The life and times of Master John Hus/Chapter 5





As soon as the German students had left Prague, the Bohemians, together with the Polish students who had remained in the city, hastened to obey King Venceslas’s command. They elected a new rector, and though Hus had already held that office a few years previously, their choice naturally fell on him who had played so great a part in the recent events. Hus was now at the height of his political position. Venceslas was undoubtedly grateful to the man to whose action it was principally due that the University of Prague had discarded Pope Gregory. The queen and the Bohemian nobles treated him with greater favour than ever. He was the recognised leader of the university, and his popularity among the citizens of Prague was very great. His position with respect to the ecclesiastical authorities continued to be an undefined one, and indeed became constantly more difficult. An archiepiscopal decree had prohibited Hus from exercising ecclesiastical functions, but he continued to preach in the Bethlehem chapel. The congregation was very numerous, and the queen and many of the courtiers were frequently present. Present also were some less desirable visitors. Some of the parish priests of Prague, men who regarded Hus’s preaching as a reproach to their own unedifying lives and were therefore his bitterest enemies, were often present at the sermons in the Bethlehem chapel. They thus hoped to gather materials for new accusations against him. We are told that the parish priest of St. Clements, one Protiva, was in the habit of assisting at Hus’s sermons and taking notes which were to be used against the preacher. This was one day brought to his notice by one of his friends. Hus had that day been preaching on the difference between the law of God and the command of men, comparing them to corn and chaff. What, he said, is corn but the law of God, what chaff but the command of men ? Therefore will we cling firmly to the laws of God, but spurn the unlawful commands of men. Hus, who was here defending his conduct in continuing to preach contrary to the injunction of the archbishop, addressed Protiva, who was sitting immediately under the pulpit, in these words: “Note that down, cowled monk (Kukliku), and carry it to the other side,” pointing to the Mala Strana, the part of Prague situated on the opposite bank of the river Vltava, where stood the archbishop’s palace. Hus well knew that fresh attacks awaited him on the part of the parish priests, offended not only by his denunciations of vice and dishonesty, but perhaps yet more by the absolute purity of his life, which lent itself to comparisons unfavourable to their own way of living. Hus, however, was safe for the moment; not only because he enjoyed the favour of the king, but also because archbishop Zbynek had, by continuing to support Pope Gregory, incurred the displeasure of the cardinals assembled at Pisa. As the archbishop and a large part of the Bohemian clergy continued to oppose their king’s wishes in this matter, troubles broke out in Prague, and some priests known as supporters of Pope Gregory were attacked by the people. Popular demonstrations also took place before the palace of the archbishop. Zbynek, irritated both against the king and the national reform-party, placed the city of Prague and the surrounding country under interdict. Declaring that he was no longer safe at Prague, he left the city and retired to his castle of Roudnice, where he was followed by a large number of priests. The king was very indignant at the attitude of Zbynek, and also at the fact that he had taken away with him to Roudnice the treasures belonging to the tomb of St. Venceslas in the cathedral of St. Vitus. The citizens were animated by feelings similar to those of their sovereign. Numerous attacks were made on the dwelling-places of the parish priests, many of whom were obliged to fly, generally (the chronicler states) followed by female companions. We have here again evidence of the almost universal immorality of the parochial clergy of Prague.

Alexander V. had meanwhile been elected pope (June 26, 1409) by the cardinals assembled at Pisa. Archbishop Zbynek still hesitated for some time, but he finally altered his views, and on September 2 recognised Alexander V. as legitimate pope. Zbynek’s position in Bohemia had become untenable. It was hopeless for him to oppose at the same time the will of his sovereign, the wishes of the Bohemian people, and the decision of what had now become the dominant party in the Roman Church. Zbynek did not gain in popular esteem by this sudden transfer of his allegiance. Yet for the moment this step, which it was believed would put a stop to all internal strife in Bohemia, was received with great enthusiasm. Te Deum and mass were celebrated in all the churches of the capital. On the following day (September 3) the citizens were summoned by the big bell of the town hall to assemble near it under the clock-tower three times in the course of the day for the purpose of rejoicing. The whole city was illuminated in the evening, and the burgomaster, Peter Habartovic of the White Lion, with the town councillors, preceded by trumpeters, rode through the streets amid general rejoicings.[1]

This change of attitude on the part of the archbishop necessarily greatly affected the fate of Hus. From the moment of their rupture the archbishop, undoubtedly a good hater, had endeavoured to harm Hus in every manner. His principal weapon was of course the statement that Hus was a “Wycliffite”—now, particularly in Bohemia and Moravia, a general term of opprobrium, which was applied to all whom it was desired to accuse of heresy. The partisans of Rome, little acquainted with the works of Wycliffe, which, indeed, they were forbidden to read, had transformed the English divine into a monster of the infernal regions. Thus the Carthusian monk, Stephen of Dolein, tells us in his Medulla Tritici that when some one known to Stephen was one night reading Wycliffe's Trialogus, it appeared to him as if Wycliffe had rushed into the room, gnashing his teeth, reproaching him for not believing his statements and striking him heavily, while many spectators appeared to be present. He retired before the enraged fiend, but fortunately found on the floor a dungfork. He seized it, and with it struck his adversary so severe a blow that he fell to the ground. He then battered in his brains and killed him. The spectators praised God, and the victor, somewhat distressed by the manslaughter he had committed, was comforted by the spectators with the words: Fear not! the murder of this man involves no guilt.[2] Hus, it is almost needless to repeat, always admitted that he had deeply studied the works of Wycliffe and felt in sympathy with many of the views expressed in them, but he also always disclaimed the complete and exclusive dependence on Wycliffe which his detractors have attributed to him both during his lifetime and in more recent days.

The attempts of Archbishop Zbynek to enforce severer measures against Hus were not at first successful. As long as the archbishop opposed the cardinals assembled at Pisa, and the newly-elected pope Alexander V., he could expect no aid from the church. The adherents of Hus even brought complaints against Zbynek before Pope Alexander, who had indeed summoned Zbynek before his tribunal when the news of the submission of the Archbishop of Prague arrived. An immediate change took place. As Dr. Flajshans writes, the pope preferred as an ally the mighty archbishop to the humble preacher. The archbishop’s officials now attacked Hus not only as a defamer of the clergy of Prague, but also as an adherent of Wycliffe. Wycliffe, as noted above, was to serve as an arm against Hus; he and his friends were to be stigmatised as favourers of the heretical views of the English reformer, as restless and dangerous men; thus would a stain cling to all their attempts to reform the church—attempts which the archbishop himself had formerly favoured and forwarded.[3]

Zbynek opened his new campaign by again referring to the accusations against Hus which the parish priest of Prague had already brought forward in the preceding year (1408). He demanded an explanation of the conduct of Hus, and stated that new complaints against him had been brought to his knowledge. The very curious document[4] which contains these accusations throws a strong light on the vast system of espionage which surrounded Hus long before he had been declared an enemy of the church. The parochial clergy of Prague were bent on the ruin of Hus at a time when he was still in high favour with the archbishop. No one who has taken the trouble to read this document will hesitate to attribute mainly to the jealousy and animosity of the parish priests of Prague the persecution from which Hus suffered from the beginning of his preaching to the moment when he perished at the stake. The document printed by Palacky contains marginal notes by Hus answering some of the accusations. They are very valuable, as the proceedings at the archbishop’s court at which Hus appeared were secret, and they, therefore, are the only clue we have to Hus’s defence. He himself no doubt attached great importance to them, and it is probable that the notes were written out by him from memory in 1414 before his departure for Constance, where he, as he knew, would have to face the same calumnies and accusations. Here only some of the accusations can be mentioned. It was stated that Hus had publicly declared that a priest being in a state of mortal sin could not administer validly the venerated sacrament of the body of Christ, nor dispense the other sacraments of the church. The note of Hus ran thus: “All those who attended my sermons well know that I preached the exact contrary, saying that a bad priest administers the sacrament in the same fashion as a good one, for it is the divine goodness that acts by means of a good or of an evil priest.” Shortly afterwards followed another accusation, also referring to the then much discussed question of the validity of the sacraments when administered by unworthy priests. Hus’s teaching on this vexed matter was always in accordance with that of the Roman Church. The informer Protiva, author of most of the statements concerning Hus, declared that he had made many of the remarks that were incriminated while preaching at St. Michael’s Church. Hus replied that at the time mentioned he had not yet been ordained a priest, and had not yet begun preaching. Another accusation was, that when on the occasion of the drowning of John of Pomuk—an event that occurred ten years previously—the possibility was discussed in the house of Venceslas the cupmaker, that Prague might be placed under interdict, Hus had said that there was no reason why the religious services in the whole kingdom should cease because of one man. The skill of the informer appears here. Hus had actually stated that neither because of the imprisonment of murder of himself or of any other man was it fitting that the whole kingdom of Bohemia should be deprived of the spiritual consolation of the sacraments. Hus was well aware of the terror which the word interdict inspired in the minds of mediæval citizens. He later left Prague voluntarily, to save the citizens from the consequences of the interdict.

It would be wearisome and indeed somewhat sickening to record the various other accusations, all of which, like those already mentioned, were founded on distorted remarks of Hus. One of the last points is, however, of interest. Hus was accused of having by his preaching caused discord between the Bohemians and the Germans. In reply he declared that he denied this, unless Bohemians and Germans had sought offence from an unjust cause; then it might be true. “Christ,” he continued, “was the stumbling-block for those who believed not. He (Christ) knows that I love a good German better than a bad Bohemian, even if he be my own brother.” Besides the principal denunciator Protiva, other priests had taken part in the drawing up of these accusations; among them was Michael, surnamed “de causis,” whom Professor Tomek describes as a consummate liar. The denunciators were, however, successful. Hus was summoned to appear before the court of the archbishop. Though the proceedings were secret, we may safely conclude that his defence was in accordance with the notes, mentioned above, which he had made in answer to his accusers. When examined, he no doubt, as in the notes, appealed to his congregation with regard to what he had said on the then ever-recurring question of the validity of the sacraments when administered by a priest who was in a state of mortal sin.

However convincing and eloquent Hus’s defence may have been, it remained unnoticed as well as unanswered by the archbishop. Zbynek sent to Pope Alexander V. an embassy furnished, as the chroniclers write, with many rich presents. The envoys stated that at Prague, in the whole kingdom of Bohemia, the margraviate of Moravia, and other neighbouring lands, the hearts of many had been corrupted by the heretical “articles” of John Wycliffe and particularly by his teaching with regard to the sacrament. As the shortest and safest remedy for these evils, it was suggested that in these countries preaching should be forbidden everywhere except in cathedral, collegiate, and parish churches, and in those belonging to monasteries. This proposal, aimed principally at Hus’s Bethlehem chapel, was made by Dr. George Bor, a canon of the cathedral of Prague, and a strong opponent of church-reform. Matters had proceeded so rapidly that, when the embassy appeared before Pope Alexander V., that pontiff had, in consequence of the complaint of Hus’s adherents previously mentioned, summoned the archbishop before his tribunal. However, Zbynek’s submission to Pope Alexander had already produced a complete change. A bull issued on December 20, 1409, annulled the former summons of the archbishop, and instructed him to seek the advice of a council which was to consist of four magisters of theology and two doctors of canon law. After hearing the opinions of these men, the archbishop was to forbid all heretical preaching in virtue of the apostolical powers which the pope conferred on him for that purpose. He was further instructed to forbid preaching in all churches not belonging to the four categories mentioned above and to order all those who might possess copies of Wycliffe’s writings to deliver them up that they might be removed “from the sight of the faithful.”

In consequence of the bad condition of the roads during the wintry weather, the papal bull only reached Prague about March 9, 1410. It gave the archbishop all necessary power, and he did not hesitate to use it. In accordance with the papal bull he appointed six councillors. They were all men strongly opposed to Wycliffe’s doctrinal teaching and to church-reform — totally different matters, which it was the archbishop’s policy to consider identical. In direct contradiction to the wording of the papal bull, Hus immediately appealed to the pope, stating that he (the pope) had been wrongly informed, as it had not yet been proved that any one in Bohemia had obstinately (i.e., in opposition to the ecclesiastical authorities) defended the teaching of Wycliffe and, as Archbishop Zbynek had himself declared in 1408, that Bohemia was free from heresy. The councillors, undoubtedly formally in the right, ignored this appeal. It soon became known in Prague that their decision would be in accordance with the papal bull, that they would express themselves in favour of the destruction of Wycliffe’s writings and of the suppression of preaching in the Bethlehem chapel. The university was, however, still on the side of Hus. At a general meeting on June 15, under the presidency of John Sindler, who had succeeded Hus as rector, the members of the university protested against the intention of burning Wycliffe’s writings and appealed to the king, begging him to forbid this destruction, which would give great offence both to the kingdom and to the university.

Zbynek, now entirely in accordance with the papal see, was not to be deterred by protests of scholars whom as a true mediæval warrior he probably held in great contempt. He took immediate action. On June 16, the day after the meeting of the university, the customary summer convocation of the clergy took place at St. Vitus’s cathedral. The papal bull, as well as the result of the deliberations of the theologians consulted by Zbynek, were read to the assembly. The decree of the councillors stated that eighteen of Wycliffe’s works, among them the Dialogus and Trialogus, were heretical, and that all who possessed copies of these works were to bring them to the archbishop’s palace within six days. Under penalty of the loss of ecclesiastical benefices and of other punishment it was forbidden to maintain or teach the heresies of Wycliffe, particularly those referring to the sacrament of the altar. The archbishop, in agreement with his councillors, further declared that he would in case of need appeal to the secular authority of King Venceslas, and finally reiterated the injunction not to preach in churches other than those belonging to the categories that have already been mentioned.

This step was a fateful one—one of which Zbynek assuredly did not see the importance. All hope of a pacific reformation of the Bohemian Church on the lines indicated by Waldhauser and Milic ended here. The views expressed by Milic and Matthew of Janov differed but little from those of Hus, but the latter, inflamed with holy enthusiasm for the welfare of mankind and imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice, was not a man prepared to meekly retract words which he believed to have uttered in accordance with a divine command. He rejected blind obedience when it appeared to him that the authority of the church was used in an unlawful manner, prejudicial to the true interest of the church itself. It was not indeed the defence of Wycliffe’s doctrines that appeared to Hus to have the greatest importance. What in Wycliffe’s works could be authoritatively declared heretical he was ready to reject, though there was much in the teaching of the English divine that attracted him. But the prohibition of preaching in chapels involved a cessation of all attempts to reform the terribly demoralised clergy of Prague. In chapels only and in the Bethlehem chapel in particular free speech could be said to exist. The prohibition also put a term to all attempts on the part of Hus and his disciples to reach the lowly population of the city bv preaching to them in a popular manner and in a language understood by all. Hus considered the prohibition as an indefensible attack on the freedom of God’s word and as a deed opposed to Christ’s own law. This appeared to him a matter in which it was his duty to obey God rather than man.[5]

It was in accordance with these views that Hus preached at the Bethlehem chapel on June 22. Popular excitement was at its height and the crowd was immense. He declared that the recently deceased pope (the news of the death of Alexander V. had just reached Prague) had stated that there were in Bohemia many heretics, that is to say, men who obstinately opposed the teaching of Christ as contained in Scripture. This untruthful statement had been believed by the pope on the authority of Bohemian priests. Hus then referred to the intention of burning Wycliffe’s works. These works, he contended, did not contain heretical statements only, but also much that was good. He further declared that he would appeal to the new pope against the archbishop's decree, and asked his congregation whether they would stand by him. All present cried: “We will stand by you.” Hus concluded by declaring that he would not cease to preach even should he be driven from the land or perish in prison. He entreated the faithful to be steadfast, for the time might come when it would be necessary, according to the words of Moses, to gird on the sword and defend the word of God.

The effect of this sermon was very great, as may be imagined. The popular excitement did not escape the observation of King Venceslas, whose natural shrewdness made him a good judge of the feelings of the people of Prague, which he knew so well. The king strongly urged the archbishop to delay all further steps, and at last obtained his promise to do so, at least up to the time when the king’s cousin, Margrave Jodocus of Moravia, should arrive in Prague. Jodocus had the reputation of being a man of moderate and enlightened views, and it was known that Hus had sent him a copy of his translation of Wycliffe’s Trialogus. It was hoped that he would act as mediator. Hus employed this brief delay for the purpose of preparing the appeal which he now sent to Pope John XXIII. He protested against the bull of Alexander based on untrue statements made from personal motives by Bohemian ecclesiastics. He also protested against the intended burning of Wycliffe’s works, many of which were treatises on philosophy, logic, and other matters not connected with theology. He also claimed for the university the right of reading Wycliffe’s other works, as they had, according to the regulations, to read also the works of Aristotle, Averroes, and other “heathens whose works teemed with heresies.” Almost at the same moment the archbishop addressed to the “diavolo cardinale,” now Pope John XXIII., a letter in which he denounced Hus as the originator of all troubles in Bohemia and as a defender of Wycliffe’s. Zbynek then alluded to the sermon of Hus at the Bethlehem chapel on June 22, and begged the pope to order him to appear for judgment before the papal court.

Meanwhile the archbishop, as Margrave Jodocus did not arrive, determined to act without further delay. On July 16 he assembled the prelates and principal ecclesiastical dignitaries in the court of his palace, which was barricaded and guarded by a considerable armed force. A stake was erected in the middle of the court, and Wycliffe’s books were placed on it. The archbishop then himself lighted the pile, and all present sang the Te Deum while the books were burning.

King Venceslas was on that day absent from Prague; he would otherwise undoubtedly have opposed by force the work of the archbishop. Zbynek himself appears to have felt that he had taken on himself a grave responsibility. Not feeling safe in Prague, he left the city immediately after the burning of the books, and retired to his castle of Roudnice. He there pronounced the sentence of excommunication against Hus. The fears of Zbynek were not altogether unfounded. There had sprung up among the people of Prague an intense hatred of the archbishop and the clergy—particularly the parish priests, whose evil life caused much unhappiness among the citizens. The situation at Prague at this moment is quaintly and strikingly described by a contemporary chronicler.[6] After stating that in the year 1410 the books of Master John Wycliffe the Englishman were burnt in the courtyard of the archbishop’s palace, the author writes: “Then a great storm arose and much strife between the king’s courtiers and the canons and priests. Songs against the archbishop were sung everywhere in Prague. There was at that time much discord between the canons and Master John of Husinec. Some said that many other books besides those of Wycliffe had been burnt, and thus the people became enraged. Some took the part of the canons and some that of Hus. Henceforth there was great discord among the people. The choir boys who lived on the castle (the Hradcany) waylaid all passers-by who adhered to Hus, and when they saw one they seized him, dragged him into the common room, stripped him, and whipped him unmercifully with birchrods.” This passage is curious also as showing that it was not only by the partisans of Hus that excesses were committed—as has been frequently stated. The latter were, however, generally stronger, and they prevented in most churches the publication of the sentence excommunicating Hus. As the chronicle quoted above relates, songs on the events of the day, mostly abusive of the archbishop, whose great ignorance was greatly exaggerated, were sung everywhere. One of these songs seems to have been very popular and obtained great popularity. It alluded to Zbynek’s want of learning and ran thus:


Zbynek, bishop A. B. C.
Burnt the books, but ne’er knew he
What was in them written.”[7]

Venceslas did his best to maintain order in his capital. He severely prohibited rioting in the streets and the singing of abusive songs. He also, with great fairness, requested the archbishop to indemnify those whose books had been seized and burnt. As a protest against the destruction of the writings of Wycliffe, Hus and his adherents, according to the academic customs of the time, held a great disputation in the large hall of the Carolinum college. The disputation, in which various speakers were to defend works of Wycliffe, began on July 27. Hus himself on that day spoke in defence of Wycliffe’s book, De Trinitate. Hus’s treatise, De Libris Haereticorum Legendis, written about this time, covers almost exactly the same ground, and we find in it the contents of Hus’s speech. Hus in it strongly blamed the burning of Wycliffe’s writings. These works at any rate contained much that was good, and their destruction had brought discord and trouble into the country. Even should these books have contained heretical opinions, they should not have been burnt. Otherwise might they have burnt also the work of Peter Lombard—to whom, as we know, Hus owed so much—or those of Aristotle. If, he continued, the doctors said that none should inquire but all should submit—a theory that has a strangely modern aspect—then they were worse than Jews and Pharisees. Christ conversed with the heretical Sadducees. Hus ended by declaring that he would not submit to the prohibition of preaching and that he would undauntedly face all dangers which might result from such a course. On the following days, up to the 31st, the disputations continued, and several of Hus’s principal adherents spoke in defence of various writings of Wycliffe.

Preaching at the Bethlehem chapel continued meanwhile. As the king had been informed that Hus had appealed to the pope, he ignored the excommunication pronounced by the archbishop and continued to extend his protection to Hus. When shortly afterwards Antony de Monte Catino arrived at Prague to announce officially the accession to the papal throne of Pope John XXIII., King Venceslas and Queen Sophia availed themselves of this occasion to enter into communication with the pope concerning the state of affairs in Bohemia. King Venceslas addressed one and Queen Sophia two letters to the pope, and each of the royal consorts wrote also to the college of the cardinals.[8] Queen Sophia undoubtedly had the question of the freedom of preaching very much at heart. In her first letter to the pope she strongly protested against the decree “which, contrary to the precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ, forbids the preaching of the word of God, except in monasteries and parish churches,” and begged that “the Bethlehem chapel, which we consider most useful to us and the inhabitants of our kingdom for hearing the word of God, may not be deprived of its privilege.” In her letter to the cardinals the queen again returns to the same subject, and declares that the decree limiting preaching to monasteries and parish churches, published under the influence of those who were opposed to evangelical teaching, was contrary to Scripture, as it was well known “that the word of God must not be fettered, but should be preached in hamlets, streets, houses, and indeed everywhere where the necessity arises.” The influence of Hus is very evident in the letter mentioned last, and it gives a clue to the fact that shortly after the death of Hus the council of Constance decided to accuse Queen Sophia of heresy.[9] Venceslas on this occasion certainly acted in accordance with the feelings of the Bohemian people, if we except the baser part of the clergy, who believed that free preaching was favourable to church-reform—the thing which from selfish motives they detested more than all others. Thus Lord Lacek of Kravar, a high court official, and Nicholas of Potstyn, Lord of Zampach, wrote to Pope John protesting strongly against all attempts to limit the liberty of preaching. The town councils of the cities of Prague also added their protest. The prohibition of preaching in the Bethlehem chapel, they wrote, and the burning of Wycliffe's writings had caused hatred, quarrels, incendiarism, and murder among the citizens, who had with constant faith professed entirely the Catholic creed. The citizens of the old town did not omit to mention that they had vested interests in the matter, as the appointment of one of the two preachers in the Bethlehem chapel was in the gift of their town council.[10]

It is difficult to imagine the impression which these letters may have produced on Baldassare Cossa. He probably thought that the men of the north took matters of slight importance very seriously. Though no one who knows the absolute recklessness with which the theologians of the period of the schism levelled even the most monstrous accusations against their opponents will believe all that was said against the diavolo cardinale at Constance, yet it is not unfair to believe that he held no very firm opinions on matters of religion. The letters from Bohemia would, however, in any case have remained resultless. Before receiving them the pope, who was then residing at Bologna, had already entrusted all the documents concerning the Bohemian controversy to Cardinal Odone Colonna (afterwards Pope Martin V.) and empowered him to decide the question. The cardinal, showing evidence here already of that hatred of Bohemia which was to be a prominent feature in his later life, immediately gave his decision in a sense entirely favourable to Archbishop Zbynek. A bull was forwarded to the archbishop, which in its purport was identical with that formerly sent by Pope Alexander. According to the wishes of the archbishop, Hus was summoned to appear immediately before the papal tribunal.

The Bohemian court was, not unnaturally, very indignant. Both the king and the queen again addressed letters of remonstrance to the pope and to the college of cardinals.[11] Though the king writes here in a very manly manner, and his letters convey a favourable impression, which is always the case when he writes under the influence of Queen Sophia, yet the queen’s letters are more to the purpose, and, it may be added, more peremptory. The queen, being a friend of Hus, grasped more clearly than her husband what was the moral value of the man for whom she was interceding, and what that of Baldassare Cossa and his cardinals. In her letter to John XXIII. the queen complained of the legal proceedings at the papal courts which had caused disgust in the kingdom, of the incessant excommunications, of the prohibition of the preaching of the word of God. She specially interceded for the Bethlehem chapel, “in which she had frequently heard God’s word,” and begged that “John Hus, her faithful, devoted, beloved chaplain might, because of his many enemies, be relieved from the obligation of appearing in person before the pope.” In her letter to the college of cardinals the queen begged the college “for the honour of God, for the salvation and quiet of the people, and for her own pleasure “to maintain in the possession of the Bethlehem chapel” her devoted and beloved chaplain, John Hus,” and to relieve him from the obligation of appearing at the papal court. Otherwise—here the tone of the queen became somewhat menacing—her consort, King Venceslas, in union with herself and the barons of the kingdom, would take himself the necessary steps that all disturbances caused by foreign intervention should cease.

The position of Hus became in consequence of the papal summons a very difficult one. The dissuasion of his kind friends and adherents would not certainly have prevented him from proceeding to Italy had he believed it to be his duty to do so. Hus, however, firmly believed that no advantage would be obtained by the Bohemian Church and the party of church-reform should he appear before John XXIII. Acquainted with the character of that pontiff, he well knew what opinion he would form of one who had spoken so strongly against the vices and the evil life of the priests of Prague. He would, therefore, have to encounter the perils of the journey—he would have to pass through the territory of the Bishop of Passau, one of the most determined enemies of church-reform—without any probability of a satisfactory result. He would have to spend the money with which others were ready to supply him for the journey, but which, as a conscientious man, he believed should rather be given to the poor. He would have for a time to desert his congregation at Bethlehem. Jerome of Prague was then in the city, and Hus, though he showed him the greatest kindness, well knew what dangers the levity and thoughtlessness of Jerome might cause were he left uncontrolled.[12]

Hus therefore decided not to travel to Italy, but through the advice of his friends at the court of King Venceslas, and perhaps in accordance with the wise councils of Queen Sophia, he determined on sending representatives to the court of Pope John XXIII. He chose for this purpose his friend Master John of Jesenice, doctor of theology, who, according to some accounts, was at that moment at Bologna. Two younger theologians were to act as his assistants. Jesenice was at first able to report good news. On the suggestion of Archbishop Zbynek, who had also sent envoys to Bologna, John XXIII. had requested the University of Bologna to deliberate on the question whether the burning of Wycliffe’s works had been justified. At a meeting of the magisters, at which representatives of the universities of Paris and Oxford were also present, it was decided almost unanimously that the burning was not justifiable. It was also declared that Wycliffe’s writings on logic, philosophy, morals, and theology contained much that was true, good, and useful. This decision was undoubtedly a victory of Hus in his contest with the archbishop. Jesenice, seeing it in that light, caused the public notary to draw up an official document which, on the authority of the dominican Thomas of Udine, dean of the theological faculty, who had presided at the meeting, stated the decisions of the assembly as they are recorded above. A copy of this document[13] was forwarded to Prague.

Hus and his friends probably overrated the importance of this decision. Pope John XXIII., as previously mentioned, had entrusted to Cardinal Colonna the entire control of the investigations referring to the dissension between the archbishop and Hus. The cardinal lost no time in coming to a decision in a matter in which he believed the authority and particularly the worldly power of the church to be at stake. The rich gifts brought by the envoys of the archbishop no doubt confirmed his views. When, in February 1411, the term fixed for the appearance of Hus at the papal court in Bologna had elapsed, Cardinal Colonna, with the authorisation of the pope, pronounced the penalty of excommunication agaiust Hus because of his disobedience. The archbishop was immediately informed of this decision, and he gave the order that the papal decree should immediately be made known in all the parish churches of Prague. This was carried out on March 15 in all the parish churches except in that of St. Nicholas in the old town, where Master Stephen of Prachatice, an intimate friend of Hus, was parish priest, and in that of St. Benedict.

The events in Bohemia had meanwhile begun to attract greater attention in Europe than had been the case at first. It has been mentioned that representatives of the universities of Oxford and Paris had taken part in the deliberations at Bologna. Latin then being the universal language of intercourse between scholars of all countries, information as to matters of interest to the learned found their way from one country to another very rapidly. Great as is the distance between England and Bohemia, it was in England that the movement in favour of church-reform attracted more attention than in countries nearer to Bohemia. The reason is not far to seek. The movement which Hus had initiated in Bohemia pursued in many respects objects similar to those for which Wycliffe had formerly contended in England. In both countries the evils caused by the demoralisation of the clergy, its avarice and greed for worldly power, were equally obvious. In England as in Bohemia the more serious men wished the churches of their countries to be more independent of Rome, and desired, if necessary by force, to oblige the rich and luxurious clergy to lead a simpler life—one more similar to that of the founder of Christianity. It has been stated previously that attempts have often been made to exaggerate the dependence of Bohemia on the earlier movement in England. The strong and enthusiastic efforts of Milic and his successors to reform the Bohemian Church suffice to prove that the Bohemian movement was largely an indigenous one. It may here be mentioned that one of the earliest writers who attempted to prove the dependence of the Bohemian reform movement was the notoriously mendacious historian Hajek of Libocan. He stated that two otherwise unknown Englishmen, “Jacob the bachelor” and “Conrad of Kandelburgk” (Canterbury), first spread anti-Roman views in Bohemia,[14] “By greatly exaggerating the English influence on the foundation of Hussitism and stigmatising it as a foreign movement, Hajek, as he well knew, greatly injured the Hussites; for the intense national feeling that has always animated the Bohemians has produced among them an often exaggerated distrust of foreign interference.”[15] Though the influence of England on Bohemia has been exaggerated, it is certain that the Bohemian Church in its struggle against Rome found sympathy in England at an early period. On September 10, 1410, Hus received a letter from an English adherent of Wycliffe that caused great commotion among the little community of Bethlehem. It was long difficult to ascertain the name of the writer of this letter which in different MSS. appears as Richard Fitz, Richardus Vitze, and Richard Wichewitze. It has, however, now been ascertained that the writer was Richard Wiche, a Lollard, mentioned by Foxe,[16] who was executed in 1439, and whose memory became so popular that a decree prohibiting pilgrimages to the spot where he had been executed was published. Richard Wiche in his letter[17] states that he greatly rejoiced at the news that they (the Bohemians) also walked in the path of truth. He had heard that they also had suffered tribulations, but—Wiche writes—“Let us seek comfort in our Lord God and His immense kindness, believing firmly that it will not allow us, God’s workers, to be deprived of goodness if we, as it is our duty, love God with our whole hearts; for adversity would not prevail among us, did not iniquity rule. Therefore, let no tribulation or suffering for Christ’s sake cast us down, for we know for certain that whom the Lord God deigns to receive as His sons, those He chastises.” Later Wiche writes, addressing Hus: “You, Hus, beloved brother in Christ, are indeed unknown to me by face, but not by faith and love, for the whole surface of the earth would not suffice to separate those whom the love of Christ effectually joins. Take comfort in the grace that has been given to thee. Preach the truth by word and example and recall whom thou canst to the path of truth, for it is not because of vain censures and antichristian fulminations that the evangelical truth should be concealed. . . .” Wiche’s letter gives evidence of his surprising knowledge of the state of affairs in Bohemia and of his acquaintance with the names of the men who were playing a prominent part in the Bohemian reform movement. Thus he sends at the end of his letter greetings to all faithful lovers of God’s law and particularly to Hus’s “helper in evangelical work, Jacobellus.” This refers to the famed Master Jacob, or Jacobellus of Stribro (in German, Mies), who played a great part in the Hussite movement during the last years of the life of Hus and after his death.

A letter from so distant a country as England naturally was received with great enthusiasm by the congregation of Bethlehem. It cannot be better described than in the words of Hus contained in the letter which he wrote in answer to that of Wiche.[18] “Your letter,” he wrote, “which descended on us as from the Father of Light, strongly inflamed the minds of the brethren in Christ; for it contains so much sweetness, power, strength, and consolation that if by Antichrist all other writings were swept away into a chasm, it would for the faithful in Christ be sufficient to obtain salvation. While revolving in my mind the pith of your letter and its vigour I said before many men while preaching—and I think about ten thousand people must have been present—‘Behold, dearest brethren, what interest the faithful preachers of Christ in foreign parts take in your salvation, they who are ready to pour out their hearts, if they can but maintain you in the law of the Lord Christ,’ and I added: ‘Behold our dearest brother Richard, the fellow-labourer of Master John Wycliffe in his evangelical work, has written to you so comforting a letter that, if I had no other Scripture, I should risk my life for this message of Christ, and would do so with His help.’ The faithful in Christ were so inflamed by your message that they begged me to translate it for them into the language of our country.” In a later part of the letter Hus begs Wiche to pray for him, and rejoices that through his (Wiche’s) efforts Bohemia had already received so much good from blessed (benedicta) England. Interesting though Hus’s letter is, it is too long to quote in its entirety, but I may notice a passage in which he refers to the great strength which the movement for church-reform had already acquired in Bohemia. He writes: “Know, dearest brother, that our people will hear nothing but Holy Scripture, particularly the evangels and epistles, and whenever in a city or town, cottage or castle, a preacher of holy truth appears, the people flock together, despising the evilly-disposed clergy.” It is evident that these ten thousand people mentioned by Hus could not find room in the Bethlehem chapel; no doubt many, as had formerly been the case during the sermons of Milic, assembled near the doors of the church, trying as far as possible to catch the preacher’s words.

On the next occasion on which Hus came into contact with Englishmen, they met as adversaries, not as allies. But before dealing with this incident, I must return to the litigation between Hus and the archbishop, which was still pursuing its weary course. The reasons are not far to seek. Pope John XXIII., to whose mind Hus’s austere views must have appeared even more objectionable than absurd, naturally

From “Histoire du Concile de Constance.
by Jacques Lenfant.

wished at almost any price to silence a preacher of unwelcome truths. He was not, however, an entirely free agent. Though the luxurious and free-living clergy of Bohemia instigated him by word and gift to accelerate the procedure against the Bohemian reformer, the cunning diavolo cardinale knew that he couldn’t risk to offend King Venceslas. The election of Pope Alexander V. had not, as had been thought, ended the schism. Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII. still had many adherents, and among those of the last-named pontiff still remained Sigismund, King of the Romans and King of Hungary, brother of King Venceslas and, as the latter was childless, heir to the Bohemian throne. In 1410 Venceslas had by the death of the Count Palatine Rupert been freed from a rival claimant to the crown of Germany, but his own treacherous younger brother Sigismund had been chosen as king by some of the German electors. Others had chosen Jodocus of Moravia, a cousin of Venceslas, as their ruler. It appears probable that after the death of Rupert Venceslas would again have been universally recognised as King of the Romans had it not been that the protection which he afforded to Hus was generally known. The ecclesiastical electors thus became his natural enemies. It appeared possible for a moment that he would play the part which a century later the Elector of Saxony played with regard to Luther. The weaknesses and follies of Venceslas, which even those who know how greatly the king has been maligned must regretfully admit, prevented him from ever playing such a part.

The Christian world was thus in the strange position of having at the same time three popes and three Kings of the Romans. Of these Sigismund and the former diavolo cardinal, now Pope John XXIII., were by far the most important, and it must be admitted that never have two men of baser character claimed to rule over the Christian world.[19] While thus the political situation obliged John XXIII. to work cautiously at the undoing of Hus, the latter also considered it his duty to continue the negotiations with the Holy See. He had begun these negotiations on the advice of the King and Queen of Bohemia, and considering himself, as he did to the end of his life, a true member of the Catholic Church, he believed that he had the right of placing his views before the papal court. King Venceslas was greatly irritated because Archbishop Zbynek had by order of the pope caused the decree pronouncing the ban against Hus to be read publicly in the churches of Prague. The king’s principle during the protracted disputes had been to maintain that the Bohemian Church should settle its own differences within the country, and that the intervention of foreigners should be eliminated as far as possible. To this principle Venceslas adhered with a tenacity that was rare with him. He had shortly after the burning of Wycliffe’s works requested the archbishop to refund the value of these books to those who had been deprived of them. Archbishop Zbynek had tacitly ignored the royal command, and this incurred the wrath of the ever-irritable king. Venceslas now decreed that certain estates and houses in Prague belonging to the archbishop and other prelates who had taken part in the burning of Wycliffe’s books should be confiscated, and their revenue employed to indemnify those who had been deprived of their books. The carrying out of this order was entrusted to the magistrates of the towns of Prague. Recent changes in the constitution of these municipalities had given the national party a majority in them, and the king’s orders were immediately obeyed. The archbishop, who had again retired to his castle of Roudnice on May 2, 1411, sent a letter to the city magistrates, protesting strongly against these confiscations, and stating that the citizens had forcibly possessed themselves of church property. A term of three days was given them within which they were to restore the confiscated property to the church. As no notice was taken of this letter the archbishop pronounced the sentence of excommunication on all the magistrates and town-officials—fifty persons in all—who had taken part in the execution of the royal order. As all these persons belonged to the national or reform party, no notice was taken of the archbishop’s decree. Zbynek then had recourse to an extreme step which he had already taken once two years before. He proclaimed the interdict over the town of Prague and its immediate neighbourhood. As two years previously, this measure failed to cause the panic which in mediæval times was generally connected with the interdict; perhaps its short duration prevented its producing the usual effect. Hus and the other priests favourable to church-reform continued to hold religious services and to preach as usual. The disputations at the university proceeded in the usual manner. It is a proof of the slight importance which was attached to the interdict on this occasion that we find Hus and his friends occupied in drawing up the regulations for a college of students that was to be founded in connection with the Bethlehem chapel. A college for students had in 1397 been founded by Queen Hedwiga of Poland, but of the curators whom she had then appointed only Kriz—known to us as the founder of the Bethlehem chapel—was then alive. He also was of a very advanced age and he did not live to hear of the bitter, but glorious death of his old friend Hus. The latter advised Kriz to take the necessary steps to render possible the continuation of this richly endowed foundation, which was then housed in the “Jerusalem” buildings sanctified by the memory of Milic. It was arranged that eleven students of theology, belonging to the Bohemian nationality, should there receive a free education. The college naturally became a centre for the friends of church-reform, and it was understood that the preachers of the Bethlehem chapel should be chosen from its members. Venceslas Kriz, son of the founder of Bethlehem, appears to have nominated the first scholars of the reorganised college. We find among them the name of Peter of Mladenovic, the disciple and biographer of Hus, whose account of the last sufferings and death of his master has been translated into many languages and read by countless people to whom the name of Mladenovic is unknown.

While the more pious and enthusiastic priests drew closer to Hus and closer to each other, some more worldly members of the clergy of Prague began to desert Hus—often to become afterwards his most venomous enemies. Some of these men had during the disputations at the university gladly taken part in the defence of Wycliffe’s teaching, and had even upheld some opinions that Hus, never an unconditional adherent of Wycliffe, had not sanctioned. These men were, however, strongly opposed to all innovations that might limit the liberty, or rather licence, of the clergy of Prague. Besides the spy Protiva, always an opponent of Hus, Stanislas of Znoymo and Stephen Palec, formerly a friend of the Bohemian reformer, now became his bitter enemies. Palec stated in a letter[20] that the writings of Wycliffe were indeed delightful, but that he very much doubted whether any of the Bohemian priests would suffer death for the truth. He preferred, he said, a faith which would allow him to go safely anywhere. This mean letter, as Mr. Wratislaw rightly calls it, was no doubt the result of the great physical fear which Palec had felt when detained at Bologna. This does not, however, excuse the animosity and rancour with which he pursued those whose lofty thoughts raised them to a height to which his mean and cowardly nature could not attain. All personal relations between Hus and Palec ceased at this period, and Hus expressed his opinion in the often-quoted words: Palec is my friend; truth is my friend; both being friends, it is saintly to give preference to truth.

Archbishop Zbynek was far too shrewd a man to think that supporters such as Protiva, Palec, and Michael, surnamed de causis, a German priest of evil repute, notorious as an enemy of Hus, would avail him in his struggle with Venceslas. He knew that he had in the king a dangerous enemy. Venceslas was deeply impressed by the dangerously great power of the clergy, in whose hands a third part of the soil of Bohemia then was. Zbynek therefore decided to make his peace with the king. Though there is hardly sufficient evidence to allow a positive affirmation, it is at least very probable that the astute diavolo cardinale advised Zbynek in this sense. Jodocus of Moravia had died very shortly after his election as king. There therefore remained as claimants to the throne only the brothers Venceslas and Sigismund. John XXIII. could not risk offending either of these princes before he had silenced the popes Gregory and Benedict—a thing he hoped shortly to do. Through the mediation of Rudolph, Duke of Saxony, and with the assent of several foreign dignitaries who were then in Prague, it was agreed that the whole dispute between Hus and the archbishop should be settled by arbitration. The king was himself to act as arbitrator, and was to have as his assistants Duke Rudolph of Saxony, Stibor Count of Transylvania, who was then at Prague, and Lacek of Kravar, formerly master of ceremonies to Venceslas, but now acting as his representative (“margrave”) in Moravia. Both parties accepted this agreement, which practically conferred on Venceslas unlimited power to act as arbitrator. Hus thought it well that the university should be consulted on the matter, and that body gave its full assent, stipulating only that the king's decision alone should be absolute, in case the appointed councillors should have left Prague before judgment had been given. At the same time, the archbishop assembled numerous prelates in his palace in the Mala Strana[21] and informed them that he had accepted the arbitration of the king. Venceslas acted with great prudence in this matter. Besides the coadjutors who had already been appointed, he consulted also several other dignitaries, both laymen and priests. The result of their deliberations was, on July 6, 1411, formulated in an agreement which under more favourable circumstances might have restored to s Bohemia the peace which that country so urgently required. It was decided that the archbishop should submit to the king as his lord and then become reconciled to him. He was also to write to the pope stating that he knew of no heresies in the Bohemian kingdom, but only of dissensions between himself and Hus, a matter regarding which the king was endeavouring to mediate. The archbishop was also to beg the pope to absolve those against whom he had pronounced the sentence of excommunication, and Zbynek was himself to absolve those on whom he had pronounced that sentence and also to revoke the interdict on the city of Prague. Both parties were to desist from the lawsuits which they had begun at the papal courts, and recall their representatives there. The king was to take council of the bishops, doctors, prelates, temporal princes, nobles, and squires[22] concerning the existence of heresies or vices among either laymen or priests, and eventually on the advice of his spiritual and temporal councillors to extirpate and punish such offences. The revenues and annuities which had been taken from the priests were to be returned to them, and those priests who had been imprisoned were to be released. All the rights and privileges previously possessed by the clergy, the university, the lords and squires were guaranteed to them, and it was stipulated that the church should not attempt to encroach on the temporal power. It was finally declared by the archbishop that he had believed that the municipalities had on their own authority, and not by order of the king, seized church property. Having now been informed of the contrary, he wished to raise no further complaints against the citizens.[23]

This sensible and business-like document, which certainly contained the germ of a permanent agreement, has been little noticed by historians. It is scarcely uncharitable to suggest that this silence is due to the blind disparagement of King Venceslas which we find in all the works of Roman Catholic writers as well as in those of some German Protestants. The statement contained in this document that it was the duty of the rulers to suppress vices and heresies foreshadows the Hussite period, where we find similar enactments in the Articles of Prague, the compacts, and elsewhere. At the time when the agreement mentioned above was drawn up, it was also settled that Archbishop Zbynek should send to Pope John XXIII. a letter interceding for Hus. A draft of such a letter was actually drawn up, but the letter was never sent. This caused renewed bitterness. The archbishop appeared to act in a half-hearted manner, and Venceslas, impatient by nature, soon again became incensed against the ecclesiastical dignitaries of Bohemia. Hus meanwhile, relying on his firm conviction that he had spoken and written nothing contrary to the true Catholic faith, again wrote to Pope John. He again affirmed that he was a true Catholic and denied ever having stated that the material substance of bread remained in the sacrament after communion or having said that a priest in the state of mortal sin could not administer the sacraments validly. These accusations had been frequently raised by Palec and Michael de causis, who believed or pretended to believe that if they proved that any book of Wycliffe which Hus admitted to have read contained a statement contrary to the teaching of the church, this was a sufficient proof that Hus himself was a heretic. Hus read this letter to the assembled members of the university, who entirely approved of it, and it was decided that as a token of this approbation the seal of the university should be affixed to the letter. It is probable that about this time Venceslas also wrote to Pope John XXIII. again praising Hus and interceding for him.

The hope for a peaceful settlement disappeared almost as rapidly as it had arisen. The archbishop soon considered that he had new causes to complain of the king and his courtiers. It cannot be denied that Venceslas was during his whole life hostile to the higher clergy of Bohemia, though his attitude towards Hus proves that he honoured and respected a pious and virtuous priest. Zbynek complained that some of the royal courtiers had interfered with his archi-episcopal rights and demanded an audience to bring his grievances before the king. On his refusal Zbynek again declared that he was no longer safe at Prague, and left the city only a few weeks after the agreement had been made. The archbishop first proceeded to Litomysl, the residence of John, surnamed the “iron,” bishop of the city. The iron bishop was known as a bitter enemy of King Venceslas and a notorious simonist. He was naturally and from selfish reasons a strong opponent of church-reform. The iron bishop played a considerable part in the life of Hus. It was at his instigation that the wealthy Bohemian priests at the time of Hus’s departure for Constance collected a large sum of money to procure evidence against him. Hus always believed that the Bishop of Litomysl, with the spies and informers who were in his pay, contributed largely to his condemnation at Constance. In the Hussite wars the iron bishop became notorious through his excessive cruelty and, as the Hussite leaders were but too ready to follow his example, the Bishop of Litomysl bears no slight responsibility for the cruelty and bitterness, exceptional even among religious wars, which marks the warfare between the Bohemians and the so-called crusaders. The counsels of the iron bishop were not, therefore, likely to have a conciliatory effect on Zbynek. He addressed from Litomysl a letter to King Venceslas containing many complaints, of which some were perhaps justified, many certainly unfounded. He also stated that he was going to visit King Sigismund of Hungary, the treacherous younger brother of Venceslas, and even threatened to induce Sigismund, who always coveted his brother's kingdom, to invade Bohemia. These plots or threats were not destined to lead to any result. Archbishop Zbynek died at Presburg on September 28, 1411, while on his way to Sigismund’s court. Thus Archbishop Zbynek, a man who had ascended the archi-episcopal throne of Prague with the best intentions, ended his life almost as a traitor to his country and his king. A man of little intelligence and less learning, he was in spite of his good qualities quite unfitted for the position in which he was placed at a most difficult moment. Hus, mindful of his good intentions and of the kindness once shown to him by Zbynek, expressed great sorrow when he heard of the archbishop’s death.

Zbynek’s death was followed by a brief moment of calm, preceding the storm, greater than all former ones, that was shortly to break out. Only one incident belonging to this, period is recorded by the contemporary chroniclers, and has ever since found its way into all works dealing with Hus, though it had little influence on the main current of the events. Shortly after Zbynek had left Prague two English envoys arrived there also on their way to Hungary, where they had a diplomatic mission. These men were Sir Hartung van Clux,[24] one of the most trusted councillors of Henry IV. and of his son, and John Stokes, licentiate of Cambridge. The object of their mission was to conclude an alliance between England and Sigismund, King of Hungary. The news of the arrival of the Englishmen soon reached the hospitable citizens of Prague and the Englishmen were invited to a banquet by the rector of the university. Sir Hartung, probably aware of the theological strife then raging at the university, politely declined the invitation, but when John Stokes, evidently a novice in matters of diplomacy, was questioned as to the cause of the refusal, he plunged boldly into the Wycliffe controversy. He publicly declared that whoever should read the works of Master John Wycliffe, or should study them, even if he had the best intentions and the firmest faith, must in course of time become involved in heresy. Hus, always zealous for what he believed to be truth, traversed Stokes’s foolish statement and challenged him to a public disputation at the university in the manner then customary. This challenge Stokes declined, alleging that he had come to Bohemia on diplomatic business, being on his way to the court of King Sigismund. Characteristically, Stokes, who was either very little versed in the ways of diplomacy, or irritated by the “Lollard” movement which, he thought, he had discovered in Prague, described in his letter King Sigismund as “Dei gratia regem Ungariae, nec non ad regem Romanorum electum unicum.” Venceslas still claimed to be King of the Romans, and the words of Stokes were bound to give grave offence to the King of Bohemia and his court. Though declining the challenge for the moment, Stokes, however, made the somewhat suspicious suggestion that a disputation should take place later either in Paris or at the papal court. It was probable in the former, and certain in the latter case that a Bohemian who attempted to uphold Wycliffe’s views there would never have returned to his own country. Stokes, belonging to the period of reaction against Lollardism in England, appears to have been a thorough ultramontane, if we can apply the word to so remote a period. At Constance he attacked Hus and wished to produce as evidence against him a book that he had found at Prague, which, he said, contained the views of the Lollards and which, he had been told, might have been written by Hus. The book, as was proved, had not been written by Hus, nor had he had any part in it. Though Hus was not able to enter into a disputation with Stokes, he yet thought it his duty to reply to the statement which Stokes had made. In a speech, which has been preserved, he justly stigmatised the absurdity of those who wished to declare heretics all who had read Wycliffe’s books. He acutely pointed out that Wycliffe had been hated by many, and particularly by the higher clergy, because he had blamed their vices and admonished them to lead honest and blameless lives.

Hus’s dispute with Stokes was no doubt soon forgotten in view of the weighty events that followed at a short interval. Through the death of Zbynek the important and valuable archiepiscopal see of Prague had become vacant. Candidates were numerous, and at a period when simony was almost universal in the Roman Church, bribery was rampant. The election at first proceeded slowly, and fears were expressed that Baldassare Cossa might appoint a new archbishop. The king therefore requested the canons to come to a decision, and of the twenty-four candidates Albert of Unicov, physician to the king, was on October 29, 1411, unanimously chosen as archbishop. A contemporary chronicler writes:[25] “After him (Zbynek), Albik (Albert) a great master of the medical sciences became archbishop. He was a German by birth, born at Unicov. The people said that he had bought the archbishopric, for he had much money. He was, however, a very niggardly and miserly German, and would not have any knights or pages around him, that he might not be obliged to give them money.” The well-meaning king, to whose influence the election of his former court-physician was largely due, no doubt sincerely believed that Albert of Unicov would be able to establish a quieter condition in Bohemia. The new archbishop shared the king’s desire for tranquillity, and perhaps under more favourable conditions their efforts might have been successful. Albik or Albert of Unicov, then about fifty-four years of age, could already look back on a long career. He had begun life as a law-student at Prague, and had obtained academic honours. As was often the custom of scholars at that period, he afterwards travelled for a considerable period. He spent some time at the University of Padua, where he obtained the degree of doctor of law. Somewhat later he applied himself to the study of medicine and acquired the reputation of being one of the greatest physicians of his time. He had recently become a widower, was the father of several children, and had taken vows shortly after the death of his wife. He had through his medical practice acquired a very large fortune, and he accepted the dignity of archbishop mainly by wish of the king, with whom he was on terms of intimacy. The reference in the chronicle quoted above to the large sum Albik had spent to become archbishop refers to a very large gift which he made to Pope John XXIII. That pontiff, as Dr. Tomek writes, would without large payment never have renounced his claim to appoint a successor to Archbishop Zbynek. That the claim of Albik prevailed over even that of the rich and unscrupulous Bishop of Litomysl, who was also a candidate, is probably not due to his greater munificence. It is an appalling proof of the universal prevalence of simony at this period that the contemporary chroniclers always allude to bribery as having decided elections among the clergy, and hardly seem to take other motives into account. In the present case it is, however, very probable that King Venceslas may have used his great influence to prevent the election of his bitter enemy, John “the iron,” to the archbishopric of Prague.

It was natural to hope that the election of Albik, an elderly, conciliatory, opulent, well-intentioned man, whose home life was irreproachable, would at least cause a respite in the theological strife which was absorbing all interest in Bohemia. Events in distant Italy brought on a crisis which was more serious than any of the former disturbances in Bohemia. It has already been mentioned[26] that, immediately after his election to the papal throne, John XXIII. strove with his entire indomitable energy to carve out for the papacy, or rather, perhaps, for himself, a temporal dominion in Italy. Here, however, the diavolo cardinale found a dangerous antagonist in Ladislas, King of Naples, an adventurer of a type somewhat similar to his own. Claiming to uphold the cause of Pope Gregory XII., Ladislas invaded the papal states and menaced Rome, where Pope John had then established his residence. The pope therefore decided to proclaim a crusade against his Italian rival. The name of crusade, so venerable at its origin, had long been perverted to give a false impression of sanctity to very unholy and worldly warfare waged by ambitious popes against temporal rulers. It was only the complete and ignominious failure of the so-called crusades against Bohemia which caused the name to fall into oblivion. Bohemia had in earlier days, because of its geographical position, not greatly attracted the papal tax-gatherers. There was, however, no hope that such an exemption would continue at a time when the papal crown was claimed by three rival pontiffs, each of whom could only rely on the financial support of a comparatively limited extent of country. On December 2, 1411, a decree of John XXIII. declared Pope Gregory XII. and his ally Ladislas, King of Naples, to be heretics, and granted a plenary indulgence to all who took part in the war against Ladislas or contributed to the expenses of the campaign. It has often been stated that this was at that period a very usual occurrence, and that it is surprising that Hus should have raised objections to such a decree. Whatever may have been the case in other countries, in Bohemia such proceedings were exceptional. This fact, unnoticed by foreign writers, is duly recorded by the Bohemian historians. The only precedent for the public sale of indulgences had occurred in the year 1393. “In Bohemia,” Professor Tomek writes, “the unhappy recollection of the sale of indulgences in the year of grace 1393 was still vivid, and the archiepiscopal consistory thought it necessary to publish special regulations to prevent the repetition of the more crying abuses that had then occurred.” Archbishop Albik also strictly prohibited the taxing of the people in the confessional, that is to say, their being told during confession how much they would, according to their rank and fortune, have to pay for an indulgence—a custom that had been general in 1393.

The orders given by Archbishop Albik and the consistory certainly tended to avoid all scandal as far as possible. This was naturally to be feared in a city where the teaching of Hus and his forerunners had developed a somewhat puritanic spirit. The papal representative, however, who now arrived at Prague, Venceslas Tiem, Dean of Passau, was utterly unfit for the difficult task which he had undertaken. His behaviour, like that of Texel a century later, was bound to cause trouble. Tiem took little notice of the restrictions that had been imposed on him. He carried on his traffic in divine indulgences in the manner which he believed would give him the largest profit and enable him to send the largest sums to Italy. To simplify matters, he began to farm out archdeaconries, deaconries, and even single churches to priests who, acting as contractors, had to consign to him a fixed sum, while they were at liberty to obtain as great a profit as they could by the sale of the indulgences. “Naturally, worthy priests were not suitable for such an unholy trade, and the business thus fell into the hands of priests who were misers or gamblers, lived in concubinage, or practised other vices of the period. These men bargained shamelessly with the faithful in the confessionals and committed infamous actions of every description.”[27] The principal places of sale in Prague, the profits of which Tiem had reserved for himself, were the three most important churches of the city, the church on the Vysehrad, the Tyn church in the old town, and St. Vitus’s cathedral on the Hradcany. In the last-named church the box in which the offerings were to be deposited was placed near the altar of St. Vitus, where the people mostly congregated.

It was impossible that this public simony should not arouse discontent and indignation among the citizens of Prague. One of the principal subjects of the sermons of the priests who upheld church-reform had for some time been the abuse of indulgences. Tiem had arrived at Prague in May, 1412, and early in June Hus invited all members of the university to take part in a disputation that was to be held in the large hall of the Carolinum college on June 17. The question to be discussed was: Whether it was permissible and expedient according to the law of Jesus Christ, (whether it was) to the glory of God, the salvation of the Christian people, that the bulls of the pope concerning the raising the cross against Ladislas, King of Apulia, and his accomplices be commended to the faithful in Christ?”[28] The meeting was somewhat stormy, and several among the theologians, though not entirely approving of the sale of indulgences as it was carried on in Prague, yet declared that they would not oppose the papal decree. Stanislas of Znoymo and Stephen Palec spoke in favour of blind submission to all decisions of the pope. Hus spoke quietly and firmly; he relied mainly on biblical quotations, and maintained that Christ alone, not priests, could forgive sins. On the same side as Hus spoke also Master Jerome of Prague, who did not, however, follow the example of moderation given by Hus. His speech, perhaps for that reason, obtained greater applause from the young students, who accompanied him back to his dwelling amidst great enthusiasm. The moderation displayed by Hus during the discussion on indulgences—a subject on which almost every one will at the present day admit that he was right—is all the more worthy of praise because almost at the same time the papal court had definitively and irrevocably declared itself hostile to his views. The parish priests, always, as has been frequently noted, bitter enemies of church-reform and of Hus in particular, thinking that the new archbishop was too lenient, again appealed to the pope. In the course of the year 1412 they sent to the papal court two further documents[29] containing the complaints against Hus that have already been enumerated. They added, however, to their old grievances one new one, stating that Hus had blamed the pope's action in granting indulgences and remittance of sins to those who took part in the warfare against “Ladislas, King of Apulia, and Angelus Correr, who with sacrilegious daring calls himself Gregory XII.” Together with Hus some of his principal disciples were denounced in these letters. The parish priests were this time more successful than they had been in their former attacks on Hus. They had secured a wily and utterly unscrupulous agent at the papal court. This was one Michael, a German of Nemecky Brod (Deutschbrod), some time parish priest at St. Adalbertus’s in Prague.[30] Michael was afterwards by Pope John XXIII. appointed advocate in matters of faith (procurator de causis fidei), and was therefore generally known as “Michael de causis.” His reputation was of the worst. Neglecting his parish duties, he endeavoured to obtain money by good or bad means.[31] He offered King Venceslas to improve the working of the royal mines at Jilov, but absconded with the money that had been entrusted to him. He fled to the pope and gained a living by acting as advocate at the papal law-courts. Through the influence of the astute Michael, Cardinal Brancaccio was deprived of the direction of the Bohemian affairs that had recently been entrusted to him. His successor, Cardinal Peter of St. Angelo, acted entirely according to the wishes of the Bohemian enemies of church-reform. The representatives of Hus at the papal court were declared to be heretics; some were imprisoned, while others succeeded in escaping to Prague. The cause of Hus at the papal courts was definitively lost and a decisive condemnatory judgment against him was being prepared. Momentous events, however, occurred in Prague before the judgment became known there.

The attempt to establish at Prague the sale of indulgences in a manner that was particularly repulsive to the citizens had produced a state of feverish excitement. The Germans and Romanist partisans declared that they would burn the Bethlehem chapel and murder all heretics. Among the friends of church-reform the more frivolous and unreflecting men were led astray and organised demonstrations that must have been very painful to the truly pious mind of Hus. Jerome was still in Prague, and Hus, perhaps better acquainted with his eloquence and learning than with his many faults, did not attempt to exercise sufficient restraint over him. It was, therefore, undoubtedly with the connivance of Jerome that one of King Venceslas's favourite courtiers, Lord Vok of Waldstein, organised a grotesque procession of which all sober-minded citizens disapproved. It is probable that King Venceslas, who was not at Prague on the day the procession took place, was utterly unaware of the intended folly of his courtier, but when after the death of Hus and the movement of universal fury which the news of it caused in Bohemia, the Council of Constance wished to attack the King of Bohemia, he was accused of complicity.[32] It is certain that on June 24 a very strange procession left the Mala Strana and paraded the streets. In an open carriage stood a young student in the attire of a prostitute.[33] He had round his neck and arms silver bells which rang continuously, and in front of him was placed a large sheet of paper to which were attached leaden seals, giving it the appearance of a papal bull. Behind the carriage followed a crowd of students led by Waldstein. As is always the case on such occasions in large towns, a vast and noisy crowd joined the procession. Many carried sticks and even swords. The procession wended its way through the streets of the old town and the market-place to the new town, where it stopped at the present Karlovo namesti (Charles’s Square). Here the documents imitating papal bulls were placed under an improvised gallows and burnt amidst loud applause of the crowd. The foolish freak was obviously intended as a parody of the burning of Wycliffe’s works by the archbishop. This recalling of the destruction of the writings of Wycliffe contributed to increase the public excitement. The opposition to the sale of indulgences increased, and those who had invested money in the sale naturally complained bitterly of their financial loss. Some of the theologians of the university, who may have been among the losers, accused Hus of having spread heretical statements derived from Wycliffe’s works. These theologians wished to avoid all discussions on the subjects on which Hus generally spoke, such as the scandalous sale of indulgences, the immorality of the clergy, the universal prevalence of simony, and to engage him in another abstruse discussion of some obscure passages in Wycliffe’s works. The always well-meaning king again endeavoured to mediate. He had for some time been residing at his castle of Zebrak, and he now summoned there Hus and the leaders of the Roman party at the university. At Zebrak Hus again maintained that his teaching was in accordance with the true Catholic faith, and declared that he was ready to die for his opinions. On the ultramontane members of the university being asked if they also were prepared to face a similar fate, they at first declined, but finally stated that one of their number was prepared to do so. What followed does not appear very clearly from the contemporary accounts. An ordeal such as that which was held in the case of Savonarola may have been suggested. The meeting broke up without any result, and when Hus and the scholars opposed to him left the castle, the royal courtiers more kindly than wisely advised them “to reconcile themselves nicely.” On Sunday, July 10, the theologians of the university were again invited to Zebrak by the king, and they for the third time presented to him articles concerning Wycliffe’s doctrine. Among those present were representatives of the towns of Prague and several royal councillors and courtiers. We have no contemporary account of this assembly—no doubt because the writers believed that the events at Prague on the same day rendered it very unimportant.

The king had with regrettable leniency condoned Lord Vok of Waldstein’s participation in the procession through the streets of Prague and had continued to consider him as a favourite. He had, however, in agreement with the town authorities of Prague, published a decree which threatened with the death penalty all who should take part in riots in the streets of the capital. Compared to the almost exaggerated leniency that had hitherto been the rule, this decree was certainly very severe. On Sunday, July 10, the vendors of indulgences who had lately suffered considerable losses, encouraged by the royal decree, when preaching in several churches, strongly advised their congregations to add to the fund which Pope John was raising for his Neapolitan campaign. They were, of course, not scrupulous in their enumeration of the advantages which the faithful would thus obtain. Public opinion was already so intensely excited and irritated by the traffic in indulgences that troubles broke out in several churches. In the cathedral of St. Vitus, the Tyn church, and that of St. Jacob part of the congregation protested against what it considered a glorification of simony. In each of these three churches a young man who was supposed to be the ringleader was arrested and brought to the town hall of the old city. Through the vicissitudes of municipal politics, into which I cannot enter here, the German, or, as we may call it, the ultramontane party, had at that moment the upper hand in the councils of the old town. The members of this party saw that the government of their city was slipping away from them, and they determined to intimidate the people by a vigorous action. Here again it may be interesting to read the words of a contemporary writer. After mentioning the imprisonment of the three youths, the chronicler writes:[34] “Here I could tell much of what happened the day before these men were beheaded. It was on a Monday (that they were beheaded) and the Sunday before they were arrested during the preaching. . . . But I must shorten my account. I was present on that Monday; it was about the third hour, and it was already rumoured that these three men had been imprisoned because of the indulgences; and the news reached Magister Hus. Then Magister Hus’ with many other masters and students went to the town hall begging the councillors that they would allow him (Hus) to appear before them, for that he wished to talk with them; and thus they allowed him with some other masters to appear before them. The other masters remained before the town hall with their students, of whom there might be about two thousand. Meanwhile, Master Hus spoke to the councillors, begging them to do no harm to the three because of the indulgences, and saying that he was himself the cause of the opposition to the indulgences. If therefore anything was to be done to them for this, let it be rather done to him, for he was the first cause of it. The councillors, after having conferred together answered him and the other masters who were with him, saying that nothing would be done to them (i.e., the three young men); therefore should they with their following go home and all disperse to their dwelling-places. Then Master Hus, thinking that nothing would befall the young men, went with a cheerful mind with all his followers to the Bethlehem chapel; and after they had escorted him home, they retired each one to his dwelling-place. A large crowd had assembled on the market-place, waiting to see what would happen, and what would be the end of the matter; for in the morning the town-criers had been told to call on all rich and poor to assemble on the market-place. Now, however, the order was given that all should leave the market-place and return to their dwelling-places. And when almost all the people had dispersed, the councillors ordered the judge and the excutioners to lead them (the young men) aside and behead them. And with them came many soldiers in mail from the town hall—for at that moment all the councillors were Germans, the armed men also were Germans, and among the others present were many German citizens—and when they had securely surrounded them, they ordered them to be beheaded, to the great displeasure of the mailed soldiers. They did not lead them to the place of execution, but to a spot in front of the house of John Celny;[35] there they beheaded them. And immediately a pious woman threw three linen cloths over the bodies to cover them. Then Master John of Jicin, with a large crowd of magisters, bachelors, students and common people assembled, but unarmed and peacefully. They took up the bodies and carried them to the Bethlehem chapel without asking permission of the magistrates nor telling them where they were taking the bodies. And the master (John of Jicin) with a loud voice intoned the anthem, Isti Sunt Sancti,[36] which is sung of the holy martyrs, and all joining with loud voices in the singing they bravely and joyfully carried the bodies to Bethlehem, while all the mailed soldiers and councillors looked on. Many students also, common people, lords and ladies, followed the bodies with much crying and lament, but with great piety, and while accompanying them to their graves they heartily pitied the young men, saying they had not deserved to die.”

Hus acted with great moderation during these events. His innate belief in the goodness of human nature, which had led him to hope that even a man such as Pope John XXIII. would do him justice were he but informed of the noble motives by which the Bohemian reformer was inspired, had also led him to believe the word of the German councillors of the old town of Prague. He continued to maintain this attitude of moderation even after the judicial murder of the three young men. It is difficult to describe otherwise the deed of the magistrates of Prague. During the brawls on July 10, violence had been used on both sides. The three young men were only accused of having noisily interrupted sermons; on the other hand, when in the church of St. Jacob, part of the congregation had protested against the sale of indulgences, choir-boys and young monks had rushed into the church from the adjoining monastery and had driven some of the faithful into the common-room, where they were cruelly flogged. On Sunday, July 17, Hus preached as usual at Bethlehem, but made no allusion to the events of the past week. His somewhat ignoble adversaries, the rich parish priests of Prague, declared that he had been intimidated by the immediate severe punishment that had been inflicted on the three young men. The motives of Hus were very different. He knew that a large number of soldiers had been gathered together in the town, and though he had always cherished loyal feelings toward Venceslas, he was too well acquainted with him not to know to what sudden movements of fury he was subject. An order of the king could, on the slightest provocation on the part of the citizens, cause a terribly murderous struggle in the streets, the responsibility for which Hus could not, and would not assume. One word of Hus from the Bethlehem pulpit would have brought on such a desperate struggle, particularly as many Germans and Romanists were still in the city. Through Hus’s silence such a catastrophe was averted. The Praguers also, following the example of their leader, behaved on this occasion with studious moderation. They indeed declared themselves ready to accept death as the three young men had done, but no attack was made on the German soldiery. We meet with this moderation on the part of the citizens of Prague generally during the earlier part of the Hussite struggle. If after the ruthless and treacherous execution of their revered leader they became revengeful and cruel, those only are entitled to blame them who practise truly the precept: “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Thanks mainly to the energy of the notorious Michael de Causis the proceedings at the papal courts had meanwhile come to an end. In August, 1412, a papal bull, published under the authority of Hus’s new judge, Cardinal Peter of St. Angelo, reached Prague. It proclaimed the aggravation (aggravatio) of the sentence of excommunication which Cardinal Colonna had previously pronounced against Hus. The ban was to be proclaimed publicly, and all the faithful were forbidden to give him food or drink or to speak to him; then followed all the habitual clauses of a mediaeval bull of excommunication. Hus's reply was a step for which he has been frequently blamed, particularly perhaps by those who did not bear sufficiently in mind the spirit of the times in which Hus lived. He appealed[37] from the sentence of the Roman pontiff to Jesus Christ, the supreme judge. In an age when positive and undisputed belief in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity was universal, the direct intervention of Divinity in the affairs of mankind met with no disbelief. It will be remembered—to quote but one example—that the citizens of Florence at one time placed their city under the direct temporal government of Jesus Christ. The arguments employed by Hus in his appeal were simple. He stated that it was not from obstinacy that he had refused to go to the papal court, that his first representatives there had been imprisoned, and that the other ones had been refused audience and accused of heresy without being allowed to defend themselves. The enemies of Hus do not appear to have considered their victory over Hus at the papal courts as sufficiently complete. Again, through the influence of Michael de causis, a second bull appeared which commanded all the faithful to seize Hus by force and deliver him over to the Archbishop of Prague or the Bishop of Litomysl, who were to condemn him and have him burnt. The bull also decreed that the Bethlehem chapel, “a nest of heretics,” should be destroyed and levelled to the ground. The indefatigable Michael also suggested that King Venceslas and his most prominent councillors and courtiers should be excommunicated. Pope John XXIII., however, declined to accede to this proposal. The diavolo cardinale was ready to proceed to any lengths against a pious and powerless priest, but he could not afford to quarrel with King Venceslas. The partisans of Gregory XII. were at that moment gaining ground, and the support of the King of Bohemia might become of great importance to the pope. These measures directed against Hus were followed by measures against the city of Prague. The interdict was again proclaimed, and it was now carried out thoroughly with all the accompanying horrors that terrified the mediæval mind. All masses and sermons, all religious functions, even burial with the Christian rites were prohibited. The sacrament of extreme unction was not administered to the dying; none could confess, or receive communion. A troop of German fanatics attacked the Bethlehem chapel, while Hus was preaching there, but the determined though pacific attitude of the congregation intimidated them and they retired. Somewhat later—on October 1—Romanist citizens, led by the parish priest, Bernard Chotek, again attacked the chapel, but were repulsed by the friends and adherents of Hus, who were keeping watch.

The merciless execution of the interdict at Prague greatly troubled the mind of Hus, whose conduct was always guided by his conscience. He was in doubt whether he should leave the city or remain there. He has himself described his hesitation in a very striking manner in several of his books. “To me also,” he writes, “it happened that some advised me to preach when there was an outcry against the brethren (of the Bethlehem chapel), when they were outlawed and their religious services were stopped; others again advised me not to preach. But I understood that both advised me with a good intention, and I was not certain as to which counsel would agree with God’s will.” Closely connected with the question whether his duty permitted Hus to continue preaching was the question whether he should stay in Prague or leave that city—as he eventually did. This decision is next to his resolution to proceed to the Council of Constance, the most momentous one in his life. It is interesting to study the motives of his decision rather in his own writings than in the comments of others. We find in the works of Hus an important passage[38] that deals with this question. Hus here, as so frequently, refers to the writings of St. Augustine, one of the fathers of the church to whom he had devoted much study. Hus writes: “Note that St. Augustine asks this question: As the apostles were good shepherds and not hirelings,[39] why did they fly when it was attempted to kill them? But they acted according to the word of Christ, who said: When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.[40] And Bishop Honoratus put the same question, when writing to St. Augustine and asking him what he should do when men were attempting his destruction. ‘Behold,’ he said, ‘the gospel of Christ: when they persecute you in this city flee ye into another. And Christ also said: “He that is an hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth.” How then shall I act that I may fulfil this word of Christ, and yet not fly like a hireling? And in answer to this question St. Augustine wrote for him a whole book in which he examines the whole question very lengthily, and in conclusion he establishes this rule: Either the danger is one that threatens equally the lives of all, priests and laymen, or it does not threaten all. If the danger is common to all, then if all can escape to a safe spot, let them escape. But if it is not the life of all that is threatened, but either only that of all the priests or that of all the laymen : if only the laymen are in danger the priests need not fly, and the laymen can seek safety, for they are not shepherds. But if the lives of all priests are menaced, then may they not all fly, for they then would be hirelings, leaving their people without spiritual aid, that is without God's word and without baptism. . . . But if only one priest is in danger and the people can without him obtain spiritual aid, then that person may fly for future benefit, as the apostle Paul fled from Damascus; thus also St. Athanasius fled when the emperor wished to kill him; and after he had fled he later rendered great service to the holy church against the heretics; for he made that profession of faith which we usually sing or recite at the first hour, and which begins with the words: “Whosoever will be saved.” But if the people should by the flight of a priest be deprived of the word of God and of baptism, then he must not fly; for if such a man fled from his flock, leaving it to the devil, he would be as a hireling, who loves his body more than the salvation of his fellow-creatures.’ Thus did St. Augustine answer this question to this Honoratus. And I relying on the love of God and the advice of many whose heels I am not worthy to kiss and on this speech of St. Augustine, seeing that the people had sufficiently of God’s word and spiritual aid, fled when they attempted to murder me. Then I returned and again preached, and then when a consultation concerning an agreement was held by wish of the king and with the consent of the people, I again fled. Then when the consultation did nothing to free the word of God (to allow the freedom of preaching) I again preached and they always stopped the (religious) services (because of the interdict) , and this diabolical stopping caused great injury to the people as they (the priests) would neither christen nor bury the dead; and dreading this great disaster among the people I again fled. And I know not whether I did well or evilly like a hireling nor whether these reasons will help me (to prove) that I was not a hireling.”

This passage giving an interesting insight into the mind of Hus proves how earnestly and piously he weighed all arguments both in favour of his leaving Prague and of his remaining in that city. As already mentioned, Hus finally decided in favour of the former alternative. He determined to leave Prague for a short time. King Venceslas still hoped against hope that an agreement between the contending parties could be concluded, and he thought that the absence from Prague of Hus, who had incurred the deadly hatred of the rich parish priests, would facilitate a settlement. He therefore begged Hus to leave Prague for a short time, and the pious Queen Sophia, who had always continued to attend Hus’s sermons in the Bethlehem chapel, probably used her influence for the same purpose. Hus was also moved by the sufferings of the people of Prague in consequence of the interdict which, now carried out with relentless severity, deprived them of all spiritual consolations. He therefore left Prague, probably in October 1412.[41]

The departure of Hus from Prague naturally caused great rejoicing among his enemies, who declared that he had been expelled from the city. The fanatical monk Stephen of Dolein in particular expressed great joy that “he who in spite of the prohibition had not ceased to preach and would not leave Prague, had now been driven away by the just judgment of God.”[42] The period in the life of Hus with which this and the fourth chapter deal, begins with his formal rupture with the clergy and ends with his departure from Prague. The writings of this time, which Dr. Flajshans, whose services for the bibliography of Hus cannot be sufficiently praised, calls the polemical period, are not as valuable as those of the first period, to which at least one work of the highest value, the Super IV. Sententiarum, belongs. Still less can this period be compared to the following one, to which belong two of Hus’s greatest Bohemian works, as well as his hitherto best known Latin book, the treatise De Ecclesia. With the exception of a few Bohemian sermons, all the writings belonging to this period are Latin. They are, as already mentioned, mainly of a polemical character. Of these polemical writings the treatise Contra Anglicum Joan Stokes is interesting. It refers to the conflict between Hus and the English ecclesiastic, John Stokes, which took place at Prague and which has already been mentioned. Hus has in this treatise reproduced the contents of the speech against Stokes which he delivered at the university. Stokes had stated that whoever read the works of Wycliffe or studied them would in the course of time become a heretic, however good his disposition might be, and however firmly his faith might be grounded. The treatise is valuable as it indicates Hus’s attitude with regard to Wycliffe, which was by no means one of blind and unreasoning admiration, as has been frequently affirmed. Hus declines to give a positive answer to the question whether Wycliffe was a heretic or not, but in view of the obscurity of the question he thinks it more charitable to adopt the more favourable view and to hope that Wycliffe obtained salvation.[43]

Perhaps of yet greater interest is another polemical treatise entitled Contra occultum adversarium. Though Hus does not give the name of his adversary, the person referred to is known to have been the Bohemian priest Marik or Mauritius de Praga, surnamed Rvacka. Marik has already been mentioned as having been employed by King Venceslas in negotiations for the purpose of terminating the schism.[44] He was a determined opponent of church-reform and secretly attended Hus’s sermons, taking notes there concerning those points in which he believed that Hus’s words were contrary to the teaching of the Church of Rome. Marik affixed to the pulpit of the Bethlehem chapel a written statement—given in full in Hus’s treatise—in which he declared that Hus had by his last sermon attacked the law of God and the authority of the clergy. The principal grievances of Marik were, firstly, that Hus had interpreted the action of Christ who had driven the traders from the temple as signifying that He had granted to a lay king the right of ruling over the clergy, and, secondly, that Hus had stated that Christ had lamented over the destruction of Jerusalem principally because it had been caused by the sins of the clergy. In his treatise Hus maintained his theses though defining them in a manner somewhat different from that of Marik. The treatise Contra occultum adversarium is very difficult reading and its importance is not immediately obvious. Basing as usual his arguments on Scripture, Hus here maintains the power which the secular authorities should exercise over the church in a manner similar to that of Wycliffe—and indeed of many earlier writers—as well as to that of the later reformers, of Luther in particular. The friends of Hus therefore strove, and strove successfully, to prevent this treatise from being brought to the knowledge of the Council of Constance. The ecclesiastics of whom that assembly was mainly composed would of course deeply resent the theories contained in the treatise as encroaching on their rights, while they would not obtain for Hus the support of Sigismund, whose desire to annihilate the Bohemian reformer was founded on political motives. Hus's language in this treatise is very outspoken. He declares that it is the duty of kings and lords of the secular arm to restrain the wickedness of the clergy and extirpate the heresy of simony.[45]


    dissolute, fierce and pusillanimous, a bye-word and object of horror to the Bohemians, hated and despised by the Germans, a warning to all rulers. His companion John XXIII., lewd and murderous, a simonist and an infidel, was a true comrade for Sigismund in all evil deeds, a warning lesson to all future popes.”

  1. Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii.
  2. This strange tale should be given in Stephen's own Latin words. He writes: “Andiant itaque Jesu Christi fideles quod referam. Factum est hoc tempore ante triduum ut certissime didici quod, dum quidam vir catholicus nomine et condicione haec scribenti cognitus scripta nefaria legeret, et relegeret in suo (Wycliffe’s) Trialogo maxime de venerabili Sacramento Dominici corporis et etiam per insomnes plurimas noctes pluribus suspiriis et lachrymis molestissime ferret, et Divinam et Ecclesiae Sanctae tantam injuriam deplangeret: Accidit sibi ut intempeste matutinae Vigiliae agens idipsum paululum reclinato capite discretionis intuitu quievisset. Et ecce Magister ille diversorium illius fremens et iratus nimium ingrediens, non solum verbis durioribus perstrepens, sed et verberibus horribilibus circumcirca consedentibus plurimis, irruit in eum quae praediximus. Qui dum quasi infirmior non haberet unde vel quo sibi resisteret, irato cedens et retro, et retro se aspiciens, quasi a Domino sibi praeparatam vidit tridentem, jacentem furcam id est instrumentum quo fimus de stabulis et domibus solet purgari et ejici. Conversusque hanc arreptam illi in faciem valido ictu et in caput suum impegit, et dejecto eo usque ad cerebri effusionem concussit, manus confregit et penitus interfecit. Ad cujus spectaculum facto multorum fidelium laetabundo concursu, dicentibus et acclamantibus singulis, Benedictus Deus qui tradidit impium: dictum est victori singularis certaminis, perterrite de homicidio, ne timueris; ex nece enim hujus hominis irregularitatem non incurres.” (Stephanus Dolanensis, Medulla Tritici, Pez Thesaurus Anecdotorum, vol. iv. 2, pp. 246–247.)
  3. Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii. p. 475.
  4. Palacky, Documenta, pp. 164–169.
  5. Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii. p. 481.
  6. Stari Letopisove cesti (Ancient Bohemian Chroniclers), edited by Palacky, iii. pp. 12–13.
  7. I quote this good though not literal translation from the late Rev. A. H. Wratislaw’s John Hus, p. 141. The words are in the Bohemian original, “Zbynek, biskup Abeceda spalil knihy a neveda co jest v nich napsano.” Professor Höfler, who had a very slight acquaintance with the Bohemian language, quoted the song from Cochlaeus’s Latin history of the Hussite wars, where some distorted and meaningless words are supposed to render the Bohemian wording. These words Höfler thus translated into German: “Der Saumagen hat das Schöne verbrannt”—i.e., “The pig burnt beautiful things.” These words have not even the remotest resemblance to the meaning of the song, and Höfler merely intended to impute coarse language to the Bohemians. The matter is fully noticed by Dr. Nedoma in the Journal of the Bohemian Learned Society (Vestnik spolecnosti nauk), February 23, 1891. I allude to the matter here, as even recent English writers do not appear to have known how untrustworthy Höfler often was.
  8. The five letters, all dated September 12 or 16, 1410, are printed by Palacky, Documenta, pp. 409–413.
  9. Referring to these letters of Queen Sophia and others that will be mentioned later, Baron Helfert, a firm adherent of the Roman Church in his “Hus und Hieronymus,” violently attacks Queen Sophia and the interference of women in politics generally. I have given a short account of this diatribe in my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 129, n. Baron Helfert is undoubtedly right in stating that Hussitism owed much to women.
  10. The letters of the nobles and citizens are printed by Palacky, Documenta pp. 413–415.
  11. The four letters are printed by Palacky, Documenta, pp. 422–425.
  12. Hus has himself very clearly expressed the objections to his journey to Italy. He writes: “Quis ergo color vel que ratio obedientiae ut persona citata per CCC milliaria, Papae incognita ab inimicis delata, tam anxie vadat per inimicos judices et testes consumat bona pauperum sumptuose vel non habeus sumptus vadat misere in siti et esurie et quis fructus comparitionis? Certe laboris a Deo injuncti negligentia, quoad propriam salutem et aliorum. Et nec ibi docebitur bene credere, sed litigare, quod non licet servo Dei. Ibi spoliabitur in consistoriis, in moribus Sanctis refrigescit, ad impatientiam per oppressionem incitabitur et si non habuerit dare, condemnabitur, etiam habens justitiam. Et quod gravius est, compelletur Papam ut Deum flexis genibus adorare.” (De Ecclesia, capitulum xxi.)
  13. Printed by Palacky, Documenta, pp. 426–428.
  14. See my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 304–309.
  15. Ibid. p. 409.
  16. The Acts and Monuments of John Fox, vol. iii. p. 702 (edition of 1837).
  17. Printed by Höfler, Geschichtschreiber der Hussitischen Bewegung in Bohmen, vol. ii. p. 210.
  18. Palacky, Documenta, pp. 12–14. The letter is also printed by Höfler.
  19. Dr. Flajshans (Mistr Jan Hus) hardly exaggerates when he writes, “Sigismund was cruel and sensual, perjured and frivolous, rapacious and
  20. Printed in the late Rev. A. H. Wratislaw’s John Hus, p. 181.
  21. The “small quarter” of Prague, situated on the left bank of the Vltava (Moldau) river.
  22. In Bohemian, “zeman.” The “zeman” may be described as a member of the lesser nobility or country gentry.
  23. Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii. pp. 494–495.
  24. The un-English name of this English agent has puzzled many writers. Sir Hartung Clux was of Flemish origin, and a trusted agent of King Henry IV. and Henry V. The latter conferred on him the Order of the Garter. (See Lenz, König Sigismund und Heinrich V. von England, pp. 31–37.)
  25. Ancient Bohemian Chroniclers, vol. iii. p. 14.
  26. See p. 98.
  27. Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii. pp. 508–509.
  28. The words of the Latin original ran thus: “{{lang|la|Utrum secundum legem Jesu Christi licet et expedit pro honore Dei, et salute populi Cliristiani et pro commodo regni bullas papae de erectione crucis contra Ladislaum regem Apuliae et suos complices Christi fidelibus approbare.”
  29. Palacky, Documenta, pp. 457–461.
  30. See p. 141.
  31. Dr. Flajshans, Mistr Jan Hus, p. 285
  32. This is stated in the acts of accusation against the King and Queen of Bohemia (Palacky, Documenta, pp. 638–642). These acts contain many untruthful statements.
  33. We must reduce to this amount of truth the statement of the council that Waldstein had led a large procession through the streets of Prague publicis meretricibus praeconibus.
  34. Ancient Bohemian Chroniclers, vol. iii. pp. 16–18. It is often very difficult to translate into English the rugged Bohemian original.
  35. At the corner of the present Zelezna ulice (Iron Street) at the northern extremity of the market-place.
  36. These words belong to the first antiphone of the second vesper in the Commune plurium martyrum of the Roman breviary (Dr. Lechler).
  37. Appelatio M. Joannis Hus a sententiis pontificis Romani ad Jesum Christum supremum judicem (printed by Palacky, Documenta, pp. 464–466).
  38. Postilla, xxv. p. 165 of Dr. Flajshans’s edition. I have somewhat abridged Hus’s statements.
  39. St. John x. 11–12.
  40. St. Matthew x. 23.
  41. The date of Hus’s departure from Prague as well as those of his subsequent short visits to the city has caused much controversy among the modern historians of Bohemia—Palacky, Tomek, Dr. Loserth, have all suggested different dates. More recently Dr. Novak has also written on this subject, which is also thoroughly discussed by Dr. Vaclav Novotny, in a lengthy treatise published in the Vestnik kr. ceske spolecnosti nauk (Journal of the Bohemian Society of Science) for 1898. The date of Hus’s departure given here is in accordance with Dr. Novotny.
  42. Dolein writes, addressing Hus: “Vides, qui pro tempore a praedicatione et tua rebellione ordinarie prohibitus in loco illo cessare noluisti, jam justo Dei judicio inde cum confusione per inobedientiam ejectus, jam vagus et latitans, velis, nolis, silentio comprimeris et ori tuo magnalia eructanti digitum superponis.” (Stephanus Dolanensis Antihussus, Pez Thesaurus Anecdotorum, T. iv. par. 2, p. 373.)
  43. Ego autem non credo nec concedo quod Magister Joan Wicleff sit haereticus, sed nec nego; sed spero quod non est haereticus cum in occultis de proximo debeo meliorem partem eligere, unde spero quod Magister Joan Wicleff est de salvandis.” (Contra Anglicum Joan Stokes, Nuremberg edition of Hus’s Latin works, 1715, vol. i. p. 136.)
  44. See p. 99.
  45. Dixi quod Salvator noster ejiciens vendentes et ementes de templo dedit exemplum Regibus et Saccularis brachic Dominis quod vindicando Dei injuriam debent primum Cleri malitiam compescere et praesertim Symoniacae haeresis negotia extirpere.” (Contra occultum adversarium, edition of 1715, vol. i. p. 169.)