The life and times of Master John Hus/Chapter 12
THE HUSSITE WARS
It would be impossible to realise the importance of in the world’s history if we dealt of the events of his life independently of those of the subsequent Hussite wars. In a passage which I have previously quoted, Palacky has pointed out how comparatively unimportant would have been the place of Hus in history had not the unrivalled bravery of the Bohemian people and the genius of leaders such as enabled Bohemia to beat back the united forces of almost all Europe, which endeavoured to crush the religious movement in the country. Though Palacky died more than thirty years ago, no other writer has since his time more clearly grasped the real character of the Hussite wars than he did. In one of his controversial writings, he says: “One school of historians to which I have the honour to belong has maintained that the Hussite war is the first war in the world’s history that was fought, not for material interests, but for intellectual ones, that is to say, for ideas. This ideal standpoint was so seriously and so sincerely maintained by the Bohemians that when victorious they never attempted to replace it by a more interested policy. It is true that during the war they forced foreign communities to pay taxes and an annual tribute to them; but they never thought of subduing them, or of extending their dominion over foreign lands—a thing that under the circumstances of the time would not have been difficult. I know that among the modern school of German historians there are persons who attribute this attitude mainly to the incapacity of the ancient Bohemians, and who with brutal derision attempt to deduce from it their racial inferiority. I leave it to a more enlightened posterity to decide what conduct is nearer to barbarism—that of the disinterested victor, or that of the imperious and rapacious conqueror. Two centuries later the enemies, after one victory—that of the White Mountain—certainly acted differently, and endeavoured in every way to use their victory for the purpose of material gain. Was their conduct nobler and more Christian? As to the Hussites, they never during their prolonged and heroic struggle ceased to consider it and to term it a struggle for the liberty of God’s word. . . .”
This feeling here so finely expressed by a man of learning is innate in the mass of the Bohemian people; it is as strong in the peasant or workman as in the Bohemian scholar who has studied the annals of his country. “The Hussite battles, as Dr. Gindely wrote, “were fought for a national cause; poets and painters chose them as their subject, the most stirring popular songs date from this time; the names of the leaders of this movement have lingered in the memory of the people; the name of no Bohemian king is as familiar to them as that of the blind leader of the Hussite armies. The violent destruction of the national constitution by Ferdinand II., the sufferings which the country endured during the Austrian war of succession at the hand of Prussians, Bavarians and Frenchmen, events that occurred but one or two centuries ago, are forgotten. On all these occasions the peasant was a mere sufferer, he was deprived of his religious convictions or of his worldly goods, but he never defended himself. In the Hussite wars he had himself been a fighter, he had been a victorious warrior, and his flail and fighting club had successfully beaten back the enemies of his country and his faith.
Though the Bohemians were, even after the execution of Hus, reluctant to separate entirely from the Western Church, the events that followed the death of the master led inevitably to that result. The treacherous conduct of the council and particularly of , the heir to the throne, caused general and vehement indignation in Bohemia. If civil war did not immediately break out in the country, this must be attributed to the attitude of King Venceslas, and more particularly of his queen. Queen Sophia openly expressed her indignation at the treatment of her former chaplain, and Venceslas made no secret of the displeasure which the treachery of his brother, and the conduct of the Bohemian priests who had so fiercely attacked Hus, caused him. No doubt forseeing this, the wealthy Bishop of Litomysl, who had been the leader of the adversaries of Hus, addressed a letter to King Venceslas on July 11, only a few days after the death of the master. He had heard, he wrote, that many said that he had acted at Constance in a manner hostile to Venceslas and to Bohemia; he begged the king to place no faith in such reports, and declared that he had sought only the king’s advantage and the honour of the country.
This letter formed the beginning of an extensive correspondence between the members of the council and Sigismund on one hand, the Bohemians on the other; this correspondence had, however, but little influence on the course of events. The national movement soon assumed a somewhat revolutionary, though as yet by no means anti-dynastic character. Some of the nobles and knights connected with the court of King Venceslas were indeed among the leaders of the movement. Together with a large part of the nobles of Moravia the Bohemian nobles met at Prague on September 2, 1515. They drew up a solemn protest, which they forwarded to the council. The document said: “Master John Hus was a good, just and catholic man, who lived in our kingdom for many years and was favourably known, because of his good conduct, pure life and fame; in a truly catholic manner he taught us and our subjects the law of scripture and of the holy prophets, expounding the books of both the Old and New Testament, according to the teaching of the holy doctors, of whom the church approves. He preached much and left many writings, and he consistently detested all errors and heresies, and continuously and faithfully admonished us and all the faithful in Christ also to detest them ; he also by his words, writings and deeds exhorted us, as far as it was in his power, to preserve peace and charity. We have never heard, nor been able to understand—in spite of all the attention which we gave to the matter—that the said Master John Hus ever taught any errors or heresies in his speeches, or preached or asserted such matters in any fashion whatever, or that he scandalised by word or deed us or our subjects in any way. Living piously and gently in Christ he both by word and deed strove most diligently to conform to the evangelical law and the teaching of the holy fathers, for the edification of the holy mother the church, and for the salvation of his fellow-men.” This valuable document clearly expresses the opinion which the more intellectual and more pious of his countrymen formed of Hus’s life and teaching immediately after his death. The letter ends with what may again be considered a covert threat to . The nobles declared that any one who should affirm that heresies had sprung up in Bohemia or Moravia should be considered the worst of traitors unless such statements should be made by Sigismund, the heir and successor to the throne, whom, however, the nobles hoped and believed not to be guilty of such an offence. This was undoubtedly a prelude to the subsequent deposition of Sigismund. This protest, which bore the seals of four hundred and fifty-two nobles and knights of Bohemia and Moravia, was forwarded to Constance, and caused great indignation and some consternation among the members of the council.
The Bohemian patriots were far too shrewd not to perceive the grave danger to which their bold attitude exposed them. Only three days after their letter of defiance had been sent to Constance, they bound themselves by a solemn covenant to unite in the defence of freedom of thought and in resistance to arbitrary and unjust excommunications. They decided to send to Constance envoys who were to complain of the murder of Hus. They maintained the right, and even the duty of the priests on their estates to preach the word of God freely and truly in accordance with the teaching of Scripture. Should a priest be by his bishop hindered from acting in this manner, the rector, doctors, and magisters of the theological faculty of the University of Prague were to act as arbiters. Should a pope at a later period be elected, lawfully and according to the ancient regulations, they would send representatives to him who were to complain of the injury done to Bohemia by the false accusation of heresy, which had been brought against the country. They finally pledged themselves to defend by all means the principles contained in their declaration, and resolved that a committee of three—consisting of two Bohemian and one Moravian noblemen—should be intrusted with the organisation of the defence of the country, should it be attacked. The confederated nobles invited King Venceslas to join them, but in consideration of his brother, whom he feared even more than he hated him, he declined, probably against the advice of the good Queen Sophia. Soon afterwards the lords favourable to the cause of Rome, who were not numerous, but among whom were some of the most powerful nobles, also formed a confederacy whose members pledged themselves to continue obedient to the universal church and to the council.
Sigismund at this moment displayed a great literary activity, perhaps still hoping to avert war with Bohemia. He had left Constance for a time and proceeded to Paris, from where he sent two letters to Bohemia, both dated March 21, 1416. The one was addressed to the utraquist nobles. As communion in the two kinds was one of the principal tenets of the national party in Bohemia, they began at this time to be generally known as utraquists. The letter certainly bears witness to the excessive perfidy and falseness of Sigismund, on which most historians have not laid sufficient stress. Sigismund began by stating that he deeply regretted that the nobles had acted in opposition to the authority of his dearly beloved brother Venceslas, who could not approve of a confederation among the nobles of his realm formed without his consent. He further declared that had Hus not arrived at Constance before him, but appeared in his train, matters might have turned out differently. This statement can hardly have greatly impressed the Bohemians, who knew that next to the Bishop of Litomysl and the spies in his pay, no one was more responsible for the execution of Hus than Sigismund himself. Sigismund’s words overheard by  stating that even should Hus recant, he should not be allowed to return to his country, had already become widely known. The King of Hungary ended his letter by informing the Bohemians that as even the princes who had previously adhered to Peter de Luna (Benedict XIII.) now recognised the authority of the council, Bohemia would incur great danger, should its representatives venture to resist the entire power and authority of the Roman Church. On the same day Sigismund addressed a letter to the Romanist nobles of Bohemia, and particularly to Conrad, Archbishop of Prague, and John, Bishop of Litomysl, who were their most prominent representatives. He praised their devotion to the Roman Church and entreated them to continue faithful to it. About this time, Sigismund also addressed a letter to his sister-in-law, Queen Sophia of Bohemia. He informed her that he had heard to his great regret that many in the Bohemian realm had been infected by execrable crime and the perversity of error, and casting from them the seamless coat of Christ, which the regeneration of holy baptism had conferred on them, had succumbed like men walking in darkness and in the shadow of death to the seductions of vileness and malice. A great outcry, not without sorrow, had therefore arisen at the holy council of Constance, because of the rumour which ever became stronger and more frequent, that in these lands (Bohemia and Moravia) the clearness of piety had been overclouded and the worship of the divine name had been mercilessly mocked. Sigismund then expressed hopes that the queen would pluck this deadly herb (of heresy), which weakened the harvest of blessings, from her fields. He ended by referring to the proceedings against the queen and Venceslas which were being discussed at Constance. He again begged her to use her influence to extirpate heresies. Should she act otherwise he feared that punishment on the part of the council and the apostolical see, which he had hitherto prevented by interceding against the continuation of the legal proceedings, would now soon become imminent. This letter, written in the turgid style which Sigismund affected, is yet another proof of the insincerity which had become a second nature to him. Sigismund always acted entirely in union with the council, over which he indeed exercised complete control. Whether Queen Sophia, who as her letters to Pope and the College of Cardinals prove, was by no means deficient in penmanship, answered this letter is not known to us. The council also attempted to use its influence to strengthen the Romanists and at the same time vehemently reviled the national party. In a letter which was sent to the papal nobles a few days after Sigismund’s two letters, the council stated that Satan, the ancient enemy of the human race, who wandering and roving round the world does not cease to seek out those to whom he can communicate the poison of his damnation, had so greatly inebriated of damned memory, then Hus and other sectators with the chalice of Babylon, that they had wretchedly spurned the doctrines of the holy fathers and turned their minds to vanities and false madness. The letter then mentioned with regret that in the kingdom of Bohemia and the marquisate of Moravia many men, eminent through their noble birth, had damnably conspired against Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. The most important part of the letter was the last one, in which the council announced a decision that greatly envenomed the already perilous situation. The council stated that they had appointed as legate in Bohemia and Moravia John, Bishop of Litomysl, a fervent defender of the Catholic faith, whom they had chosen among thousands. The nobles were begged to assist him in suppressing heresy in their countries. This appointment of John the “iron,” the arch-enemy of Hus and of the national party, signified throwing down the gauntlet to Bohemia. It is but fair to suppose that many moderate-minded members of the council had no such an intention. The absolute ignorance of Bohemian affairs, which was as frequent then as it is now, is no doubt their excuse.
While this diplomatic campaign, which I have here only been able briefly to outline, was proceeding, the Bohemians had already appealed to force, though actual warfare only began considerably later. Though the doctrine of the necessity—in distinction from the admissibility—of communion in the two kinds had only been recognised by Hus at the end of his life, great importance was attached to it by the Bohemians, whose symbol the chalice became. When on the news of the execution of Hus tumults broke out in Prague, many priests who refused to administer communion in the two kinds were driven from the city, and their houses plundered, while utraquist priests took their places. The estates of wealthy prelates also did not escape. The estates of the Bishop of Litomysl were seized by neighbouring lords of the national party, and the “iron” bishop was thus, as Palacky remarks with not unnatural bitterness, relieved for a time of that care of worldly goods which had hitherto so exclusively occupied his mind. The breach between Bohemia and the Western Church was necessarily widened by the appointment of the Bishop of Litomysl as legate of the council. The Bohemians became ever more inclined to establish a national church in their country. The covenant concluded by the Bohemian nobles had already pointed to the university as an authority in religious matters. This principle was now generally accepted, particularly as church-reformers were already beginning to spread doctrines that had never been taught by Hus. On the suggestion of Master Jacobellus, the principal theologians of the university met in the so-called great college on August 9, 1417, and formulated the Hussite doctrine in the following four articles:
I. The word of God shall in the kingdom of Bohemia be freely and without impediment proclaimed and preached by Christian priests.
II. The sacrament of the body and blood of God shall in the two kinds, that is in bread and wine, be freely administered to all faithful Christians according to the order and teaching of our Saviour.
III. The priests and monks, according to secular law, possess great worldly wealth in opposition to the teaching of Christ. Of this wealth they shall be deprived.
IV. All mortal sins, particularly those that are public, as well as all disorders opposed to God’s law, shall in all classes be suppressed by those whose office it is to do so. All evil and untruthful rumours shall be suppressed for the good of the commonwealth, the kingdom and the nation.
These articles contain the pith of the Hussite teaching, and on them were founded the compacts by which the Roman see for a time accepted at least a part of the demands of the Bohemians. Though according to Dr. Dvorsky’s conjecture, which I have adopted, the origin of the articles dates as far back as 1417, they only became generally known when they were presented to Sigismund and his German allies during the siege of Prague.
Unfortunately for the cause of church-reform, discord soon broke out among the Hussites, as all members of the national party soon began to be called. A considerable party—soon to be known as the Taborites—in direct contradiction with the teaching of Hus, began at an early period to reject all sacraments except baptism and communion, the existence of purgatory, and many rites and regulations of the Roman Church. Though the dauntless and unrivalled bravery of the Taborites contributed largely to the brilliant victories of the Bohemians, yet in these dissensions lay the germ of the future downfall of the country. The fatal scission among the Hussites foreshadows already the fateful battle of Lipan, and dimly even the more fateful battle of the Bila Hora, where Bohemian freedom and independence perished. As all churches, even those where the utraquist rites were observed, were closed to the Taborites, they began to assemble in large numbers in the fields and on mountains. Lawrence of Brezova, the foremost among the historians of the Hussite war, writes: “In the year 1419 the priests and preachers of Scripture who favoured the teaching of Hus and communion in the two kinds, who were then called Wycliffites or Hussites, and with them people of both sexes from all parts of Bohemia, both from towns and villages, began to assemble on a hill near Bechyn, to which they gave the name of Tabor. The priests carried the eucharist before them, and particularly on feast days administered the sacrament to the faithful with great reverence; for the enemies of communion in the two kinds prevented the common people from receiving the communion in that fashion in any church of that neighbourhood. On the day of St. Mary Magdalene, a large number of people of both sexes, and many little children, more than 40,000 people from all parts of the kingdom, assembled on this hill and with great fervour received the sacrament of the body of God and of the blood of God, according to the order of Jesus Christ, which was preserved by the primitive church. Then King Venceslas was greatly disturbed, fearing that they would put in his place Nicholas of Hus, whom he had exiled from Prague because he had, accompanied by a large crowd of men, who, however, were unarmed, addressed him near the Church of St. Apollinaris, begging him to grant freely communion in both kinds to adults and children.”
The Nicholas of Hus here mentioned by Brezova had been one of King Venceslas’s courtiers, but had been banished from the court because he had at the head of a large band of men appealed to the king requesting him to grant a general permission to receive communion in the two kinds. By a decree of Venceslas religious services according to the utraquist rites had been limited to three churches in Prague. It is uncertain whether Nicholas of Hus, as stated by Brezova, intended to seize the crown of Bohemia, but it is certain that in the last months of his life Venceslas lost all his previous popularity with the Bohemian people. A weak, though well-meaning man, he had now definitely to decide whether he would throw in his lot with his people and resolutely face Sigismund and his numerous allies, or whether he would aid his treacherous younger brother in crushing the national movement and reconquering Bohemia. Finally Venceslas, intimidated by the constant threats of his brother, frightened also by the democratic character of the Taborite movement, determined to apply to Sigismund for aid, and to invite him to Bohemia.
Before the Taborites had taken any further steps, and only a week after their great meeting, events at Prague brought matters to a crisis. The Premonstratensian monk, John of Zelivo, an enthusiastic Hussite and a man of great eloquence and ambition, had acquired great popularity among the citizens of Prague. When preaching on July 30 in the Church St. Mary of the snow—one of those that had been given over to the utraquists—he spoke strongly of the oppression of the faithful, referring to the fact that several Hussites had been imprisoned by order of the German councillors of the new town, and complaining also that the utraquists were excluded from almost all the churches of the city. The faithful then proceeded to the town hall led by Zelivo. On their way they passed the church of St. Stephen and attempted to enter it. The priests had closed it on the approach of the heretics, and a struggle took place in which some were wounded on both sides and the church was considerably damaged. Matters became more serious when the procession reached the town hall of the new town, and demanded the liberation of the Hussites who were imprisoned there. In answer stones were thrown at them from the windows of the town hall by the German councillors who were strong opponents of the national movement. One of the stones struck John of Zelivo, who, as had become customary, carried the sacrament in a monstrance before the procession. The people, infuriated by this act of sacrilege, as they considered it, attacked and stormed the town hall. They found a leader in , who, like Nicholas of Hus, had been a courtier of King Venceslas. The town-councillors were thrown from the windows, and those who survived the fall were killed by the people who were assembled in the market-place below. When the news reached King Venceslas he was seized with an apoplectic fit, and on August 16 a second fit ended his life.
The death of the king left Bohemia in a state of complete uncertainty. Sigismund was undoubtedly the legitimate heir to the throne, and even among the utraquists, particularly among the nobles belonging to that party, some were at first ready to recognise him as their sovereign, should he conform to the teaching of what had already become the national church. Treacherous as he always was, Sigismund had hitherto generally concealed his blind adherence to Rome and his hatred of the Bohemian people. He had even, on several occasions, expressed his regret that Hus had been executed, and stated that this would not have occurred had Hus arrived at Constance with the king, and after having received the letter of safe-conduct. The great mass of the Bohemian people, with that instinctive intuition that sometimes characterises the masses, always distrusted Sigismund, to whom they rightly attributed the responsibility for the death of the revered master Hus. The eloquent priest John of Zelivo, who had at that time great influence over the people of Prague, denounced Sigismund in apocalyptic language, calling him the fiery seven-headed dragon of the revelation. Immediately after the death of Venceslas rioting broke out in Prague, many churches were destroyed, and all priests who refused to accept the utraquist rites were expelled from the city. With them most of the German inhabitants left the town. They were almost all adherents of the Roman Church, and bitter enemies of the national party, which they believed to be opposed to the undue predominance which they had obtained in Bohemia.
Sigismund was unable to proceed to Bohemia immediately after his brother’s death, as urgent affairs required his presence in Hungary. He determined to adopt a temporising policy, as long as he was unable to enter Bohemia with an overwhelming armed force. He therefore appointed as regent Queen Sophia, whom her known sympathy with the Hussite cause rendered very popular. As her coadjutor he named the upreme Burgrave Cenek of Wartenberg, an ambitious nobleman who was in matters of religion entirely guided by what he believed to be his personal interest. Tranquillity returned to Prague for a short time, but the action of the Taborites soon led to new and graver disturbances. At a great meeting on the Tabor hill on the day of St. Venceslas (September 28, 1419) the Taborites resolved to march on Prague. Queen Sophia, informed of their intention, hurriedly summoned a large force of German mercenaries to her aid. Infuriated by the presence of these enemies of their country and their race, the whole city of Prague rose in arms. Fierce fighting began in all parts of the city. Aided by the Taborite forces which, led by Nicholas of Hus and Zizka of Trocnov, had meanwhile arrived at Prague, the citizens obtained possession of the Vysehrad, where the defenders, King Venceslas’s former bodyguard, composed of friends of the national party, offered little resistance. An attack on the Hradcany castle, however, was unsuccessful. In the course of this prolonged street-fighting, of which the contemporary chroniclers give a vivid account, a large part of the city was destroyed. The citizens began to desire peace, and through the mediation of Cenek of Wartemberg a truce was concluded. The citizens of Prague again surrendered to the royal troops the Vysehrad castle; the utraquist nobles, as whose spokesman Wartemberg acted, promised to support their countrymen in their demand of independence for the Bohemian church. The Taborites, who disapproved of this compromise, left Prague and proceeded to Plzen and then to the Tabor hill, where their first meetings had been held. They here built the city of Tabor, which became their stronghold up to the time of their final downfall.
The not very favourable terms of this armistice, the retreat of the Taborites, and the expectation of Sigismund’s arrival caused a short-lived Romanist reaction in Bohemia. The miners of Kutna Hora, strong adherents of the Roman Church, seized many utraquist priests and other Hussites and threw them into the shaft of one of their mines, to which they had in derision given the name of Tabor. Many Romanists and Germans returned to Prague and several utraquist priests were expelled from their churches. The Germans greatly rejoiced, and as a contemporary chronicler tells us, “smiled and clapped their hands, saying now these heretical Hussites and Wycliffites will perish and there will be an end of them.”
Sigismund had meanwhile arrived in the lands of the Bohemian crown, and at Brno received the envoys of the cities of Prague. They protested of their thorough loyalty to their new sovereign, and begged only to be allowed to continue to follow the rites of the utraquist church. The king returned an evasive answer. He merely stated that he intended to rule according to the example of his father, , whose memory was still revered in Bohemia. He demanded that all chains and barricades that had been erected in Prague during the recent street-fighting should be removed, and that the Romanist priests and monks should no longer be molested. Sigismund did not, as had probably been expected, proceed immediately to Prague. Disliking and distrusting all compromises, he was determined to appear in Bohemia only at the head of so large a military force that the country would be absolutely at his mercy. Sigismund believed that such a force could most easily be raised by recurring to the time-honoured expedient of proclaiming a crusade. The term crusade, originally employed to designate warlike expeditions undertaken to free Palestine from Mahomedan rule, had long been misused to describe wars undertaken from worldly and often base motives. The last crusade had been the one undertaken by the subsequently deposed Pope John XXIII. against his enemy the King of Naples. On the advice of Sigismund, Pope , whom the council of Constance had in 1418 chosen as pope, proclaimed a crusade against Bohemia on March 1, 1420. In this document the new pope declared that Sigismund, his beloved son in Christ, wishing to deserve the high dignity conferred on him by providence, had determined to extirpate the deadly poison of the heresy of Wycliffites and Hussites, and that he (the pope) greatly extolled this plan of the king and prayed for its success with eyes uplifted to heaven, for whose advantage this matter was undertaken. The pope therefore entreated and exhorted all kings, dukes, marquises, princes, counts and barons, potentates, captains, magistrates and other officials and their representatives, also all communities of cities, castles, fortresses, villages and other localities, and all who were zealous for the name and fame of Christianity, strongly and manfully to undertake the extermination of the Wycliffites, Hussites, other heretics and all who favoured, abetted and defended them. The document ended with a promise of plenary indulgence to all who should take part in the coming crusade.
This proclamation caused intense fury in Bohemia, which became yet greater when the people were informed of the cruel death which one of their fellow-citizens had suffered at Breslau by order of Sigismund, who, not feeling as yet strong enough to crush Bohemia, had proceeded to Silesia from Brno. John Krasa, a wealthy citizen of Prague, was accused of having spoken with disapproval of the sentence passed by the council of Constance on Hus, and of having maintained the necessity of communion in the two kinds. By order of Sigismund he was placed before an ecclesiastical tribunal, which condemned him to be dragged by horses through the streets of Breslau. The cruel sentence was carried out on March 15, 1420. Krasa endured his martyrdom with great courage and fortitude. Many of the nobles of Bohemia, including the supreme Burgrave Cenek of Wartemberg, were present at the death of Krasa, and were greatly incensed by the cruelty of Sigismund. Contemporary chroniclers attribute largely to this occurrence the defection of Wartemberg from the cause of Sigismund, which took place shortly afterwards.
The numerous bands of so-called crusaders now began to march on Bohemia from all directions. Sigismund himself crossed the frontier about the beginning of May. The news that he received on entering Bohemia was by no means favourable. Cenek of Wartemberg had, on April 17, joined the national party and concluded an alliance with the cities of Prague. In a proclamation published on April 20, he enumerated the grievances of the Bohemians against “the Roman and Hungarian King Sigismund, who had not been crowned as King of Bohemia.” The proclamation ended by declaring that no Bohemian should under penalty of losing his honour, his fortune, and his life fail to take part in the defence of the country. General, national and religious enthusiasm prevailed in Bohemia, but it unfortunately led to deplorable excesses. The Hussite movement for a time assumed an iconoclastic character. Many ancient monasteries, monuments of the finest ancient Bohemian architecture, were destroyed both at Prague and in other parts of the country. Many monks and nuns were treated with great cruelty. Though some writers have attempted to attenuate these outrages, they cannot be sufficiently blamed both for their base brutality and their political ineptitude. In a moment of greatest peril Bohemia thus alienated many . Cenek of Wartemberg, who held the castles of Hradcany and Vysehrad, concluded a truce with Sigismund, stipulating only that the religious services on his estates should continue to he held according to the utraquist rites. The citizens of Prague also endeavoured to come to an agreement with Sigismund. The King of Hungary, after crossing the frontier, first attacked the city of Kralove Hradec, which surrendered after a short resistance. From here he marched to Kutna Hora, the centre of a German and Romanist population. It was here that he received the envoys of the cities of Prague. He had found at Kutna Hora that at least some Bohemians were opposed to Hussitism and now believed his victory certain. He asumed a more overbearing manner, and received the citizens in a very opprobrious fashion. He overwhelmed them with reproaches and demanded unconditional surrender. Informed of this, the citizens of Prague, though they were the most moderate of all utraquists, knew that war to the knife was inevitable, and immediately began to strengthen the fortifications of their city. They also, understanding the folly of internal dissensions in face of a powerful enemy, sent messengers to Tabor begging the Taborites “if they wished verily to obey God’s word, to march to their aid without delay, and with as many men as they could muster.” Zizka did not hesitate for a moment. Headed by him and the three other “captains of the people,” the Taborites, numbering about six thousand men, set out on the day the message had reached them, and defeating a Romanist force which endeavoured to intercept them, arrived at Prague on May 20. About the same time the forces of the Bohemian towns Loun, Slany, and Zatec also arrived in the city, and several utraquist nobles and knights with their followers hurried to Prague to take part in the defence of the menaced capital.
Such slight succour appeared very insufficient in view of the fact that from all parts of Europe vast armies were marching on Prague. Yet the citizens did not lose courage for a moment. As I have written elsewhere, “absolute confidence in Scripture rendered despondency impossible. A thorough acquaintance with the Old Testament is evident in all the contemporary records of those stirring times. No man or woman of Prague doubted that the Lord, who had once struck down the forces of Sennacherib, would now strike down the forces of Sigismund.”
At the end of May and the beginning of June the vast armies of so-called crusaders began to encircle Prague. Their full amount is stated to have been about 200,000 men. They had on their march committed terrible depredations and murders, killing all Bohemians, even those who belonged to the Roman Church. Sigismund at the end of May arrived in the neighbourhood of Prague, where the castles of Hradcany, and Vysehrad were still held by his adherents. He for some time hesitated to attack the city, knowing that new forces were daily joining the crusading armies. At last it was decided that a general assault should take place on July 14. Some of Sigismund’s German allies attacked the Vitkov—now Zizkov—hill, but were repulsed with great loss by the Taborites, led by Zizka. Even the Taborite women took part in the defence. One of these women surpassed the men in courage. When the Bohemians were for a moment obliged to retreat, she refused to do so, saying, “It is not beseeming that a faithful Christian should give way to Antichrist” After this failure the attacks on the other parts of the town were also abandoned. Both parties hoped by negotiations to come to an agreement, and the utraquist nobles who, from dynastic motives had remained faithful to Sigismund, but shared the religious views of their countrymen, attempted to act as mediators. The moment seemed a favourable one for a pacification. The Bohemians had in the articles of Prague, which had in all probability been at least outlined previously, a programme that united all national parties. As Mr. Krummel has well pointed out, the differences among the Hussites were not as yet considerable. All acknowledged the teaching of Hus, and all strove for the same purpose, the reformation of the church in accordance with the customs of the primitive church. All Hussites condemned the evils caused by the temporal power granted to popes and bishops, the abuse of indulgences, and the immoral life led by the priesthood of the period. All strove to establish a truly saintly and apostolical church of which laymen as well as priests should form an active part. The views of Hus were still fresh in the memory of all, and when we notice how greatly discord increased among the Hussites, when the memory of the master grew dimmer, we realise what an irreparable loss to Bohemia and the cause of church-reform the comparatively early death of Hus was.
The articles of Prague were shown to the utraquist nobles who had attempted mediation, and they strongly approved of them. It was, however, necessary that the articles should be jointly discussed by representatives of the national party and by opponents of church-reform. Even the choice of a meeting-place proved difficult because of the intense mutual distrust. The Hussites in particular, warned by the recent fate of Hus, hesitated to entrust their safety to men who might possibly plead that no faith should be kept with heretics. All these difficulties were, however, surmounted, and it was decided that a meeting in the open air should take place in the Mala Strana (“small quarter”) of Prague. The Romanist representatives were Louis, patriarch of Aquileja, Simon of Ragusa Bishop of Trau, and several other dignitaries of the Roman Church. The Bohemians were represented by the most prominent theologians of the university, and several leaders of the utraquist and Taborite armies were also present. The principal speakers were on the Roman side the learned doctor Peter de Vergeriis, and on the Bohemian magister John of Pribram, who was already considered one of the most learned theologians of the University of Prague. The debate was carried on with great decorum and gravity, and the subjects discussed, as Palacky notes with his usual acumen, already foreshadowed the discussions of the Council of Basel. It was, however, impossible to arrive at an agreement.
Sigismund had retired from the neighbourhood of Prague shortly after the defeat of the crusaders of Zizka’s hill, but his troops still garrisoned the castles of Hradcany and Vysehrad. The last-named castle was hardly pressed by the Hussites. In the autumn of the year 1420, Sigismund made an attempt to relieve the garrison. He was, however, defeated in a very sanguinary battle fought between the village of Pankrac and the castle of the Vysehrad on November 2. Sigismund now left Bohemia and for a time abandoned all attempts to conquer the country. The Hussites, both those of the utraquist party—who now were often known as the “Praguers,” as the capital was their principal centre—and those who belonged to the Taborite party, now assumed the offensive and obtained possession of almost the whole of Bohemia. Many of the nobles, among them Cenek of Wartemberg, also now formally adopted the Hussite cause.
At this moment when Bohemia was at least for a time free from the obnoxious presence of Sigismund, it is interesting to notice briefly the development of the doctrines of Hus in the country. The moderate or utraquist party among the Hussites, who were known also as Calixtines or Praguers, was in accordance with the Church of Rome on most points, as had indeed been the case with Hus himself. The opposition of the utraquists was directed against the Roman hierarchy, not against the ancient dogmas of the Catholic Church. They accepted fully the teaching of the Roman Church with regard to the sacrament, but they maintained that communion should be administered to all in the two kinds. They declared, as I have previously mentioned, that the distinction which the Church of Rome had established in this respect between priests and laymen was unjust, and not founded on the teaching of Scripture. It may also be said that they attached more importance to the study of the Bible than priests usually did at that period. This had indeed been a characteristic of the Bohemian church-reformers from the beginning of the movement. The utraquists allowed the adornment of churches by pictures and statues, but sternly opposed the exaggerated veneration of such images, which had at that period become absolute idolatry. The calixtines strongly disapproved of the possession of secular property by the priesthood, as it led, according to their views, to immorality and the neglect of ecclesiastical duties. They wished that their priests, to whom marriage was permitted, should differ as little as possible from the rest of the faithful, and sternly reproved the exaggerated and sometimes almost sacrilegious veneration which the Roman priests at this period claimed. Following here also the example of Hus, the Calixtines endeavoured to extend the use of the national language in the services of the church, though they did not in this respect go as far as the Taborites. Though opposed to Rome on some points, the Calixtines attached great importance to the apostolical succession of their priests and their intention undoubtedly was to found a national Bohemian church forming part of the Catholic or universal church. As previously mentioned, immediately after the death of Hus the theological faculty of the University of Prague had by the Hussites been recognised as the authority on matters of religion. When in 1421 Conrad of Vechta, archbishop of Prague, accepted the four articles of Prague, he naturally became the head of the Calixtine church. After his death a consistory became its governing body. Among the first administrators of this consistory were Mladenovic, the biographer of Hus, and magister Pribram. The learned master Jacobellus, the real originator of utraquism, held some views which were more “advanced,” if we may thus describe them. His teaching was on some points similar to that of the Taborites. Only once after the death of Vechta was the Calixtine church governed by an archbishop. As will be mentioned presently, after the treaty of Iglau the estates of Bohemia chose John of Rokycan as archbishop, but he was never recognised by the pope.
The position of the calixtine church was at all times a very difficult one. The calixtines were confronted by the bitter, relentless hostility of Rome, which demanded unconditional surrender. Even those moderate Calixtines who were ready to conform to the Church of Rome on all other points, were they but allowed to retain the use of the chalice, met with a stern refusal, though this concession has on other occasions been made by the Church of Rome. There is little doubt that in this case German influence prevailed, and that the matter was treated from a political rather than from an ecclesiastical standpoint. While the conciliatory efforts of the Calixtines thus met with no success, they exposed them to the vehement enmity of the extreme church-reformers in Bohemia, and of the Taborites in particular.
Little was up to recently known of the Taborite community, and their own written documents having been destroyed, all contemporary knowledge of them has been derived from the works of their enemies. According to their main principle, the Taborites admitted as truth nothing not contained in Scripture, and they rejected as false all the writings of the fathers of the church which deserved to be burnt as work of antichrist. After the year 1422 the Taborites rejected the teaching of the Roman church with regard to the sacrament, which had been the teaching of Hus also. They believed that after communion, bread remains bread and wine, but that Christ who is in heaven is through His divine grace present in the sacrament, and that those who piously receive communion partake of His divine grace. Of the sacraments the Taborites recognised only baptism, and they rejected all veneration of the virgin Mary and the saints. They also repudiated aural confession. When the faithful wished to confess, the Taborite priests said to them: Why do you run to us? We cannot forgive you your sins; go and make confession to God Himself. In distinction from Hus and the Calixtines, the Taborites rejected the doctrine of purgatory and therefore also the prayers for the dead. They were totally opposed to the traditional hierarchy of the Roman church, declaring that popes and cardinals were evil doers and instruments of Antichrist. They none the less at one time chose Nicholas of Pelhrimov, one of their most learned divines as bishop. His powers were, however, very limited, and his position was similar rather to that of the bishops of the Bohemian brethren—a community that in some respects resembled that of Tabor—than to that of the bishops of the Roman church. The political principles of the Taborites were strictly democratical. They acknowledged no differences of social rank. All members of the community called each other brothers and sisters, and the organisation was at first a communistic one, though this did not continue even to the end of the short-lived community. The battle of Lipany in 1434 marks the downfall of democracy in Bohemia, and with it that of the Taborite community, though the city itself was only captured in 1452 by the utraquist King George of Podebrad, who established there the services of the utraquist or Calixtine church.
As was inevitable in a moment of general intense religious excitement, considerable differences of opinion existed among the Taborites, as among the Calixtines. The best known of all Taborites, John Zizka of Trocnov, was the leader of a moderate division, whose members after his death assumed the name of Orphans. Though Zizka was an ardent democrat and hated with undying hatred Sigismund, whom he rightly considered responsible for the death of Hus, his attitude in matters of religion was very moderate and his views did not differ greatly from those of the Calixtines. His touching devotion to the memory of Hus rendered him unwilling to accept innovations of which the master might not have approved. An intermedial position among the Taborites was that held by Nicholas of Pelhrimov, the bishop of the community. There were, however, among the Taborites also enthusiastic priests whose fanaticism was often pernicious to the cause of church-reform. Such men were John of Zelivo, who has already been mentioned, and Martin Huska, surnamed Loquis, who is described as a man of great eloquence. The people surnamed him the “prophet Daniel” and the “angel of the hosts of the Lord.” Another fanatical preacher was Peter Kanis, whose teaching was mainly founded on chiliastic views.
In connection with these fanatics, I must, according to the established custom, mention the sect of the Adamites, whose importance has been enormously exaggerated by writers hostile to the cause of Hus. Dr. Nedoma has indeed proved that the Adamite sect had no connection with Hussijtism, and he maintains that even the extreme Taborites, Martin Huska and Peter Kanis, cannot in any way be rendered responsible for the deeds of these obscene fanatics. Dr. Nedoma prints a letter addressed about the year 1409 to archbishop Zbynek by master John, vicar of Chvojnov, in which the latter states that in his parish the diabolical custom had sprung up that men and women met secretly at night in the woods and took part in terrible orgies, of which the worthy priest states that he dares not describe them. This was, of course, some years before the beginning of the Hussite wars. It should be added that the Adamitic movement by no means originated in Bohemia. The forerunners of the Adamites were undoubtedly the “turlupins” in France, and at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century we hear of similar complaints against the Adamites in Germany and other countries. When some of these fanatics settled in an island in the Nezarka river near Tabor they were mercilessly destroyed by Zizka. It would hardly be necessary to dwell on this matter were it not that all enemies of the Hussite cause have laid great stress on it. Pope Martin V., when proclaiming a crusade against Bohemia, did not hesitate to identify the whole party of church-reform with the Adamites. Æneas Sylvius also in his Historia Bohemica has devoted to them a chapter which is neither edifying nor trustworthy. The gifted author of Lucretia and Euryalus seems to have carefully preserved all tales concerning this matter that were current at the time.
Though the Taborites were innocent of the worst accusations brought against them by their opponents, it cannot be denied that the more fanatical members of that party greatly injured the cause of church-reform. Proclaiming as they did the approach of the millennium, and denouncing as the imagining of Antichrist all secular and ecclesiastical authority, they undoubtedly encouraged communism and anarchy in Bohemia. This alone accounts for the bitterness with which the Calixtines, and magister John of Pribram in particular, write of the Taborites. This bitterness is particularly evident in Pribram’s famed work entitled The Life of the Taborite priests. He has in consequence been attacked by modern Bohemian writers, who have even asserted that he became unfaithful to the Calixtine cause. This is certainly untrue. Like Hus himself, Pribram did not wish the nation to separate entirely from the universal church, but he hoped to establish in Bohemia an autonomous national church which would preserve the Calixtine rites, particularly with regard to communion, which would have at its head a pious, virtuous clergy not burdened with worldly riches, and which would employ the national language in its religious services. If Pribram attacked rather the Taborites than the partisans of Rome, it was because he knew that in Bohemia, where the memory of Hus was still venerated, the Roman church had for the time lost all hold on the people, while he feared that the communism and anarchy preached by some of the extreme Taborites would alienate all pious and orderly men from the cause of church-reform. Though Pribram has undoubtedly been very unjustly attacked, it is impossible to overlook his many faults. In his frequent controversies with archbishop Rokycan, a much sterner opponent of the Church of Rome, Pribram appears rather as an ambitious politician than as a preacher of God’s word. Hus was not destined to find a successor. Nor Pribram nor any other Hussite divine possessed the truly apostolic character, the indomitable fortitude, the intense compassion, the spirit of absolute self-sacrifice which have rendered Hus immortal.
To avoid repetitions I have here endeavoured to give a brief outline of the teaching and organisation of the two great Hussite parties. It is hardly necessary to say that not only the Calixtine or utraquist church, which with various vicissitudes existed up to the year 1620, when all religious freedom in Bohemia perished, but also the Taborite community, whose downfall occurred in 1452, underwent several changes. To give a detailed account of these changes would be entirely beyond the purpose of this work, which endeavours only to note briefly the development of Hus’s teaching. In 1420, after the great victories of the Zizkov and Vysehrad, it was hoped that a union between the contending Hussites might be obtained. A meeting for this purpose took place in Prague immediately after the battle of the Vysehrad “in the house of Peter Zmrzlik, a citizen of Prague, who lived in the old town near the Church of St. Jacob.” Peter Mladenovic acted as spokesman for the University of Prague, and bishop Nicholas of Pelhrimov for the Taborites. The conference proved resultless.
After the departure of Sigismund from Bohemia, in the autumn of 1420, the country was almost entirely subdued by the armies of the Praguers and the Taborites, who sometimes acted jointly, but more often waged war separately. Even the towns of Plzen and Kutna Hora, strongholds of the Romanist or German party, were obliged to submit. The Bohemians now endeavoured to establish an orderly government. Representatives of all Bohemian parties met at Caslav in 1421, and as was customary in Bohemia at that period, both ecclesiastical and political matters were discussed. It was agreed almost unanimously to reaffirm the articles of Prague and to pronounce the deposition of Sigismund as King of Bohemia. A provisional government, including members of all parties, was formed, and it was decided—though not without some opposition—to offer the Bohemian crown to a Polish prince. Shortly afterwards Bohemia was again attacked by Sigismund and so-called crusaders. Zizka’s great victory at Nebovid between Kutna Hora and Kolin on January 6, 1422, again freed Bohemia from all foreign invaders. Early in the same year Prince Korybut of Lithuania arrived in Bohemia as representative of his uncle duke Witold of Lithuania, whom the Bohemians had chosen as king. He left the country, however, before the end of the year, recalled by the Polish court through the influence of King Sigismund. About this time Zizka, who had recently acted in union with the Calixtine party, rejoined the extreme Taborites. He appears to have believed that after the departure of Korybut some of the utraquist nobles wished to recall Sigismund to Bohemia. Zizka, on whom, as on most Bohemians of his time, the Old Testament had great influence, appears to have considered himself as an instrument chosen by providence to avenge on Sigismund the murder of master John Hus, and he always pursued the King of Hungary with relentless hatred. Having the greatest general of the time at their head, the Taborites no longer hesitated to wage open warfare against the moderate or Calixtine party. What I have written has, I hope, made it clear how great was the antagonism between the Hussite parties, and at a warlike period, and among a warlike people, such differences could only be settled by “blood and iron.” Zizka defeated the Calixtines, led by Cenek of Wartemberg, in a great battle at Horic (April 27, 1423). Rumours of a threatened new invasion caused the Bohemians to reunite, as indeed they at this period always did when attacked by foreign enemies. A truce was concluded at Konopist, which, reserving for future decision all questions of dogma and ecclesiastical government, limited itself to declaring that the questions concerning vestments and the decoration of churches should be entrusted to the authorities of the church, and did not depend on the law of God. So insufficient a settlement could not prove definite, and civil war again broke out as soon as the danger of foreign invasion disappeared for a time. Zizka, victorious as ever, defeated the Calixtines at Kralove Hradec and Malesov.
In the last year of Zizka’s life, peace was re-established between the contending Hussite parties, mainly through the mediation of Prince Korybut, who had returned to Bohemia. A great meeting took place on the “Spitalske pole” (spital field) on the spot where the Prague suburb Karlin now stands. Zizka, whose usual moderation always abandoned him when King Sigismund was in question, had sworn entirely to destroy the city of Prague, which, as he believed, still harboured some adherents of the King of Hungary. The eloquence of the young priest John of Rokycan, afterwards archbishop of Prague—pacified him. Rokycan strongly and successfully appealed to his feelings as a Slav and a Bohemian. It was thus as a leader of the whole united Hussite army that Zizka started on his last campaign. All the Taborite leaders, the Praguers under Prince Korybut and the Calixtine nobles joined Zizka’s colours. It was indeed a fateful moment in the history of Bohemia. The allies were determined to establish the rule of the chalice in the sister-land Moravia. The scanty and often-defeated Austrian troops of Sigismund’s son-in-law Albert, who held the country for the Germans, could have offered little resistance. Prince Korybut had frankly and sincerely accepted the articles of Prague, and the formerly suspicious Bohemians had begun to trust his loyalty. Had Moravia been conquered, the estates of that country would undoubtedly, jointly with those of Bohemia, have elected Korybut as king. Republican rule over an extensive country being in the fifteenth century practically an impossibility, this was certainly the one moment when the foundation of a Slavic and utraquist state in Bohemia and Moravia was possible. Fate, never favourable to Bohemia, willed it otherwise. Before crossing the Moravian frontier, the Hussites laid siege to the castle of Pribislav near that frontier. During the siege Zizka was attacked by the plague and died on October 11, 1424. His death put a stop to the campaign in Moravia. The moderate Taborites adopted the name of Orphans, thus indicating that it would be impossible to them to replace their dead leader.
It is a proof of the military spirit that was general among the Hussites that, deeply as they felt the loss of their leader, they did not hesitate for a moment in continuing their resistance to the ever-returning German invaders. In longer contented themselves with repulsing the invaders, but they successfully attacked the Germans and Austrians in their own countries, though they never attempted permanently to establish their rule in foreign lands. It now appearing evident that Bohemia could not be subdued, both Sigismund and the Roman church determined to enter into negotiations with the Hussites. The negotiations were prolonged and encountered many obstacles. After hesitating for a considerable time, Pope Martin consented to the meeting of a general council of the church at Basel. New difficulties, however, arose as the Bohemians demanded that all Christian churches, that is the members of the Greek and Armenian churches as well as those who belonged to the Roman church, should be invited. The Hussites also demanded special guarantees for the safety of their envoys, who might otherwise meet with the fate of Hus. A new and decisive defeat of the Romanists at Domazlice on August 14, 1531, accelerated the negotiations. The Bohemians, who were assured of the safety of their envoys, and who themselves wished for peace, determined to send envoys to Basel, where the council had already assembled. Their numerous embassy, at the head of which were Prokop the Great and John of Rokycan, arrived at Basel on January 4, 1433. Very lengthy discussions at the council now began. The papal representatives, now aware that some concessions would have to be made to the Bohemians, wished to limit as much as possible these concessions. The Hussites, on the other hand, after an uninterrupted series of victories that had lasted twelve years, saw no reason to assume a conciliatory attitude. After a time, though negotiations were not entirely broken off, the Bohemian envoys left Basel. They were, however, accompanied by representatives of the council who hoped to continue the negotiations in Bohemia. In July a new embassy of the Bohemians formulated their demands in four articles, which were finally accepted in a slightly modified form by the council and constituted the famed compacts, which continued to be, up to 1567, a fundamental law of the kingdom. The compacts declared that:—and Prokop the Less they found leaders who were no unworthy successors of Zizka. The Bohemians now no
I. The Holy Sacrament is to be given freely in both kinds to all Christians in Bohemia and Moravia and to those elsewhere who adhere to the faith of the two countries.
II. All mortal sins shall be punished and extirpated by those whose office it is to do so.
III. The word of God is to be freely and truthfully preached by the priests of the Lord and by worthy deacons.
IV. The priests in the time of the law of grace shall claim ownership of no worldly possessions.
The compacts are obviously founded on the articles of Prague, but they hardly satisfied the demands of even the most moderate utraquists. Some of the stipulations are very unclear. The one which limited the wealth of the clergy, always very reluctantly accepted by the church, was liable to be interpreted in various manners. Indirectly this question contributed considerably to the outbreak of the thirty years war. It is doubtful whether the compacts would have generally been accepted by the Bohemians had it not been that a political reaction took place in the country about this time. The formerly powerful nobility of Bohemia had played but an insignificant part in the latter years of the Hussite wars. Many utraquist nobles therefore wished—if the freedom to retain the revered chalice was granted them—to act in union with the papal nobles and suppress the turbulent democracy of Tabor. Almost the entire nobility of Bohemia, both utraquist and Romanist, and a few of the more conservative towns formed a confederacy for this purpose, and their army decisively defeated the Taborite forces, led by Prokop the Great, at Lipany on May 30, 1434. A general pacification rapidly followed the defeat of the advanced party. At a meeting at Iglau the compacts were signed and accepted by both the Bohemians and the representatives of the council, and the Bohemians at last recognised Sigismund as their king. The estates had some time previously elected John of Rokycan as utraquist Archbishop of Prague. One of their conditions for accepting Sigismund as king was his promise to use his influence on the pope to obtain the recognition of Rokycan as archbishop. Treacherous as ever, Sigismund did not fulfil his promise, and indeed secretly opposed the recognition of the archbishop by the pope. John of Rokycan, however, continued to exercise his functions up to his death in 1471, and the fact that the papal opposition to him also continued was alone sufficient to render a true ecclesiastical pacification of Bohemia impossible.
Sigismund’s reign in Bohemia was very short. Already sixty-eight eyars of age, he arrived at Prague for the first time as king in August 1436, and he died in December 1437. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Albert Duke of Austria, of whom the chroniclers only tell us laconically that “he was a good man though a German.” Albert only reigned about two years, and a very turbulent period followed his death. Albert’s widow had indeed in February 1440 given birth to a son Ladislas, surnamed “Posthumus,” but the government of the country was in dispute between two rival parties among the nobility. George of Podebrad acted as leader of the utraquist—or, as Palacky at this period calls it—the national party, while Ulrich of Rosenberg was the leader of the Romanist, or Austrian party. In 1448, Podebrad obtained the guardianship of Ladislas Posthumus.
Since the defeat of Tabor the utraquist church in Bohemia had adopted a very retrograde policy. It endeavoured in every way, except by means of absolute submission, to ingratiate itself with the Roman see. These attempts were invariably resultless. The Roman pontiff never recognised Rokycan as archbishop, and Pope Nicholas V. formally repudiated the compacts. While the cringing policy of the utraquist church gained it no friends in Rome, it caused great discontent in Bohemia. Many Bohemians seriously contemplated a union with the Eastern Church, and these negotiations were only ended in consequence of the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. Other opponents of the utraquist church favoured views not dissimilar to those formerly held by the men of Tabor. Thus arose the community of the Bohemian brethren which played so eminent a part during the last years of Bohemian independence. Its moral originator was , but the community was founded by a young monk named Brother Gregory, a nephew of Archbishop Rokycan, and Michael, parish priest of Zamberk. They first established themselves at Kunwald, a small village near Zamberk.
During the short reign of Ladislas Posthumus, George of Podebrad continued to govern Bohemia, and after his death—he died in 1457, not yet eighteen years of age—Podebrad was elected king. His reign was, particularly in its earlier part, a time of great prosperity for Bohemia. Podebrad being, however, and always remaining a firm adherent of the utraquist church, he was confronted by the constant enmity of the Roman church. It was through the influence of Rome that Podebrad became in the last years of his life involved in a long and disastrous war with King Matthias of Hungary. In consequence of these wars, Podebrad, who had at one time thought of founding a national dynasty, was obliged to use his influence to assure the succession to the Bohemian throne to Prince Vladislav, son of Casimir, King of Poland. Though the Bohemian estates still considered the Bohemian throne an elective one, they without much opposition accepted Vladislav as king after the death of Podebrad in 1471. Vladislav was a firm adherent of the Church of Rome, but his influence on Bohemian affairs was very slight, as after his election as King of Hungary in 1490, he resided almost entirely in that country. Vladislav was succeeded by his son Louis, who had been crowned as King of Bohemia when but three years of age. He also succeeded his father as King of Hungary, and when defending that country against the Turks he was killed at the battle of Mohac, when but twenty years of age.
The estates of Bohemia, after prolonged negotiations, chose as successor to King Louis his brother-in-law Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. Though two princes of the House of Habsburg had previously ruled for brief periods over Bohemia, Ferdinand’s election marks the accession of the House of Habsburg to the Bohemian throne. Simultaneously with this foundation of a new dynasty, the almost extinct Romanist creed again began to gather strength. There is, of course, a close connection between the two events, for even at that time the unwritten but almost unbroken alliance between the House of Habsburg and the Roman see had long been in existence. Ferdinand, a prince of exceptional astuteness, to whose talent historians have never done sufficient justice, from the moment of his coronation endeavoured to strengthen the Roman cause in Bohemia. He endeavoured, though with little success, to gain for his side the more conservative Calixtines. Since the appearance of Lutheranism in the neighbouring German lands, these men had become somewhat isolated. The more advanced utraquists had adopted many of their privileges. This undoubtedly proves how crafty was Ferdinand’s policy. The Bohemian nobles had sometime previously established serfdom in Bohemia, thus rendering helpless the peasants who had supplied the Hussites with their best soldiers. Ferdinand’s decrees now rendered the townsmen defenceless. As defenders of the nation and its church there remained only the knights and nobles, whom Ferdinand’s grandson was afterwards to subdue. Pursuing his policy, Ferdinand in 1556 established the Jesuits in Bohemia, and in 1562 the Roman archbishopric of Prague was re-established after an interval of more than a century.’s views, and the community of the Bohemian brethren were yet further from the old Calixtine teaching. Yet Ferdinand found little sympathy even among the Hussites nearest to the Church of Rome, and these attempts, which began soon after Ferdinand’s accession in 1526, were afterwards discontinued. A foolish and unsuccessful attempt made by the Bohemian estates in 1547 to assist the German Protestants who were engaged in war with Ferdinand’s brother Charles V., gave the king the desired occasion for acting with more vigour in Bohemia. The Bohemian towns were deprived of most of
The re-establishment of the Roman church made little progress during the reign of Maximilian, who after Ferdinand’s death in 1564 succeeded to the Bohemian throne. Maximilian’s son, Rudolph II., the second who became King of Bohemia in 1576, also at first showed little interest in religious matters, and during the prolonged struggle between him and his brother Matthias both brothers made use of the religious divergences to further their own ambitious purposes. Rudolph in 1609 very reluctantly signed the “Letter of Majesty,” which granted the Protestants—a name that at this period included Lutherans, members of the Bohemian brotherhood, and utraquists—considerable privileges. Rudolph, as the so-called “incursion of the men of Passau” proves, had no secret of his intention of pursuing the same policy in Bohemia after his succession to the throne. The Bohemians had therefore either tacitly to accept their fate, as the Styrians had done, or to rise in arms before Ferdinand should have ascended the throne. It is beyond my purpose to describe this rising and the subsequent campaigns. At the battle of the Bila Hora—November 8, 1620—the religious freedom and for a time also the nationality of Bohemia perished. The Roman religion was forcibly re-established, and Hus’s influence on the development of Bohemia ends here. Yet will the memory of Hus always be sacred to Bohemians. Though the conflicts of the present day turn on questions of politics and nationality, not of religion, the memory of Hus and of the Hussite wars has often strengthened and roused to new efforts those Bohemians who felt inclined to despair of the future of their country.to free himself from this onerous obligation as soon as circumstances permitted it, and the same may be said of his brother Matthias, though he confirmed the letter of majesty when he succeeded his brother in 1612. Both Rudolph and Matthias being childless, Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, a grandson of Ferdinand I., became heir to the Bohemian throne, and under great pressure the majority of the Bohemian estates recognised him as such in 1617. Ferdinand, who had for some time ruled over Styria, had in that country relentlessly persecuted and driven from the land all who did not profess the Roman creed. He made
- Die Geschichte des Hussitenthums und . I have here only been able to allude briefly to this brilliant passage. Those interested in the matter will find a translation of a considerable part of it in my Constantin HöflerLectures on the Historians of Bohemia, pp. 103–105.
- Palacky uses the somewhat contemptuous German word, Subjecte.
- Abridged from Dr. Gindely, Geschichte der Ertheilung des böhmischen Majestätsbriefes, pp. 116–117.
- Palacky, Documenta, pp. 563–565.
- The document from which I extract this passage is well known under the name of the Protestatio Bohemorum. It has been printed by Von der Hardt, Löder, and more recently by Palacky. Löder states that his edition was from a manuscript preserved at Edinburgh of which a copy existed at Oxford. (See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 140, n.)
- i.e. the tenants on the estates of the Bohemian nobles.
- Known as “Pactio multorum baronum Bohemiae et Moraviae de tuenda libera verbi Dei praedicatione contemnendisque excommunicationibus injustis” (Palacky, Documenta, pp. 590–595).
- Both these letters are printed by Palacky, , pp. 609–615.
- See Chapter VIII.
- The letter is undated. It is printed by Caro, Aus der Kanzlei Kaiser Sigismunds, pp. 55–58.
- Abridged from Palacky, Documenta, p. 616.
- These articles are the famed articles of Prague, which later became the foundation of the compacts. Dr. Dvorsky, in a study which he sent me just before his recent death, attributes them to the year 1417, though they only became known during the siege of Prague by Sigismund in 1420. Dr. Dvorsky’s conjecture has much probability. It seems unlikely that this confession of faith should have been suddenly developed during the excitement of a siege. Dr. Dvorsky also quotes references to the articles which are of an earlier date than 1420.
- The Bohemian word is “stav,” which could in mediaeval phraseology be translated by “estate.”
- This principally referred to the statement frequently made by the Germans that Bohemia was a heretical country.
- Brezova, in his full version of the articles, gives after each of them lengthy quotations from scripture and the fathers to support them. These may have been added when the articles were presented to the Germans in 1420.
- i.e. White Mountain.
- pp. 344–345 of Dr. Goll’s edition.
- This custom became general during the Hussite wars.
- July 22.
- Contrary to what has often been written he was no relation of Master John Hus.
- In the present Karlovo Namesti (Charles Square).
- Zelivo referred to the seven crowns which Sigismund wore and also to the new order of knighthood named “the dragon” which he had just instituted.
- It is beyond the purpose of this work to give an account of the many battles and sieges of the Hussite wars. I have given some account of them in my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch. Some notice of the battles in and around Prague will also be found in my Prague (mediæval town series).
- Lawrence of Brezova, p. 354.
- In German, Brünn.
- See Chapter V.
- Printed by Palacky, Urkundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der Hussitenkriege, pp. 17–30. I give above only a short extract from this strange document.
- The Italian “podesta” is probably meant.
- Brezova refers to the death of Krasa in very pathetic words. He writes: (Krasa) “in fide sancta permansit ac in sancto perstitit proposito tamquam miles strenuus ac athletha domini fortissimus; orans namque pro suis inimicis omnes eorum blasphemias, hereticationes, probra ac derisiones, nec non et penas sustinuit durissimas magistri sui ac pastoris Jesu domini exemplo, pro veritate evangelica tamquam ovis ductus ad victimam. Tandemque spiritu exalato ad dominum in spe bona migrare meruit ac palmam martirii adipisci, quod et nobis prestare dignetur Deus trinus et unus in secula benedictus seculorum” (pp. 358–359).
- In German, Königgrätz.
- Prague, p. 53.
- For an account of the siege of Prague and the battles of the Zizkov and Vysehrad, see my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, and Prague.
- Brezova, p. 388.
- Leopold Krummel, Utraquisten und Taboriten.
- For instance, in the case of the Greek uniates.
- I must here acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Siegmund Winter, whose admirable Zivot cirkevni (Church life in Bohemia), founded almost entirely on unprinted documents, contains the first reliable modern account of the community of Tabor.
- In an able article—on the codex of Stara Boleslav—published in the Vestnik kral c. spolecnosti nauk (Journal of the Scientific Society) for 1891.
- See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 172, n.
- As a proof of the intense bitterness of this feeling I will quote the opening words of the Life. Pribram wrote: “We priests and preachers and other faithful Bohemians, both laymen and ecclesiastics, earnest and constant lovers of the Bohemian nation, cannot suffer any longer the many errors and diabolical imaginings of these Taborite priests, which they proclaim in a manner that is ever worse and worse, spreading thus hatred and fear throughout the wide Bohemian land. As we have against them neither judge nor champion, either secular or spiritual, we bring our complaints before the Almighty Lord God, and pray to Him fervently for help and justice. We appeal to the whole kingdom of heaven for help and for the punishment of these terrible sins. We beg the whole Holy Church and all faithful Bohemians to consider this matter; we beg you, we call on you, we exhort you. Listen earnestly to these most weighty warnings of the whole Bohemian land; listen, we beg you, that our warning and your heedlessness and disobedience bear not witness to your damnation and that irreparable harm befall not this land because of your delay. Verily with great sorrow and with unspeakable anguish of the heart we intend to notify and to announce to you the many terrible errors and misdeeds of these Taborite priests.” (Pribram Zivot Knezi Taborskych—Life of the Taborite priests—in Vybor z Literatury Ceske—Selections from Bohemian Literature, ii. pp. 409–430).
- Palacky in his History of Bohemia (vol. iii.) gives an interesting account of this conference.
- In German, Karolinenthal.
- An account of Zizka’s death—founded on the narrative of a contemporary chronicler—will be found in my History of Bohemian Literature, p. 152.
- In German, Tauss.
- See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, pp. 300-301.
- For Chelcicky, see my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 153–171.
- In German, Senftenberg.