both Catholic and Calixtine, having an army of 25,000 men; on the other, the Taborites and Orphans, with an army of 18,000, commanded by Prokop the Great, Prokop the Small, Capek, and others.

The armies, taking their stand near the village of Lipan, arranged their wagon fortifications, and waited each the attack of the other; for it seemed that the victory would be with the side that succeeded in beguiling the other out of its fortifications. The Taborites, impatient in waiting so long, began the attack. When the shooting had continued for some time, the commander of the army of the nobles resorted to a stratagem. His troops were ordered to retreat. The cry arose,“They run, they run!” The Taborites rushed upon what they supposed to be the flying enemy, got into ambush, and were cut to pieces, this disaster turning the tide of the battle. Then commenced a frightful slaughter that lasted for a whole day and night; no quarter was given, and the work of butchery did not cease until only about 700 men were left of the Taborite army. These were shut up in barns, and burned alive. Capek, who fled with his division almost before the battle began, was for a long time regarded as a traitor.

Among the fallen were both the Prokops, both of whom fell like common soldiers. Their bodies were not even sought out and honored with a separate burial. The ungrateful noblemen did not think it worth while to seek out the remains of one who so many times had saved their country from destruction.

With the defeat at Lipan, the power of the Taborites was forever broken, and with them the power of the people. From that time on, the nobility again came in the ascendency, and governed the affairs of the realm. Still the strength and influence of the people continued to be felt for many years, the government paying some regard to their wishes.


The Taborites having been put out of the way, the negotiations with the Council were resumed through the intervention of Sigmund, who now hoped to bring them to a successful issue. Yet this was by no means so easy as might have been thought. Such great changes had taken place in Bohemia during the war, not only in belief, but also in Church service, that it was very difficult for the Council to settle the trouble, especially as the Bohemians held the new practices as a tight, asking of the Church merely their confirmation. On one occasion at the Diet in Brünn, Rokycan exclaimed: “It seems that your whole object is to kindle dissensions among us, from which we suffer more than before you came! How can it be true that you desire peace and unity? What we ask is nothing difficult; and it is the more amazing that while you constantly declare you wish to do all you can for us, you do nothing. We want an archbishop who shall be named by our king, and elected by the people and clergy. This is done in Hungary, why may it not be done in Bohemia? We ask that foreigners do not judge us, nor give away our ecclesiastical benefices; this, too, is not unreasonable, and good for the peace and unity of the kingdom. See to it that communion in both kinds be regarded lawful in the towns where it is already the custom, and we will be at peace. But we do not ask it as though we could not have it without your permission, for it is already given us by God; but we ask it in behalf of peace and unity. If you do not grant it, may God be with you; for with us his grace and presence shall remain.”

After this speech, the Bohemian delegates left the hall, and never again could they be induced to enter it, Emperor Sigmund himself being obliged to act as mediator between them and the delegates of the Council. At last even he lost all patience, and cried out: “By the Living God, some persons seem determined that I shall never enter into my inheritance; but I shall enter it, and still die a good Catholic. What, indeed, is this Council of Basil? What has it accomplished? If it can not bring peace to Bohemia, it will come to naught, like other Councils!” Seeing that the discussions led to no practical results, Sigmund himself made a treaty with the Bohemians, wherein he agreed to secure for them what they demanded of the Council, and never again to wage war against them; they, in turn, accepting him as their lawful king. This was July 6, 1435. A year from this a Diet was held at Iglau, where Sigmund was formally proclaimed King of Bohemia. The following year he succeeded in obtaining from the Council some concessions for the Bohemians. “The Four Articles” were granted with some limitations, and various regulations were made for the government of the reorganized Church, all of which was known by the name of the Compactata.

  1. Kopa=sixty.
  2. Sigmund had signed himself the King of the Seven Crowns.
  3. Kopa=a sixty.