The letters of John Hus/Letter 46, To his Friends at Constance

For other English-language translations of this work, see Letter of Jan Hus to his friends (4 January 1415).

XLVI. To his Friends at Constance

(Without date: end of February 1415)

So far as revising my defence is concerned, I do not see how I can do it in any way or arrange otherwise, as I have no idea on what issue a hearing will be given to me. I put in a strong protest[1] in the presence of the notaries and I wrote an appeal to the whole Council which I gave to the Patriarch, entreating to be allowed to reply to each article, as I had already done in private. I wrote this with my own hand. I asked as an alternative that if a hearing should be granted me, I might reply as we do in the schools.[2] On the other hand, perhaps God will give me the hearing that I may deliver my sermon.[3]

I trust by God’s grace I shall never swerve from the truth as I understand it. Pray God to preserve me.

As to the sacrament of the cup, you have the statement I wrote out in Constance[4] giving reasons. I do not think I can add anything, except that the gospel and Paul’s epistle give plain evidence in my favour. It was the custom also in the early Church. If possible, arrange that at least permission be given by bull for the cup to be granted to those who demand it from feelings of devotion, the circumstances being taken into account.[5]

My friends ought not to trouble themselves over the private inquisition into my beliefs. I do not see how it could have been avoided, because it had been settled by the Council before my arrest. Moreover, a bull was published by the commissioners and read in my presence in which I am called “a heresiarch and a deceiver of the people.” But I hope that what I have spoken in secret shall be proclaimed on the housetops.[6]

The day before yesterday—it was the day on which I saw my brother John Barbatus[7]—I was again cross-examined with regard to the forty-five articles. By way of reply I repeated the declaration I gave before. They put the question to me about each article separately, whether I desired to defend it. I replied that I would accept the decision of the Council as I had before declared. To each of the articles I said, as I had previously done with regard to some of them, “This is true, if you take it in this sense.” Whereupon they remarked, “Do you wish to defend it?” My reply was, “No, I abide by the decision of the Council.”

God is my witness that I could not think at the time of a more suitable reply, seeing that I had before written with my own hand that I had no wish to make an obstinate defence of anything but was ready to receive instruction from any one. That question was put to me, because some one had told them that I had given a message to the King to the effect that I wanted to defend three or four of the articles. They inquired therefore if I had given any message to him. I said, “No”: for I never sent any message in these terms to the King, but as you know, etc.[8]

Item, Michael was standing by holding up the paper and urging the Patriarch to make me reply to their questions. Meanwhile some bishops came in. Once more Michael brewed some fresh mischief. God permitted him and Palecz to rise up together against me on account of my sins: for Michael pries into my letters and other things, while Palecz brings out those old conversations we had together years ago.

The Patriarch is always insisting before them all that I have plenty of money.[9] So an archbishop said to me in the course of the inquiry, “You have 70,000 florins.” Michael exclaimed before them all with a mocking laugh, “What has become of that doublet[10] full of florins? How much money do the barons in Bohemia hold in trust for you?” Without doubt I was sorely harassed that day.

A bishop said, “You have set up a new law.” Another remarked, “You have preached all those articles.” I made a right stern reply, God helping me, saying, “Why do you wrong me in this way?”

You write not a word about those who have been cited. How is it that no proctor hath been sent to represent them either by the King[11] or the Prague citizens or by those that have been cited?[12]

The following letter is dated by Palackẏ as March 4, 1415, reckoning eight weeks from Hus’s removal to the refectory (see infra, p. 189), which he dates on January 8. As I have dated this on January 3, following Hardt, iv. 26–32 (see p. 168), the date will be rather February 28. Additional confirmation of this view will be found in the fact that we have other letters to Chlum, dated, it would appear, on March 4 (see p. 191).

  1. See p. 176.
  2. Cf. determinare, p. 180, n. 7.
  3. Ib.
  4. See p. 170, n.
  5. This was the settlement grudgingly obtained at the Council of Basel by the Compactata, the Magna Charta of the Calixtine Church.
  6. Luke xii. 2.
  7. Pp. 45 and 182.
  8. See p. 183, first paragraph.
  9. Cf. p. 178, first paragraph.
  10. Joppa. Ducange says joppa=‘caligæ species, Hungaris,' and adds: ‘I do not know whether the same as jupa=Fr. jupe.’ Carpentier gives other illustrations.
  11. Wenzel, not Sigismund.
  12. Infra, p. 196, n. 1.