The life and times of Master John Hus/Appendix



That indefatigable searcher of documents appertaining to ancient Bohemian history, Mr. Adolphus Patera, formerly head-librarian of the Bohemian museum, about the year 1888 discovered in the library of Prince Lobkowitz at Roudnice a contemporary Bohemian account of the death of Hus that was previously entirely unknown. I had intended merely to refer to this account briefly, while telling the story of the death of the master according to the well-known account of his disciple, Peter Mladenovic, which will never be superseded. I found, however, that such references retarded and impeded the narrative, and I have therefore translated for the benefit of those interested in the matter the Bohemian paper which Mr. Patera read at the general meeting of the Bohemian Society of Sciences on April 9, 1888. Mr. Patera stated: In a paper manuscript contained in the library of Prince Lobkowitz at Roudnice (vi. Fg. 60) which begins with the “Dispute of Intellect and Conscience on the worthy manner of receiving the Body of God,”[1] I found among other matter also an “Account of the Trial and Burning of Master John Hus.” In the present—nineteenth—century some one wrote on the cover: “The following little work is known under the name of Peter Mladenovic’s Life of John Hus, and J. Jungmann[2] in his History of Bohemian Literature, 1849, p. 71, n. 159, maintains that this notice is derived mainly from the writings of Hus about himself.” Both these conjectures are, however, not founded on truth. We also can give no credit to the view that the writer was an eye-witness of the events which he describes, though he himself affirms this, writing of himself, “I have briefly noted down everything concerning the events that befell in the Suabian country and its capital called Constance, for some have taken away and some added. But I have noted down all that I saw, and at which I was present.” It appears more likely that he noted down what he heard among the people from the mouths of some persons. The manuscript of Roudnice preserves to us rather the tradition concerning the judgment and burning of Hus which was current in Bohemia in the fifteenth century, and which was written down by some admirer of Hus. The manuscript of Roudnice dates from about the second third[3] of the fifteenth century. In the same manuscript is preserved on page 100b–103b a short Bohemian catechism which differs slightly from the catechism printed by Palacky, Documenta,[4] magistri Joannis Hus, Prague, 1869, pp. 703–708, and which Dr. J. Müller translated into German in his work, Die Deutschen Katechismen der bohmischen Bruder, pp. 90–95 (Monumenta Germaniae paedagogica, vol. vi.).

The contents of the account are given with the greatest faithfulness in accordance with the original. The necessary interpunctuation has been added, and the prepositions and other particles have been separated from the following word. The account runs as follows:—

In the year since the birth of the son of God fourteen hundred and fifteen, I have briefly noted down the events that befell in the Suabian country and in its capital, which is called Constance, for some have taken away (i.e. omitted facts) and some (have) added. But I have noted down what I saw, and at which I was present. When the servitor of Venceslas, King of Bohemia[5] arrived, he wrote in the evening a letter to the famed and celebrated master Jakubek, surnamed “of Stribro.”[6] Seeing this, Master John Kardinal[7] said: What dost thou write, master of the blood of God and of communion with the chalice? With difficulty will the Christianity of the present age accept this. Knowest thou not that we must stand to-morrow before the masters of all Christianity, who will greatly oppose, declaring us guilty because of this (i.e. the introduction of communion in the two kinds). On the next morning the legates, cardinals, the bishops of all Christianity, the King of Hungary as emperor of the (Roman) empire questioned him (Hus) saying: This assembly is very grateful to thee for coming to us; hadst thou failed to do so, much good would have been destroyed. And Master John Hus answered saying: Often have I wished to see you in person and converse with you, but I had not such an opportunity (as now). I have appealed to you and sent my magisters (to represent me), Master John of Jesenic, Master Marcus and other magisters, but to them you did not grant a hearing before you. Rather did you oppose them with cries and insults, imprisonment and frowns, but I, commending myself to the Lord God, preached the word of God, wishing only that I could with my own hands lift up all men to heaven, were it but possible. The Bishop of Riga arose among the council, and spoke saying: Master John, this assembly convened by the Holy Ghost says: Wilt thou of thy own account do this (namely), not be sophistical, obey, and accept instruction ? He answered and spoke saying: Give me the lowest of your assembly, I am ready to accept with thanks all that will be good. They answered saying: Fifty-two masters have insisted on this, that thou shalt declare thy preaching, councils, and confessions to be heretical, and teach the contrary. Master John Hus answered and said: That was fine teaching of this learned assembly. Did not that young weak girl St. Catherine[8] act thus, that she led fifty magisters to the Lord and I, poor and insufficient man, cannot even convince one. Then the Bishop of Lodi arose and spoke saying: If thou wilt not yield and obey, the spiritual arm will submit you to its discipline, place you in prison, and endeavour to mitigate your errors and heresy. Then they placed him with the barefooted monks under the Rhine where he was put in a prison-chamber which was so narrow that he could hardly stretch himself, and which had but a small window, so that he could obtain a small quantity[9] of water or wine, for in those countries there is no beer; and while in prison he wrote of his imprisonment to the faithful Bohemians who loved God, to the men of Prague, Zatec,[10] Loun, and also Plzen saying: Pray fervently for me to God begging him to grant me constancy, for I am not better than St. Peter who three times disowned the Lord Jesus. If I (also) disown (him) do not use me ill (blame me), dear Bohemians who are without blame before God and men. But if we are companions in affliction with Christ, we will also rejoice together with Christ. We (will not be) as murderers and robbers, who suffer for their deeds, but we will with Christ suffer guiltlessly that we may obtain eternal life. For Solomon says that God behaves to men as a father to his little sons, punishing them, though he loves them, as a father loves his sons and wishes not to behold their perdition. Graciously hast Thou (Jesus) deigned to look down upon us, giving strange gifts, a narrow prison, an evil couch, vile food, cruel fetters, toothache, dysentery and fever, that, as the whole body sinned, offending its God, thus also the whole body should receive the punishment given it by God. Then came Master Stephen surnamed Palicz[11] the parish priest of Kourim, and said to him (Hus): Lend briefly thy ear to what I will say. Master John Hus answered and said: Say, dear brother, something good to comfort me.” Master Stephen answered and said: I wonder at that which I have read according to Scripture; since the day of the birth of the son of God, there has not been so hardened a heretic as thou art. Master John Hus answered and said: May God not account this to thee as a sin, for thou hast preached the gospel from the same pulpit as I, and thou hast preached the true faith. But already at the time of my judgment hast thou declared me to be a heretic, may God forgive thee thy sins. Then came the Bohemian nobles, knights of the Hungarian king, Lord Venceslas of Duba, otherwise of Lestno, and Lord John of Chlum, and they spoke saying: Listen but for a short time to that which we will say to thee. We are laymen and know not scripture (sufficiently) that we could counsel thee in accordance with it; but according to common sense we counsel thee: if thou art guilty of these errors and heresies, recant them and save thy life. But if thou art not guilty—and that thy conscience knoweth well—then entrust thyself in great confidence to God. Then Master John Hus answering said: I would not stand before God with even the slightest stain on my conscience. You have given me better advice than could a master, who had studied in the schools.

In the month of June, in the octave of St. Peter and Paul,[12] they at last decided to deprive him of his life, if he did not yield. In the church of St. Paul, the principal one of that city, they placed in a spot in the middle of the church which was surrounded by planks some chairs and a table on which were laid his vestments, that he might be despoiled of the dignity of priesthood. Then the Hungarian king, having on his head the golden imperial crown, sat down on his splendid throne between two princes ; Prince Hanus, the younger[13] sat at his right holding in his hand the golden apple with a cross as emblem of his dignity. Another prince was at his left holding aloft a bare sword. When they led Master John Hus out of prison, he was so weak that his bones clang to his skin, because of the many illnesses from which he had suffered in prison. Master John Hus bowed down before the body of God (on the altar) and prayed, but to the people he only showed his respect by (bowing) his head. For it is written thus: Before God humble your heart, but before the great and the prince bend your head; and he (Hus) stood before them, folding his hands, and from his right foot the fetters had not yet been struck off. One of the assembly arose and spoke saying: This assembly which has met by order of the Holy Ghost bids thee to allow thyself to be instructed. Master John answered: I still beg for instruction, but up to the present time I have received none. I am ready to die for that which I have preached in accordance with the holy prophets, the holy scriptures, the words of the holy apostles, the fathers of the church and the holy martyrs, for better doctrine have I none. Oh, you have summoned me (before your tribunal) and oppress me unrighteously with your might; but I summon you all in a century before the Lord God. Then immediately the Cardinal of Cambray sprang up and said: John Hus, obdurate heretic, this will not avail thee: thou wilt not escape from our hands. Master John Hus answered and spoke: It is indeed a fine holy council; three hundred harlots have followed it (come with it). Your earthly God you once called John the Pope, Balthasar XXIII., saying that he was an earthly God (God upon earth) and could not sin. But when by divine permission the secular power seized him you confessed that he was an evil sinner and simonist, the worst of heretics, and you hold him in the Castle of Gottlieben; and what this council did in summer, that will be known when winter comes; they will fly away like storks, and their enactments will be vain. He then looked at the King of Hungary, and spoke saying: King, that for which thou strivest thou shalt not obtain, for through thy miserable artifices thou shalt lose thy life; that for which thou strivest thou shalt not obtain. Thou wilt be neither Roman Emperor nor King in Bohemia.[14] Hearing this the Hungarian king blushed with shame and hung down his head; then they immediately read out some articles against him (Hus) according to the deposition of some witnesses mentioned above or mentioned afterwards, and they said: For this we have (as witnesses) two canons of the Vysehrad, two of the castle (Hradcany), two masters of the University of Prague, two aldermen of the old town, that thou didst say in one of thy sermons that the mother of God is like any other woman. And bursting into tears and protesting, he said: Far be this from me, miserable and weak man. Of the Virgin Mary I believe and hold that from the beginning she was a pure virgin, that after the birth she remained a pure virgin and that she remained without any corruption of her body. I believe also that she was raised to heaven, and that she is the highest person in heaven and therefore above the angels, above the prophets, above the apostles, above the martyrs. After he had professed his faith about the mother of God, he immediately ended. Then they spoke saying: Obdurate heretic, deserving to be condemned, sentenced to death and sent to hell, thou hast said: When a priest consecrates the body of God, raises it to his head and lays it on the corporal[15] there does not remain only material bread, that is to say it in Latin, panis materialis vel substantialis. And bursting into tears and protesting he said: Far be this from me, miserable and weak man. This do I believe and hold, concerning the body of God, when an ordained priest according to regulations approaches the altar piously and says the words (of consecration), there immediately remains the whole body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, martyred on the cross and now sitting on the right hand of God Father, the Almighty, as long as the sacrament (the holy wafer), its whiteness and roundness, are at all visible. Concerning the third article the witnesses said: Hear, obdurate heretic, deserving to be condemned, thou hast said that thou art the fourth person of the Holy Trinity (sic). Protesting he said: Far be this from me, miserable and weak man, that I should think so unwisely. This do I believe and hold concerning the Holy Trinity. I declare—and for this I am ready to die—that the three names, the three persons are one, one power, that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; these three are one without difference, and I by no means add a fourth to them. Then they brought a paper crown, yards in height, on which three devils were painted in black. Seeing it Master John Hus took it in his hands and placed it on his head. And he said: Oh, crucified Jesus, meek lamb, Thou hast received a crown of thorns, bloody and piercing to the brain on Thy sacred head, for the sake of me, sinful one, and I now take on me this soft and light crown for Thy truth and because of my earthly sins that I may timely escape them. Then immediately they brought a chain and Master John Hus spoke saying: Oh, crucified Jesus, meek lamb, Thou wert by the bishops of the old law bound during a whole night, mocked and imprisoned. This light chain I gladly receive for Thy truth; then immediately the bishops spoke, saying: Wrongly hath this heretic enjoyed the dignity of priesthood, without permission of the Roman church hath he preached God’s word, he hath dared to say mass. Therefore let his priestly dignity be destroyed, let his tonsure be shaved off as if he were a madman; others said, let it be cut out with knives! And he (Hus) smiling, spoke and said: Oh, how quickly the bishops of the old law agreed about the scoffing and mocking of my dear Lord, and ye cannot agree about me, miserable and weak man. Forgive them, oh God, for they know not what they do. Answering him the Cardinal of Cambray spoke saying : Sufficiently, Hus, hast thou screamed in the city of Prague, leading the common people to error and heresy, therefore wilt thou not be allowed to do so here. Then they immediately dress him in mass-vestments, place him for derision in their midst before the high altar, put a silver chalice with a paten in his hand and speak saying: Oh accursed Judas, who hast deserted the peaceful ranks of this holy assembly, and hast gone out to join the ranks of the Jews, we take to-day from thee the chalice in which thou hast offered up the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and thy soul with thy lord devils[16] we send to damnation. Answering them, Master John Hus said: And I hope that I will to-day drink of the chalice in the heavenly kingdom with the martyrs and the Lord Christ. You commend my soul to the devil, but I commend it to the Lord Christ. Then they took from him the mass-vestments, and placed him in their midst. Then immediately the Bishop of Lodi who was called (a) monk stood on a chair and preached a sermon on heresy, taking (for his text) the words of St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, “because of unbelief they were broken off.” The body of John Hus, the unbeliever (the bishop said) is worse than the body of Judas, for Judas, having betrayed the Lord Jesus, thus helped all men to salvation, but this man has committed a greater sin than Judas by contaminating the holy Roman church. Therefore hath the spiritual hand nothing more to do with him, and surrenders him to the temporal hand, that the temporal hand may purify his errors and heresies by the flames of death. Then they immediately begin to burn some little books, similar to his (books) and condemn them for heresy. Master John Hus answered and said: How could you condemn my Bohemian writings, and disparage them, as being heretical, as you had not read them! even had you wished it, you would have been unable to do so, for there were here (men of) many nations, Hungarians, Germans, Italians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, and (men of) other nations. Except John, Bishop of Litomysl, none could understand (the Bohemian writings); for he is a Bohemian. Then Master John Hus recited an offertory which is usually sung at mass saying: Arise, Lady Mother, queen of heaven, beg of your son good things for us; then as he had learnt German in prison he spoke to the common people saying: Thus do I believe and hold with regard to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Then the common people began to whisper among themselves: “This man professes good things, he should not die, if he acted thus in Bohemia.” Remarking this the King of Hungary with his instigators,[17] his (Hus’s) bitterest enemies, spoke saying: Perhaps he will lead astray the common people by his fine speeches to (believe) his errors and heresies, and he ordered the beadles and constables to whip the common people away from him with whips and clubs. Meanwhile he (the king) himself rises with the executioners, bishops and prelates, and he orders Prince Hanus, Lord of Klem the younger[18] to rise and hand him (Hus) over to the executioner. Prince Hanus, Lord of Klem, the younger, gave the golden apple with the cross, the emblem of his dignity, to another prince and handed him (Hus) over to the executioner. Then while twelve bishops read holy prayers, Master John Hus professed the common faith (saying): Thus do I hold and believe concerning the common Christian faith; and they led him out by the gate (on the road to) the Gottlieben Castle, where the road runs close to the Rhine, and they drive a wooden stake deep into the earth. Seeing this, Master John knelt down and prayed saying: Lord God, deign, I beg you, to grant me your holy help while I end my life on this couch. The crown falls from his head, and he, seeing the three devils painted on it, smiles, saying: These will not harm me, for I fear not the powers of hell. Then one of the masters said: Always have heretics the habit of smiling, be their fate ever so evil. Place again, master, on his heretical body that crown, that he may die separated from the wholesome heart of the holy church. One standing near said : Let a confessor be given to this man. But he (Hus) said that he had already secretly confessed in prison and that it was therefore not necessary now. Then a priest on a fine horse and clad in red silk (said): It is not seemly to give to a heretic the sacrament of the holy church, let him die like a dog! Then he begged that his gaolers might be allowed to approach him. He thanked them and having blessed them he said : Your reward will be the Lord God in the hour of your death. Then the executioner bound him, standing, to the stake, with one chain round his head, another round the middle, and a third round his feet, and he surrounded his body with dry faggots of vine up to his chin. Then Prince Hanus, Lord of Klem the younger, and the Count of Puphaim (Pappenheim), the imperial marshal spoke, saying: Recant, and save your life, or let some small child recant for you. Answering, Master John Hus said: As my lips have since my childhood never intentionally lied, assuredly the mouth of another will not lie for me. They then waved their hands asunder (as a signal to the executioner) and went away, saying: Burn, master, thou art obdurate in thy heresy, it is sure that thou wilt not give way. When the executioner set fire (to the stake) a great flame with smoke arose. Master John Hus cried out to God with great confidence and said: Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, sinner. Then taking a hymn of the holy David in the psalter, he sang one psalm, saying: Lord God Almighty, according to thy great and manifold compassion, have mercy on me, sinner. Then he still moved his lips, saying the Lord’s prayer, and remained in the flames for the time you would take to go from the town of Prague across the bridge to the other side[19] as far as the great church of the Virgin Mary; and then he gave up the ghost. Then the fire sank, the body was burnt down and only the stake remained standing. Then the Lord of Klem ordered three cart-loads of wood to be brought and the remains to be broken up into fragments, that the heretical Bohemians might not obtain possession of his bones and venerate them as relics. Then they threw his garments and the boots which he had worn in prison into the fire, roasted his heart on a pointed stake and turned everything, even his bones, into dust. Then they dig up the earth deeply[20] load (the remains) on carts and, as the Rhine was near, scatter them in the water saying: Swim, Hus, to thy God. Then assembling the beadles he (the Count Palatine), gave them orders with a loud voice (saying): He who shall mourn over this heretic, or follow him, or hold to him, to him shall the same be done or worse, and then they all went their way.

I have translated this curious document as literally as the rugged Bohemian of the original permitted. The document obviously dates from the time of the Hussite wars, and represents Hus as he appeared to the warriors of that period. The account of the martyrdom of the master is very similar to that of the eye-witness, Mladenovic. Greater stress is laid on the brutalities committed against Hus, and it is attempted—contrary to facts—to connect Hus very closely with the origins of utraquism. The writer was a Bohemian well acquainted with Prague—as is proved by his quaint allusion to the duration of the martyrdom of Hus. He had little knowledge of Germany, as is proved by various mistakes concerning German personalities.

  1. An ancient Bohemian religious pamphlet.
  2. Joseph Jungmann (b. 1773—1847) author of a large work on Bohemian literature. (See my History of Bohemian Literature, pp 362–371.)
  3. That is to say, between 1433 and 1466.
  4. The well-known collection of documents, which has been frequently quoted in this work.
  5. Hus.
  6. Magister Jacobellus, the famed theologian.
  7. The great friend of Hus, and one of his companions on his last journey.
  8. A reference to the well-known legend of St. Catherine. It is said that fifty pagan philosophers visited her to expound the erroneousness of Christianity, but that her eloquence was so great that she converted them all to the Christian creed.
  9. In the original “zajdlyk,” a measure of liquor. The word, in German, “seidel,” continued in use up to recent times.
  10. In German, Saaz.
  11. Stephen Palec, the famous—or rather infamous—informer.
  12. Old style. The martyrdom of Hus took place on the 6th of July new style.
  13. The person thus described is Louis Count Palatine, who carried the imperial globe here designated as the “golden apple.”
  14. These (false) predictions, here wrongly attributed to Hus, seem to point to the early date of the manuscript. Though he always claimed the Bohemian throne, Sigismund was only recognised as King of Bohemia in 1436.
  15. The cloth used in churches for covering the elements of the Eucharist.
  16. Probably an allusion to the three devils painted on the cap that had been placed on the head of Hus.
  17. This refers to the Bishop of Litomysl, Michael de causis, Palec and the other Bohemian priests, opponents of church -reform, who were then at Constance.
  18. The author writes in German “her czu klem.” Rupert, Count Palatine, was generally known by the sobriquet of Klem. The writer here describes his son Louis, whom he wrongly calls “Hanus,”—as “Klem the younger.”
  19. The Mala Strana (“small quarter”) of the town of Prague, situated on the left bank of the river Vltava.
  20. To prevent the Bohemians carrying away morsels of earth as relics.