The life and times of Master John Hus/Chapter 7
HUS AT CONSTANCE
part of the nineteenth century entertained towards the tedeschi, who were considered as intruders. When Italy became free the hatred of Germans gradually ceased.and his companions, who had left Prague on October 11, 1414, were joined on their journey at Plzen (Pilsen) by Lord Henry of Chlum, surnamed Lacembok, who appears to have been sent by King Venceslas as a protector of Hus, and by , surnamed “Kardinal.” John of Rejnstein, a parish priest of Prague and a great friend of Hus, had, with Lord , undertaken to represent at the council the University of Prague. Mainly through the influence of and Cardinal they obtained no hearing, and the University of Prague was, like King Venceslas, unrepresented at Constance. The Bohemians passed the frontier of their country at Barnau and arrived at the free imperial city of Nuremberg on October 19. On their way through German territory they were everywhere well received by the people, who saw in Hus the champion of church-reform, which all thoughtful men and the worthier members of the clergy also desired. The difference of nationality proved no barrier, and it may here be mentioned that nothing can be less true than the ancient statement which accuses Hus of having been an enemy of the Germans generally. It is certain that Hus disliked the Germans in Bohemia who had taken possession of most of the ecclesiastical benefices and other important appointments in his country, while they—not only at the time of Hus—looked down on the Bohemians as intellectually their inferiors. Hus’s views on this question have already been mentioned, and I shall again have to refer to them. The feelings of the Bohemians of this period were somewhat similar to those which the Italians of the earlier
Of Hus’s stay at Nuremburg,  “When he (Hus) then arrived at Nuremberg with the lords, whom I have mentioned, after they had dined, some magister, I think he was one Albert, parish priest of St. Sebaldus, came to them saying that he wished to discourse with them in a friendly manner. After he (Hus) had consented, some other priests came, among whom was a doctor (of theology) and several members of the council of the town. They then discoursed with the master for four hours on various matters connected with him, and on what rumour had reported, and when they had conferred on each one of these matters, they said: ‘For certain, master, this which we have heard is catholic (doctrine). We have for many years taught and held these doctrines and we now teach and believe them, and if there is nothing else against thee, thou wilt certainly leave the council and return from it with honour. And then they all parted in a friendly fashion.” At Nuremburg Hus was informed that King had now prepared the letter of safe-conduct for him, and it was suggested that he should proceed to Spires, where Sigismund then stayed, to receive the letter and place himself under the king’s immediate protection. Hearing that many members of the council had already arrived at Constance, and that Pope was already on his way there, Hus decided to continue his journey directly to Constance. He begged his friend Lord Venceslas of Duba to proceed to the imperial court and receive the letter of safe-conduct for him. Hus has often been blamed for this decision, which certainly bears witness to his innate belief in the goodness of human nature, and perhaps to his want of worldly wisdom. Yet if we take the nature of Sigismund into account and remember that he was acting in accordance with a preconceived plan, it is difficult to believe that the final result would have been different had Hus proceeded to Spires. From Nuremburg the Bohemians continued their journey through Southern Germany by Ansbach and Ulm to Biberach, then a free city, now an insignificant and decaying town in the kingdom of Wurtemberg. Here, as everywhere, the Bohemians showed that fondness for theological discussions which was then characteristic of their nation and which only disappeared when, after the battle of the White Mountain, all religious liberty perished for centuries. When a discussion on religious matters began at Biberach, Lord John of Chlum took so prominent a part—while Hus spoke little—that the citizens believed him to be a doctor of theology. His companions henceforth gave Lord John the nickname, doctoralis de Pibrach. From Biberach the Bohemians proceeded by Ravensburg to Buchhorn, on the lake of Constance. They crossed the lake in a boat and arrived at the city of Constance on November 3, 1414. Hus was lodged in the house of “a good widow named Fida,” as Mladenovic writes, which was situated in St. Paul’s Street—now called Hus’s Street—near the Schnetz gate. The house, which is probably little changed, is shown to visitors. A medallion with a bust of Hus and an inscription in Bohemian and German was placed on it some years ago. In his first letter after his arrival at Constance Hus writes, on November 4: “We arrived at Constance on the Saturday after All Souls without any annoyance, after having passed through different cities and after having everywhere distributed our proclamation (stating that Hus was going to Constance freely to clear himself of the accusation of heresy), written both in Latin and in German. We live at Constance near the pope’s dwelling-place, and have arrived without safe-conduct. The day after my arrival placed on the door of the church (cathedral) an information against me written in large letters and stating that he accuses John Hus, a man excommunicated, pertinacious, and suspected of heresy and other such things. But with God’s help I will not heed this, knowing that God sent him against me that he (Michael) should curse me because of my sins, and also to try me (my strength) whether I could and would endure suffering., his faithful companion on his last journey, writes:
By this time Hus’s enemies had begun to assemble at Constance. Friends, except his few Bohemian comrades, he could not expect to find there, and although he put trust in the faithless Sigismund, the fact that he undertook the journey proves how entirely he submitted himself to the behests of his conscience and to the decrees of providence. Some days before Hus, the famed pontiff John XXIII. had arrived at Constance. He left Bologna at the beginning of October and made his way to Constance through the Tirol. At Trent he had an important interview with Duke Frederick of Austria, then ruler of the Tirol. An unwritten alliance between the house of Habsburg and the papal see has, with brief intervals, existed since the time of Rudolph of Habsburg. The duke and the pope, therefore, soon came to an agreement. John XXIII. conferred on Frederick the title of gonfalonier of the holy church with an annual salary of 6000 ducats. Frederick, on the other hand, recognised the claims of John to the papacy, promised to escort him to Constance with an armed force, and to afford him a refuge in his dominions—which marched with those of the city of Constance—if he should not feel safe there. These negotiations begun at Trent were concluded at Meran. In agreeing to this alliance Frederick was guided not only by the hope of pecuniary advantage, but also by his bitter hatred of Sigismund, which sprang from a cause equally discreditable to both princes.
From the Tirol the pope crossed by the Arlberg Pass into Vorarlberg. Richenthal, that very entertaining, though very mendacious chronicler of the council, thus describes the pope’s journey: “When the pope arrived at the summit of the Arlberg near where the monastery is, his carriage overturned and he lay in the snow under the carriage. Then his lords and courtiers came to him and said: ‘Holy Father, hast thou not been injured!’ He answered, ‘I lie here in the name of the devil!’ Then when they proceeded onward from the monastery and could look down on Bluditz (probably Bludenz) and the land, he said: Sic capiuntur vulpes, which means, ‘Thus are foxes entrapped.’” The pope and his party then proceeded to Feldkirch and from there by Reinegg to Constance, where the pope was received with great solemnity.
It was not, however, Baldassare Cossa who was to prove Hus’s most dangerous and bitterest enemy. These were found among his own countrymen. It is the fact that in all the most important moments the task of great Bohemians has been frustrated by the envy and malice of their own countrymen that renders the history of Bohemia one of the saddest in the annals of the world. Foremost among Hus’s enemies was praise of poverty and the laudation of the simplicity of the primitive church were permitted. Though a very rich man—he had even attempted to outbid Albik when the latter obtained the archbishopric of Prague—John the iron did not think his own ample means sufficient to crush the detested Hus. He therefore applied to the higher ecclesiastical dignitaries of Bohemia and Moravia, to the parish priests of Prague, who had a great personal interest in the matter, and to several nobles who were opposed to church-reform, asking them for financial aid. By means of this subscription a very large sum of money was raised; the services of many informers were secured; Hus was surrounded by spies as soon as he arrived at Constance. Among the early arrivals at Constance also was Venceslas Tiem, Dean of Passau, whose trade in indulgences in Prague had caused the outbreak of the crisis. No doubt also with a desire for revenge several members of the new university of Leipzig attended the council, wishing to denounce Hus, through whose influence, as they believed, they had been unjustly driven from Prague. Michael de causis, as mentioned, had arrived at Constance before Hus. Stephen Palec, who was to take so prominent a part in the proceedings against Hus, now also arrived there. Mladenovic writes: “Stephen Palec arrived at Constance. He had travelled from Bohemia with Magister Stanislas of Znoymo, but the latter had been struck down by apoplexy at Jindrichuv Hradec (Neuhaus) and had died. Here (at Constance) Palec immediately associated with Michael de causis, the ‘instigator,’ and an enemy of Hus. They wrote down some articles against Magister Hus which, they said, they had derived from the treatise De Ecclesia. Stephen, with the said Michael, ran hither and thither among the principal cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and other prelates, and we saw him do this almost daily. He there accused Magister Hus and instigated them at least to arrest him. Then he associated with the friars, showed them the articles already mentioned and others, and he especially stirred up against Hus the older and more learned men, showing them other accusations, of which I obtained a copy from one of them.” Mladenovic then gives some personal details concerning Palec and Michael de causis. He states that the former had been a friend of Hus and that the latter—as has been already mentioned—had been obliged to fly from Bohemia because he had embezzled money confided to him for the working of gold-mines., Bishop of Litomysl. It is not probable that he was greatly interested in Wycliffe’s profound but arid doctrines. Like most of Hus’s Bohemian opponents, he had probably read none of the English reformer’s works. But as a notorious simonist and a very opulent man, he saw the great danger which men of his class would necessarily incur, if the
As soon as Hus had arrived at Constance two of his protectors and companions, Lord Henry of Chlum and Lord John of Duba, had visited Pope John XXIII., who lived in the palace of the bishop not far from the dwelling-place of Hus. They announced Hus’s arrival to the pope, who assured them that he would allow no one to molest him and that he would be perfectly safe at Constance, even should he have killed his own brother. To the diavolo cardinale Hus probably appeared as a harmless enthusiast, and he may have considered it politic to befriend the Bohemian noblemen in view of his possibly being involved in a conflict with Sigismund. During the short period of freedom which was granted to Hus at Constance he led the life of a recluse, hardly ever leaving his dwelling. As had been his custom during his journey and also when living as an exile in Bohemia, he said mass daily in strictest privacy. It was only from his little window that he watched the gay life of the city of Constance, which for a time had become the intellectual and political, and, to a certain extent, even the social capital of the world. He watched the cardinals on richly-caparisoned horses, followed by numerous attendants as they rode through the neighbouring Schnetz gate. He cannot have been entirely unaware of the terrible immorality which the presence of numerous rich and unscrupulous men caused in the city—so great, as the citizens said, that it would require a century to purge Constance from sin. A man of ascetic and, if we may call it so, puritanic mind, Hus looked on all this with displeasure, and he must have felt strangely isolated in the city. The house in which he lived was constantly watched by numerous spies, who were in the pay of the Bishop of Litomysl. Bishop John was incessantly demanding that Hus should be immediately arrested. Like most of King Venceslas’s enemies in Bohemia, he was no doubt on good terms with Sigismund, and knew how difficult it would be for him to sanction the arrest of Hus at Constance if he were himself in the city. The spies and informers, therefore, redoubled their activity. When a hay cart was seen before the house of Hus, the spies immediately reported that Hus intended to escape hidden in it. The tale, which, as we know from Mladenovic, was immediately circulated by Michael and Palec, is found also in the chronicle of Richenthal, that somewhat frivolous writer, who was more interested in enumerating the gains of butchers, fishmongers, and others practising less respectable professions than in studying the serious events connected with the council. It has also been conjectured that Richenthal here confused Hus with , who actually made a successful attempt to escape secretly from Constance. It should be mentioned that few serious historians have alluded to Richenthal’s tale. A firm adherent of the Roman Church, Baron Helfert, in his interesting work, Hus und Hieronymus, rejects the story as decidedly as do all the other writers who have considered it worth mention. Like many other falsehoods, however, this one also served its purpose. We cannot, of course, fathom the true motives of the members of the council, but Bishop John’s men could not have found a better pretext for obtaining that which they desired—the immediate imprisonment of Hus. That event can best be told in the words of Mladenovic. He writes: “Then shortly after St. Catherine’s day, the cardinals who were then at Constance, on November 28, instigated by his (Hus’s) enemies, Palec and Michael, sent two bishops, those of Augsburg and Trent, the burgomaster of the city of Constance, and one Hans von Poden, a soldier, to his dwelling-place. They arrived at the hour of dinner and told Lord John of Chlum that they had come on the part of the cardinals and by order of the pope to visit John Hus, and, as he had formerly wished to speak to them, they were now prepared to hear him. Then John of Chlum rose, greatly incensed, and said: ‘Know you not, reverend brethren, how and in what fashion Magister John Hus came here? If you know it not, I will tell you that when I and Lord Venceslas of Lestna were in Friulia with our lord the emperor and intended to return to our own country, he ordered us to assure Magister John of his safe-conduct that he might come to this council. Know, therefore, that you must do nothing against the honour of our master.’ And to the burgomaster he said in German: ‘Thou shouldst know that if the devil came to have his case tried, he should be given a fair hearing.’ Then addressing the bishops he continued: ‘Our lord the king (Sigismund) also said: “If Magister Hus consents to go to Constance, tell him that on this matter (the question of heresy) he must say nothing except in my presence, when, by the help of God, I shall have come to Constance.”’ Hearing this, all those who had come, particularly the Bishop of Trent, said, as he answered them in so violent a manner: ‘Lord John, we have come only in the interest of peace, that there should be no uproar.’ Then rising from table Master John Hus, whom the bishops had not recognised, said: ‘I did not come here to see the cardinals, nor to converse with them. I came to the whole council. There will I speak, as God will direct me, and answer on what I am questioned; but on the wish of the cardinals I am ready to come to them, and if they interrogate me, I hope rather to choose death than deny any truth that is known to me from Scripture or otherwise.’”
Mladenovic then describes how the city magistrates had ordered Hus’s dwelling-place to be surrounded by armed men, and writes: “When the magister descended the steps, his hostess (the widow Fida) met him, and he took leave of her, saying: ‘God’s blessing on thee,’ and she wept answering him. The bishops, while he descended the steps, said to him: ‘Now wilt thou no longer officiate, or say mass.’ Then he mounted a poor horse and with the envoys (of the council) and his companion, Lord John of Chlum, rode to the palace of the pope and the cardinals.” Mladenovic then tells us that the cardinals informed Hus that many complaints against him had been sent to them from Bohemia. Hus replied that he had come freely to the council, and that if he were convicted of error he would gladly accept instruction.
Before Hus was imprisoned, an event took place which, proving as it does how unscrupulously and energetically the agents of the Bishop of Litomysl strove to deprive him of his liberty, has an importance that is not superficially obvious. It is, however, a fact that, when Palacky was—about the year 1840—publishing the first edition of his monumental history of Bohemia, the ecclesiastical censure office of the Austrian government ordered Palacky to omit all mention of the monk Didacus. Here again it will be well to quote Mladenovic, who was with Hus and Duba during the occurrence. He writes: “They then sent a minorite friar named Didacus, a professor of Holy Writ, who was to sound the master, who was then already in the custody of armed men. He approached him and said: ‘Reverend master, I, who am but a simple, ignorant monk, have heard that you assert much that deviates (from the doctrine of the Roman Church), and so I have come, wishing to know if this is true, and if you hold the views that are attributed to you. Firstly, it is said that you maintain and assert that, after consecration, material bread remains in the sacrament of the altar.’ And Magister John Hus: ‘I hold not this view, and he: ‘You hold it not?’ Then the magister (said): ‘No, I hold it not.’ When he had given this answer three times, Lord John of Chlum, who was sitting near, said: ‘What kind of a man art thou? If some one were once to affirm or deny something to me, I should believe him, but this man has answered thee three times saying: “I hold not this view,” and thou continuest to question him.’ Then the monk said: ‘Noble knight, bear me no ill-will, for I am a simple, uneducated monk, who seeks instruction.’ Then when the monk began to question Magister John as to the unity of the human and the divine nature in Christ, the magister said to Lord John in Bohemian: ‘This monk says indeed that he is a plain, uneducated man, but he cannot be so very simple, as he questions me on the most profound subjects.’ Then, turning to the monk, he said: ‘Thou sayest that thou art simple (simplex), but I say that thou art false (duplex), not simple.’ Then the monk said: ‘I deny that I am false.’” Mladenovic then reports the continuation of the conversation, or rather of the cross-examination of Hus by the monk. “Then,” Mladenovic continues, “the monk left, and the armed men who were standing near, the guards of the supreme pontiff John XXIII., said: ‘Know ye who this man was?’ And when the magister replied that he knew not, they said: ‘He is Magister Didacus, reputed in all Lombardy the most subtle of theologians.’ Then Magister Hus said: ‘Had I but known it! I would have plied him differently with Scripture. Were they but all like that, with God’s aid and the support of Holy Scripture supporting me, I should fear none of them!’” During the time that Hus remained in the bishop’s palace, a considerable number of Bohemians had assembled there, who waited in the ante-room to hear the decision of the cardinals. Among them were several friends of Hus, and also Stephen Palec and Michael de causis, the ringleaders of the agents of the Bishop of Litomysl. When they found that Hus would be detained, they displayed ignoble and indecent joy. They danced round the room exclaiming: “Ha! ha! now we have him, he will not escape us till he has paid the last farthing;” by this they meant that he would suffer the supreme penalty, the sentence of death. The cardinals at last sent a message saying that Lord John might depart, but that Hus was to remain in custody. Lord John made a direct appeal to the pope, who declined all responsibility and said that the arrest was the work of the cardinals, with whom he was himself on bad terms. It is very difficult to conjecture the part of the cunning Italian Baldassare Cossa in this matter. Little acquainted with the affairs of Northern Europe, he probably considered Hus a person of very slight importance. Perhaps hoping to win Bohemia to his side, he had at first promised Hus’s companions that he would protect him. He now also assured the Bohemian noblemen that he had no part in his arrest. He repeated this assertion afterwards to King Sigismund, when the latter, on arriving at Constance, feigned to be indignant at the imprisonment of Hus. Later, however, when John XXIII. had fled from Constance to Schafhausen and was on terms of enmity with Sigismund, he wrote to the King of France stating that by his order Hus had been imprisoned as a heretic, though Sigismund had endeavoured to protect him. After protesting energetically, Lord John of Duba left the palace, where Hus remained surrounded by armed guards. Peter Mladenovic, as he tells us, brought him his fur coat and a supply of money. In the evening Hus was conveyed to the house of a precentor of the cathedral. After a week—on December 6, 1414—he was taken to the Dominican monastery, situated on a small island in the lake that is separated from the rest of the city only by a very narrow course of water. Here he was imprisoned in a gloomy dungeon in the immediate vicinity of the sewer.
The friends of Hus did not meanwhile remain inactive, but their efforts were necessarily futile as they put their trust in Sigismund. The King of Hungary never honestly wished that Hus should be restored to liberty, but in view of the great indignation caused in Bohemia—of which country he considered himself the future king—by the imprisonment of the venerated leader of the nation, he thought it politic to feign displeasure. These repeated expressions of simulated indignation on the part of Sigismund scarcely deserve mention. The loyal Lord John of Chlum, according to the fashion of the time, twice affixed to the gates of the Cathedral of Constance protests against the imprisonment of Hus, referring directly to the imperial safe-conduct. He also wrote to Sigismund, who sent a protest to the pope and the cardinals, of which they—probably aware of the king’s real feelings—took no notice. Early in January 1415, the nobles of Moravia, with whom were also Hanus of Lipa, supreme marshal of Bohemia, and other Bohemian lords, met at Mezeric. They addressed to King Sigismund a letter which contained guarded, but yet significant remonstrances. The letter stated that the nobles had heard “that Hus had on his arrival at Constance been arrested and imprisoned while holding a royal safe-conduct, without cause and examination, in a manner contrary to order, faith, and the royal safe-conduct. There is much talk here and elsewhere,” they continued, “among the princes and lords, the poor and rich, concerning the holy father’s having acted contrary to order, faith, and the royal letter of safe-conduct, and his having imprisoned a just and innocent man. Therefore, may your majesty graciously deign as king and lord, and eventual heir to the Bohemian throne, to take measures that Master John Hus be delivered from this illegal imprisonment.” The question whether the Bohemian crown was elective or hereditary was then and continued for many years afterwards to be uncertain. These words have, therefore, a somewhat menacing note, which is yet more accentuated in a later passage of the letter: “It would indeed,” the nobles wrote, “be an offence to the Bohemian crown should anything befall a just man, holding such a safe-conduct. God knows that we should hear with great displeasure that your Majesty’s good name suffered through such an event. It would indeed be a reason why many would distrust your Majesty’s safe-conduct, and there has already been talk of this.”
Sigismund does not appear to have heeded this warning. There is little doubt that he thought that, Hus once removed, the Hussite movement would collapse. Of course, events proved the contrary, but Sigismund’s conjecture was not devoid of plausibility. No less a historian than Palacky has written that, had not the exceptional military genius ofenabled the Bohemians to defend their country and their faith, Hus would appear in history as an isolated enthusiast like . The admirable organisation of the Bohemian armies and the wisdom which the magisters of the university, particularly the learned Jacobellus, displayed as spiritual leaders of the people, enabled Bohemia to retain for two centuries a national and independent church.
While Hus’s friends were endeavouring to help him, his enemies strove with equal energy and greater success to bring about his ruin. They naturally considered it very favourable to their cause that Hus had through their influence been cast into prison. Mainly through the influence of the Bohemian enemies of Hus, who disposed of very large pecuniary means, the council on December 4 appointed three commissioners, John, (titular) patriarch of Constantinople, and the Bishops John of Lübeck and Bernard of Città di Castello, who were to report on the case of Hus. Michael de causis, the Judas of Bohemia, had drawn up a series of accusations against him. The heretical statements of which he was accused were principally derived from Hus’s treatise De Ecclesia. Some of these accusations were palpably and positively false; thus it was affirmed that Hus had said that the substance of bread remained in the sacrament after consecration and that unworthy priests could not validly administer communion. Much ingenuity was displayed also by Michael’s accomplice Palec, who described accusations made by Hus against Pope John XXIII.—far more moderate than those afterwards sanctioned by the council—as general accusations against papacy. It is difficult to imagine a greater amount of ignoble and mendacious sophistry than that which was produced by Michael de causis and Stephen Palec.
It is almost pitiful to imagine the position of a simple, truthful, and honest man as was Hus when attacked by such unscrupulous and mendacious adversaries. He seems himself to have felt the necessity of obtaining legal advice, and begged to be allowed to employ a lawyer for his defence. In distinction from a large number of priests of his day who were better jurists than theologians, Hus had devoted his time to preaching and writing in favour of the cause of church-reform, as well as to theological study. Michael de causis, on the other hand, was the type of the most unscrupulous and cunning lawyer—priests of a period when the ecclesiastical state was often assumed by unworthy men, because of the advantages and privileges which it conferred.
Hus’s request was immediately and sternly refused. It was declared that, according to canon law, no aid could be given to a heretic. Hus only now saw how greatly he had been deceived and how desperate his position was. The mediæval church looked on heretics very much as the Roman emperors looked on the early Christians. They were men outside of the pale of humanity with whom no faith need be kept. The same argument was brought forward later when Hus’s safe-conduct was declared invalid. That the refusal to allow Hus to obtain a legal representative sealed his fate was afterwards openly stated by John Gerson, one of the most prominent members of the council. When the proposed condemnation of the monk John Petit (Parvus), who had written in praise of tyrannicide, was discussed, Gerson, indignant at what he considered the unfairness of the council, declared that, had Hus been allowed an advocate, he would never have been convicted of heresy and that he (Gerson) would rather be tried by Jews and pagans than by the members of the council. Hus, though now aware that he had been enticed to Constance entirely on false pretences, could but submit. Palec and Michael continued their proceedings against him with indefatigable energy. Hus, shortly after his imprisonment, had fallen dangerously ill, as he had been placed in a dungeon close to the sewer. With fiendish ingenuity Michael de causis thought that this moment when Hus was weak through illness and deeply depressed by the treachery of which he had been the victim was a favourable one to confront him with as many witnesses as possible. According to the proceedings of the inquisition which were adopted, publicity was excluded, but the witnesses gave their evidence on oath in the presence of the accused. Once, when Hus’s illness was at its worst, fifteen witnesses were brought into his prison on the same day. It was natural that he should be quite bewildered, and God only, as he afterwards wrote, knew what he suffered. Mladenovic, who enumerates many of those who were made to give evidence against Hus, writes that some of them were very reluctant to do so. A layman, before he was called in, said: “I swear to God that I have nothing to depose.” Then Michael de causis said to him: “My good man, you don’t know what they will ask you, and you swear that you have nothing to depose. As for me, I would bear witness against my own father if it was (if he was accused of) something against the faith.” The result of these investigations was that the commissioners, on the advice of Michael and Stephen Palec, drew up a new act of accusation against Hus consisting of forty-four articles, all derived from the treatise De Ecclesia. “These had,” Mladenovic writes, “been falsely and unfairly extracted from the book by Palec, who had mutilated some sentences at the beginning, others in the middle, others at the end, and who had also invented things that were not contained in the book at all.”
The Bohemian informers uninterruptedly continued their task of persecuting Hus, but the council was now for a time occupied with other matters. On Christmas Day, 1414, Sigismund arrived at Constance. Richenthal, who describes the arrival of such illustrious visitors in his native town with evident pleasure, writes: “On the holy day early, two hours after midnight, came from Ueberlingen to Constance that most noble prince Sigismund, King of the Romans, of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, etc., and with him the most noble princess, Lady Barbara, Queen of the Romans, his spouse, by birth Countess of Cilli, and the most noble princess, Lady Elizabeth, Queen of Bosnia, and also the most noble princess, Lady Anne of Wurtemberg, by birth a burgravine of Nuremberg. There came also with the king the most noble elector, Duke Louis of Saxony. After landing from the boats they retired to their apartments and warmed themselves for an hour. Then the citizens of Constance presented them with two golden cloths. The one was carried—as a baldachin—on four poles over the king, the other, also on four poles, over the queen and the Queen of Bosnia. Thus they proceeded to the cathedral, and the pope, wearing a handsome mitre adorned with gold and precious stones, read the first mass on Christmas Day, which they call Dominus dixit ad me.” Richenthal then continues to describe the other functions, for the pope, according to custom, said three masses on Christmas Day. He afterwards presented Sigismund with a sword, hoping that he would use it for the defence of the church. The German princes had not at first paid much attention to the council. The schism and the violent and undignified controversies between the adherents of the rival popes, which had been its consequence, had caused the clergy to fall in Germany into a state of contempt and disesteem, which is not the less certain because little written evidence of this feeling remains. The Bohemian writers of the fifteenth century who so strongly attacked papacy and the Roman Church certainly met with more sympathy in Germany than is usually supposed. The German princes, therefore, felt little inclined to go to Constance to greet Pope John XXIII. Some of their number, such as the Archbishop of Trier, still acknowledged the obedience of Pope . After the arrival of Sigismund, the head of the empire and—since his recent coronation at Aachen—emperor, a great change took place in this respect. In January 1415, the Bavarian princes, Louis Count Palatine—who played a prominent part at the execution of Hus—and Dukes Henry and Louis, arrived at Constance. Other new arrivals were, the burgraves John and Frederick of Nuremberg, Duke Frederick of Austria, the Margrave of Baden, and the Elector-Archbishop John of Maintz. This prelate rode into Constance in full armour, a fact that scandalised even the large-minded Richenthal.
Sigismund, whose dominant characteristic, next to perfidy, was puerile vanity, greatly rejoiced over his position as leader of so brilliant an assembly. He had undoubtedly succeeded in renewing the waning prestige of the Roman crown. Though Hus’s loyal Bohemian friends continued to bring their unwelcome grievances before Sigismund, he felt little interest in the case of the pious and humble Bohemian priest. He knew him to be under lock and key, and had decided long ago that he should never return to his native country. No one at the council probably attached the slightest importance to the protestations against Hus’s imprisonment, which Sigismund still thought it politic to make. The members of the council were now entirely absorbed in the conflict between the papacy and the college of cardinals. The position of Sigismund was a difficult one. Immediately after his arrival at Constance, Baldassare Cossa had attempted to win him over to his side by the offer of a gift of 200,000 florins. The emperor declined this offer, probably considering the pope’s position as already hopeless, or distrusting his promise. It appeared certain that even the laxity of morals of that period, almost inconceivable as we now consider it, would in the long run not accept a man such as the diavolo cardinale as head of the Catholic Church. Sigismund therefore arrived at the conclusion that it was only by forcing John XXIII., as well as Gregory XII. and Benedict XIII., to abdicate that the termination of the schism could be assured.
Sigismund therefore soon assumed a conciliatory attitude towards the council. He entirely gave up his insincere demand that Hus should be released from prison, and in contradiction to his former, probably also disingenuous, desire that the council should first devote its attention to church-reform, he now consented to its first discussing the schism. The negotiations between John XXIII. and Sigismund, between the pope and the college of cardinals, the dissensions between the cardinals and the other members of the council—all these events here require but brief mention. To exercise a certain pressure on John XXIII., it was decided that the council should not be considered as a continuation of that of Pisa, which had deposed Popes Gregory and Benedict. Representatives of these pontiffs were, therefore, allowed to appear before the council and the emperor. The representatives of Gregory declared that their master was willing to renounce the papal throne if John and Benedict did likewise, and Benedict’s envoys expressed themselves in a manner that was interpreted as expressing a similar intention. John XXIII., however, who denied the analogy between his own case and that of Gregory and Benedict, who had been deposed by the Council of Pisa, took up a very intransigent attitude. His partisans among the members of the council, however, constantly diminished in number, particularly after a document attributed to an Italian priest had been circulated, which contained a detailed account of all the crimes and sins committed by Baldassare Cossa. The document, probably published for the purpose of intimidating the pope, was promptly suppressed, but many of the unspeakable accusations contained in it were embodied in the act of deposition of John XXIII., which was published on May 25, 1415. A resolution of the council had meanwhile altered the system of voting at its deliberations, and had greatly reduced the power of the minor Italian ecclesiastics, who were Pope John’s principal adherents. He therefore determined to yield. At a general meeting of the council held on February 16, in the presence of Sigismund, Cardinal Zabarella read out a statement of John XXIII. He declared that he was prepared of his own accord and for the good of the church to descend from the throne of St. Peter if the two claimants to the papacy, who had been deposed and condemned as heretics by the Council of Pisa, would in a manner and at a time which he would determine in accordance with the members of the council, renounce the titles which they had usurped. This declaration, and another which John afterwards submitted, were considered insufficient, and a document drawn up by members of the council and transmitted to the pope by Sigismund was rejected by him. He declared that the wording of the document presented to him was almost identical with that of the document containing the renunciation of Gregory XII., between whose case and his own there was, Pope John maintained, a very considerable difference. Finally, on March I, John XXIII. accepted and signed a document which contained a formal renunciation of the papal throne. He declared that of his own free will and for the sake of the peace of the church, he entirely renounced all claims to the papal throne, and that he made no other condition except that Peter of Luna and Angelo Correr, known in their obediences as Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII., should do likewise. This renunciation was received with universal rejoicings, and when John XXIII. on the following day solemnly confirmed it by his oath in the cathedral before the members of the council and the emperor, all present burst into tears.
Baldassare Cossa—as he now again became—though “entrapped,” as he would have expressed it, and daunted for a moment, was by no means at the end of his resources. It has already been mentioned that Cossa had on his journey to Constance met Duke Frederick of Austria, and that a thorough understanding had sprung up between them. This was of greatest importance to the pope, as the territory of the Habsburg prince extended to the immediate vicinity of Constance. Frederick, who had become a mortal enemy of the house of Luxemburg, was by no means unwilling to frustrate the plans of Sigismund and to render the council abortive. Probably immediately after his renouncement, Cossa determined to leave Constance and to fly to Schafhausen, the nearest city within the territory of Duke Frederick. He was, however, obliged to act with great caution. It was rumoured at Constance that he intended to leave the city, and this rumour was intensified by the fact that he refused to conform to the formalities necessary to render his renunciation absolute, and thus obstructed the proceedings of the council. This caused great indignation among the members of that assembly, and at one of its meetings the Bishop of Salisbury is said to have declared that Cossa deserved to be burnt at the stake. According to Dietrich of Niem, Cossa made another offer of money to Sigismund, and on being questioned by the emperor with regard to his future plans formally protested that he had no intention of leaving Constance before the council was dissolved. The cunning Italian did not think it necessary to add that, according to his belief, his own departure would necessarily entail the dissolution of the council.
On March 20 Baldassare Cossa effected his escape. He had settled in accord with Duke Frederick that a tournament, under the auspices of the duke, should on that day be held outside the walls of Constance. While all the citizens were watching the proceedings, Cossa made his escape, riding in disguise to Ermattingen, whence a boat that was waiting conveyed him to Schafhausen. Duke Frederick followed him as soon as he was able to leave the place of tournament without attracting attention, and joined him at Schafhausen. Their departure caused a panic at Constance, and it seemed probable for a moment that the council would break up. The papal soldiers who guarded Hus left the city shortly after their master, but Sigismund, as will be mentioned later, did not use this opportunity to set the prisoner free. In consequence of the energy of Sigismund, aided by the influence of John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, a rupture was averted, and the council continued its sittings. At the memorable meeting of that assembly on March 30, the superiority of a general council over the pope was proclaimed, and it was also declared that all future decrees of Pope John XXIII. should be invalid. Through the influence of Sigismund the council also took proceedings against Duke Frederick of Austria, on whom Sigismund pronounced the imperial ban. He also declared war on him, and proclaimed that all should be free to acquire any portion of Frederick's territory which they might conquer. The Swiss, who had by a recent treaty pledged themselves under oath not to attack Frederick, were informed by the council that, as they had pledged themselves to a heretic, the oath was invalid, and that they were justified in waging war against the Duke of Austria. It is beyond my purpose to enter into details concerning the campaign that followed. Frederick was defeated everywhere, and was obliged to proceed to Constance and there make his humble submission to the emperor. Pope John XXIII. fled from Schafhausen before the surrender of the town to the imperial forces. He first proceeded to Laufenburg, and then to Freiburg in Breisgau, from where he addressed a letter to the council proposing an agreement. The terms he offered were, however, rejected. From Freiburg Cossa went to Breisach, and here, in his usual tortuous manner, entered into negotiations with the envoys sent to him by the council. Meanwhile, however, Duke Frederick had submitted to the emperor, and had among other stipulations agreed to give up all support of Baldassare Cossa. The latter returned to Freiburg, and now gave up all attempts of resistance. Accompanied by the representatives of the council, and guarded by 300 Hungarian soldiers sent by Sigismimd, he proceeded to Radolfzell, there to await his final sentence. He was here informed of the decree published by the council on May 25, which, after enumerating all his crimes, declared him to be “an abettor of simoniacs, a mirror of infamy, an idolator of the flesh and one whom all who knew him considered a devil incarnate,” and proclaimed his deposition from the papal throne. Cossa offered no further resistance, and gave up the insignia of papacy without any opposition. From Radolfzell he was conveyed to Gottlieben, a castle about eight miles from Constance, which for some time served also as a prison for Hus. As he was suspected of intriguing with his Italian friends in Constance, Sigismund placed him in the custody of Louis Count Palatine, by whose order he was removed to the castle of Heidelberg. He remained there up to the termination of the Council of Constance. He soon made his peace with the Roman Church, and submitted to Pope Martin V., by whom he was again created a cardinal. He retired to Florence, where he died on December 22, 1418. His tomb in the Battisterio by Michelozzo and Donatello is a noble work of the early Italian renaissance. It is striking to contrast his end with that of Hus. While the diavolo cardinale died surrounded with all honours and was buried in a magnificent tomb that is still admired by all visitors to Florence, Hus died by that hideous and painful death which mediæval Christianity seems to have borrowed from Nero, while his ashes were scattered and thrown into the Rhine.
Before returning to Hus, who remained imprisoned in and near Constance during the momentous events that occurred in that city, it will be necessary to refer to events in Bohemia that had considerable influence on the fate of Hus. The pious congregation at Bethlehem and the Bohemian patriots and church-reformers generally had been anxious for the safety of Hus from the moment that he had crossed the boundaries of his native land. Many previous treacherous acts of Sigismund, particularly those that were connected with his brother Venceslas, were in the memory of all. In consequence of the intense interest in the fate of Hus that was general among the citizens of Prague, theological reflection and discussion became their constant and all-absorbing occupation. Only a few weeks after the departure of Hus a religious innovation was introduced, which, though only a return to a very ancient tradition, yet greatly irritated the opponents of church-reform. Lawrence of Brezova writes, “In the year of the incarnation 1414, the reverend and noble Magister Jacobellus of Stribro (Mies), bachelor of holy theology, with the support of other priests, began to administer the venerable and divine sacrament of eucharistic communion in the two kinds, that is to say, in the species of bread and of wine, in the famed and magnificent city of Prague.” The new custom was first adopted in the churches of St. Adalbertus in the new town and St. Martin-in-the-Wall, St. Michael, and the Bethlehem chapel in the old town. The influence of this step on the fate of Hus, and yet more on the subsequent Hussite movement, was very great. It has long and often been discussed why the question of communion in the two kinds, or utraquism as it soon began to be called, acquired such great importance in Bohemia. The formerly general supposition that the tradition of communion in the two kinds continued from the time when Bohemia and Moravia first received Christianity from the East has, in consequence of the recent works of Bohemian scholars, particularly of Professor , become very improbable. It is also certain that Jacobellus—in many respects a pupil of Matthew of Janov—did not derive from Matthew his utraquistic teaching. Matthew indeed wrote and spoke in favour of frequent communion but did not mention communion in the two kinds. It has already been stated that both these demands were closely connected in the minds of the Bohemian people, to whom it appeared unjust that the priests—among whom were many of the vilest men in the land—should claim to receive holy communion more frequently and in a more complete manner than pious laymen. It is on the whole most probable that the deep study of the evangelical words pronounced at the institution of the sacrament convinced Jacobellus of the lawfulness of utraquism.
The custom of administering communion in the two kinds began at Prague about the time when Hus was dangerously ill at the Dominican monastery, and he was not immediately informed of it. The news reached Palec more rapidly and he accused Hus of being responsible for the teaching of utraquism. The latter was probably then too ill to understand the drift of Palec’s words, particularly as the question of utraquism had not been discussed before his departure from Prague. Early in January 1415 Hus's health began to improve and he was about this time moved to a less unsanitary cell in the Dominican monastery. To the papal commissioners who visited him he declared that the articles of accusation against him were largely drawn from passages quoted wrongly from his writings, and that the articles also attributed to him statements which he had never made. The commissioners merely answered that the articles were the work of his Bohemian enemies. Michael de causis was meanwhile more indefatigable than ever. He was more constantly in the prison than even the gaolers, acting as spy, and also abstracting the letters sent or received by Hus. To incite the commissioners against Hus he gave them totally untruthful information concerning him, calculated to render him odious. Thus when visiting Hus one of the commissioners said: “Thou possessest 70,000 florins;” another, “Thou hast founded a new law;” yet another, “Thou then hast taught all these articles.” Hus could but answer: “Why do you wrong me?” The ignoble Michael de causis was allowed to accompany the commissioners on their visits to Hus and even grossly to insult him in their presence—a fact which alone proves what a wretched parody of justice the whole trial was. There is little doubt that this licence granted to Michael was largely the result of the vast sums of money collected and distributed by the Bishop of Litomysl. Palec, though also demanding that Hus should be immediately executed, behaved with more reserve than Michael. Stephen Palec was a narrow-minded bigot, but not an unprincipled scoundrel like Michael de causis. One of the Bohemian letters—they are always more impressive than the Latin ones—written by Hus at this time and dated January 19, 1415, gives a good insight into his feelings. The letter, addressed to the citizens of Prague, runs thus: "May God deign to be with you, that you may resist the evil, the devil, the world, and the flesh. Dearest, I beg you—sitting in prison, of which I am not ashamed, for I suffer in good hope for the Lord God, who graciously afflicted me with a severe illness, but has now restored me to health and who permitted that those should become my enemies to whom I did much good and whom I loved much—I beg you to pray to God for me that He may deign to be with me; for it is through Him alone and through your prayers that I hope to remain in His grace unto my death. If He deigns now to call me to Him, be it according to His holy will; if He deigns to restore me to you, then also be His will fulfilled. Indeed I require much help, but I know that He will not subject me to any suffering or temptation except for my own, and for your good, so that, having been tested and having remained steadfast, we may obtain great reward. Be it known to you that that letter, which I sent to you after starting on my journey, has become public, and has been translated wrongly into Latin. They have also produced so many articles and accusations against me that I have much to write answering them all here from prison. There is no one who can help me except our merciful Lord Jesus who said: I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. Remember, dearest, that I have zealously worked with you, and that I always hope for your salvation, now also when I am in prison and much tormented.″
On March 20, as already mentioned, Pope John XXIII. escaped from Constance in disguise. Hus appears at that time to have become somewhat more hopeful, perhaps because a few friends had been allowed to visit him—a great solace to a man whose health at this moment was again failing and who had lived for months surrounded only by enemies and spies. The aged Master Christian of Prachatice and John of Jesenice, two of Hus’s comrades during the long-protracted struggle against the simonists at Prague, visited him, not heeding the great danger which they incurred. Hus no doubt informed them of the treachery on the part of the council of which he had been the victim, and they both succeeded in escaping from Constance during the troubles that followed the flight of Cossa. Jerome of Prague also appeared for a short time at Constance, though Hus had begged him not to do so. He departed again almost immediately. Here, as ever, the presence of Jerome was very harmful to Hus. Another visitor was Lord Venceslas of Duba, the trusted friend and protector of Hus. He burst into tears on seeing him, and informed him of the steps which the nobles of his country were taking for his defence. These attempts at intervention on the part of Hus’s countrymen have already been mentioned, and I shall have again to refer to them later. Duba may also have informed Hus of the intended flight of Cossa, as his intention of escaping from Constance was mooted in the city several days before the event actually took place. This would inspire hope in the minds of both Hus and Duba. Cossa departed, Sigismund was undisputed master of the city of Constance, and it was entirely in his power to liberate Hus. On March 24, Palm Sunday, Hus wrote to his friends at Constance informing them that his guards had left him. On the same evening an armed force of a hundred and seventy men, sent by the Bishop of Constance, seized Hus and conveyed him to the bishop’s castle of Gottlieben. Immediately after the departure of Cossa, Sigismund, fearing that Hus might escape him, conferred with the most important members of the council, and it was decided that Hus should be placed in the custody of the Bishop of Constance. That Sigismund failed to use this opportunity of liberating Hus greatly disappointed the Bohemians, and has also caused the surprise of some modern writers. A closer study of the character of Sigismund would show that he had firmly resolved that Hus should never leave Constance, or at least never return to his native land.
The imprisonment at Gottlieben was for Hus in every way a change for the worse. The tower at Gottlieben, still known as the “Hussenthurm,” in one of the highest cells of which he was confined, was indeed, from a sanitary point of view, preferable to the Dominican monastery at Constance. But Hus now for the first time endured all the horrors of a mediaeval prison. He was chained to a post, at day time by the hands only, at night also by the feet, and suffered continually from hunger and thirst. His German guards were allowed to treat him with the utmost cruelty, while the Italian soldiers of Cossa had treated him with cordial, if contemptuous, kindness. It is certain that it was intended, according to the methods of the Inquisition, entirely to break his spirit by what was practically torture. It was hoped that he would thus be induced to confess anything and everything which it was desirable that he should confess. He had hitherto been allowed to write and to receive letters, but all this was stopped at Gottlieben. We know, therefore, little of what occurred there, and a veil has perhaps mercifully been thrown over Hus’s stay at Gottlieben.
The powers of the commissioners appointed by Pope John XXIII. were considered as having ended with the flight of that pontiff. The council, in which the party of the cardinals now had the upper hand, appointed Cardinals D’Ailly, Filastre, and Zabarella to act as commissioners, and continue the examination of Hus. Of these men D'Ailly was the most prominent, and his marked hostility to Hus has often been noted. The active part taken by the Cardinal of Cambray in the condemnation of Hus is indeed the best known part of his career. As Dr. Tschackert, the biographer of D’Ailly, writes: “D’Ailly now showed that historically memorable activity which throws on the not otherwise very bright record of his life a shadow that is all the darker, the brighter appears the memory of him whose death at the stake he helped to bring about.” The reasons for D’Ailly’s hostility to Hus are numerous. The dispute between nominalists and realists no doubt played a part, but Hus’s repeated eulogy of the poverty of the clergy must have been particularly obnoxious to D’Ailly. This very important motive seems to have been kept in the background by many historians. D’Ailly was noted for his greed for money. His eager endeavours to secure benefices and to amass riches exposed him to the sometimes very severe comments of his contemporaries. The new commissioners visited Hus several times at Gottlieben. They found him weak through hunger and suffering, broken in spirit, meek, and patient. It cannot be considered generous on the part of D’Ailly that he should, when Hus at his trial gave a somewhat spirited reply, have taunted him with the remark, “You spoke more meekly when you were in the tower.” The council, now freed from Baldassare Cossa and by no means desirous of entering on the disagreeable subject of church-reform, devoted all its energy to the extirpation of heresy. Before finally coming to a conclusion with regard to the fate of Hus, they published a declaration enumerating forty-five articles taken from the works of which had been condemned as heretical by the council held in Rome in 1412. As it could be proved that similar and in some cases identical statements were contained in the works of Hus, this in the opinion of all signified the condemnation of Hus. Hus had indeed, as has been frequently mentioned, declared that he did not identify himself with Wycliffe, that he did not accept all his views, and that he might have understood some of them in a sense different from that accepted by the council. Any one who has even a slight acquaintance with the writings of Wycliffe, “his voluminous writings in scholastic Latin, crabbed, harsh, and intricate to the last degree,” as Dr. Bigg writes, will consider this very probable. Hus may have wished to state this before the council, but was never given a fair hearing there. Any remark made by him that appeared inconvenient was always interrupted. I must now refer to the last attempts, previous to the trial, made by the Bohemians to save their countryman. The nobles of Moravia met at Brno (Brünn) on May 8, 1415, and sent a spirited remonstrance to Sigismund. They stated that they must again complain of the treatment of “John Hus, a just man and preacher, a faithful and praiseworthy furtherer of the Holy Gospel, of whom no evil is known in these lands. Yet,” they continued, “this dear master and Christian preacher has been imprisoned because of false and foul calumnies spread by evil men, slanderers and enemies of God’s word. Through the dishonourable calumnies against this man, all the lands of the Bohemian crown and the Slavic nation have been guiltlessly defamed. He (Hus) went freely without any compulsion to the universal council at Constance, and wished as a good and faithful Christian to free himself and his country from unjust accusations before a general council of the whole Christian world. He received from your Majesty a letter of safe-conduct, though so good a man did not require one.” After further remarks concerning the safe-conduct, the letter continues thus: “But also we hear that when the pope fled, as well as those who guarded him (Hus), he was taken from his prison—it is best known to God by whose order—and transferred to a more cruel prison belonging to the Bishop of Constance, where he has been cruelly and in an unchristian fashion fettered by the hands and feet and denied even that amount of justice which it would be seemly to grant to a heathen.” The letter ends with the words: "“We trust that your Majesty will grant your full attention to this matter, as is fitting for the kind and gracious heir and successor to our land.” A similar |letter was sent from Prague four days later by the assembled nobles of Bohemia. Both letters bear the signatures of almost all the men then prominent in Bohemia and Moravia—if we except the dignitaries of the church. The letters, written in Bohemian, were translated into Latin by Palacky as long ago as 1869, but they have not been much noticed by historians. The Bohemian nobles at Constance—besides those who had accompanied Hus, a few others had arrived, wishing to be near him in the hour of danger— resolved also to make a last attempt to save the life of their countryman. Their step was not without danger; they had no power to act as representatives of King Venceslas, who declined all relations with the council. Other Bohemians, noted members of the university, had been driven out of Constance by the emissaries of Michael de causis, and some had with difficulty escaped with their lives. The nobles were but too well aware of the treachery innate in Sigismund, though they may have thought that he would at least during the lifetime of Hus endeavour to avoid a general uprising in Bohemia. Associated with the Bohemians were a few Polish noblemen. They were—in distinction from the Bohemians—present as representatives of the King of Poland, therefore shielded by diplomatic immunity and restricted by the customary reserve of diplomatists. Yet they did not hesitate to intervene in favour of a member of the kindred Bohemian nation who in Poland also was by many already considered as a saint.
Mladenovic gives a detailed account of the intervention of | the nobles of Poland and Bohemia in favour of Hus. “While he (Hus),” Mladenovic writes, “was lying in fetters in the fort (Gottlieben), the noble lords, knights, and squires of the Bohemian and Polish nations were moved by their love of truth, and of the honour and fame of the illustrious kingdom of Bohemia, which had now become a laughing-stock, and an infamous object of shame to its enemies, even to strangers of the meanest birth. They therefore resolved to recover and restore its ancient glory, of which they were heirs, and they determined to insist that John Hus, once their preacher and instructor, now deprived of all human aid, should at least have the opportunity of publicly expressing his opinions.” On May 13, the nobles drew up a statement which was to be brought before the council. They complained that Hus, “who had never been convicted or condemned or even heard,” should have been imprisoned. They demanded that he should be publicly heard that he might render account of his faith. A passage near the end of the document caused some sensation. It stated that enemies of the illustrious kingdom of Bohemia had said that the sacrament of the most holy blood of the Lord had been carried about there in flasks, that cobblers had confessed the faithful and had administered the sacrament. The nobles begged that these calumnies should not be believed, and that the delators should be named, that they might receive condign punishment from the King of Bohemia. The last words contained a direct accusation against Michael de causis and the other Bohemian informers, as well as against their leader, the Bishop of Litomysl.
This statement was by Peter of Mladenovic read to the assembled council, that is to say, to the members of the four “nations” into which the council had some time previously been divided to limit the influence of the Italian partisans of Baldassare Cossa. It was received in silence, except when the passage concerning the calumniators of Bohemia was read out. Bishop John of Litomysl, rising up immediately, exclaimed in his own language: “Ha! ha! ” mne dotyce a mych. In a letter addressed to the council on May 16, the iron bishop protested against the accusation that he was a calumniator of his country, and declared that the communion of laymen in the two kinds had led or at least would lead to many abuses—a statement with which we meet constantly during the utraquist controversy in Bohemia, which only ended in 1620.
The council sent an evasive answer written by the Bishop of Carcassone, and the nobles of Bohemia protested against the statements of John of Litomysl in a letter that was probably also from the clever though prolix pen of Mladenovic. They maintained that none of the outrages mentioned by Bishop John had actually occurred. It is a fact that, though matters changed after the treacherous murder of Hus, no act of sacrilege had at that time been committed in Bohemia. The Bohemians also again appealed to the Emperor Sigismund, an act that does more credit to their ingenuousness than to their sagacity. Sigismund, who, by a decree of April 8, had revoked all letters of safe-conduct previously granted by him, now shielded himself entirely under the authority of the council and did not reply to the appeal of the Bohemians.
None the less the Bohemians, encouraged by the news that their countrymen at Prague and Brno had protested against the imprisonment of Hus, attempted to appeal again to the council. Mladenovic, again acting as spokesman, delivered a lengthy speech before the members of the council assembled, in the refectory of the minorite monastery. After again referring to Sigismund’s letter of safe-conduct, he made the important suggestion that Hus, who had been neither convicted nor condemned, should be delivered from the fetters and chains in which he was now cruelly imprisoned, and should be placed in the custody of some bishops, or worthy men, appointed by the council, who would examine him and confer with him, when he had recovered his health. The nobles of Bohemia were meanwhile prepared to provide sureties—men who would not break their faith for anything in the world, and who would guarantee that Hus would make no attempt whatever to escape from Constance before his case was judged.
To this new proposal the council returned an immediate answer. On the very day of the speech of Mladenovic—May 31—the patriarch of Antioch, in the name of the delegates of the council, declared that with regard to the alleged misrepresentation of Hus’s statements, those acquainted with his language would decide. As the men thus referred to were the Bishop of Litomysl, Palec, and Michael de causis, his bitterest enemies and most venomous calumniators, the injustice was flagrant. The patriarch further stated that the members of the council would not liberate Hus if a thousand sureties were brought forward, for it would be against their conscience to place such a man, whom they could not trust, in the hands of sureties. The delegates of the council were, however, willing to accede to the petition of the lords and to grant Hus a fair and public hearing. “What and how constituted the hearing was, and how far it was kindly”—the good Mladenovic adds—“will be seen when I describe the doings of the tribunal.”
The Bohemian lords had undoubtedly obtained a success—the only one they achieved during their arduous, dangerous, and from the first hopeless, campaign in favour of Hus. Hus was, at least, to appear before his judges. Though the proceedings at his trial were a mere parody of justice, and he was scarcely ever allowed to speak, his appearance was in itself a mute protest against the tyranny of a corrupt hierarchy.
- Palacky, Documenta.
- Palacky, Documenta. When the contrary is not stated I have always quoted Hus’s letters from Palacky’s work, which contains far the most complete collection of documents referring to Hus.
- The letter—written in Latin—ended with the words: “Datum in Constantia. Oretis Deum pro constantia in veritate.”
- During the festivities that by Frederick’s order took place at Innsbruck in honour of Sigismund, a young girl, the daughter of a notable citizen, was violated, and public opinion pointed to one of the two princes as having been guilty of the deed. Both Sigismund and Frederick affirmed their innocence, each maintaining that the other was the culprit. Mortal enmity arose between the two princes in consequence. The whole story is told by Eberhard Windeck, c. 32.
- Ulrich von Richenthal, Chronik des Constanzer Concils, ed. 1882, p. 25.
- Palacky adds as an explanation the Bohemian word nabadac. The French word; agent-provocateur perhaps best conveys the meaning intended.
- It has been necessary to abridge considerably the narrative of Mladenovic contained in his Relatio de M. J. Hus causa.
- Poden was the captain of the town guard.
- Another title of Lord Venceslas of Duba.
- See my History of Bohemian Literature (2nd ed., pp. 396–398).
- “Et saltantes circa aestuarium gaudebant dicentes: Ha! ha! jam habemus eum; non exibit nobis, quousque non reddat minimum quadrantem.”
- The Dominican monastery is now the Insel Hotel, known to most travellers. The cloisters and the former chapel, now the dining-room, alone recall the former character of the building. To a Bohemian it does not appear that the memory of Hus is held in great honour here. Recently-painted frescoes decorate the cloisters. A small one represents Hus in prison, while one of the largest records one of the least interesting events in modern German history (the meeting at Constance and reconciliation of the German emperor, William I., and the Duke of Nassau, whom Prussia had deprived of his dominions).
- Palacky, Documenta.
- These words are repeated, no doubt to lay stress on them.
- As regards the first point, Hus had already, when questioned by Didacus, denied holding the opinion attributed to him. See p. 218. On the second point Hus long before had expressed views in accordance with the teaching of Rome in his Super IV. Sententiarum. See p. 92.
- This matter, which cannot be discussed here, is thoroughly treated by Von der Hardt, Lenfant, and also by Dr. Schwab, Johannes Gerson.
- Wife of Tvartko of Bosnia, who had been an ally of Sigismund during his wars in Hungary and Dalmatia.
- This is, of course, only true of the early part of the fifteenth century. There are, as is known, countless German writings with anti-papal tendency belonging to the sixteenth century.
- Dr. Aschbach (Geschichte Kaiser Sigmunds, vol. ii. p. 38), who makes this statement, founds it on documentary evidence. There is nothing in the character either of Sigismund or of Baldassare Cossa to render it improbable.
- Von der Hardt, Magnum oecumenicum Constantiense Concilium, T. ii. P. viii. p. 233.
- Printed by Von der Hardt, T. ii. P. iv. p. 45.
- This declaration of the Council of Constance was often mentioned when the question of papal infallibility was under discussion.
- The decree of the council is printed by Von der Hardt.
- Laurentii de Brezova, “Historia Hussitica” (Fontes Rerum Bohemicarum, vol. v. p. 338).
- Particularly in his O historii Kalicha v dobach predhusitskych (Story of the Chalice in Prehussite Times).
- This at that time signified an enormous sum; according to Dr. Flajshans, about 4,000,000 Austrian crowns (£200,000).
- Flajshans, Mistr Jan Hus, pp. 415–416.
- Hus’s style is here rather involved. It is, however, so characteristic of the writer that I have thought it best to translate the letter literally.
- In this letter—written in Bohemian—Hus had stated that he had left Prague without a letter of safe-conduct. We do not know what form this statement took when translated into Latin by Michael and Palec. Hus was travelling, accompanied by representatives of Sigismund who approved of his not waiting at Prague for the arrival of the letter. Some modern apologists of Sigismund have, following the example of Hus’s persecutors, maintained that the safe-conduct became invalid because Hus did not carry it on his journey.
- St. Luke xxi. 15.
- On the Rhine below Constance, now in the Swiss canton of Thurgan.
- Dr. Tschackert, Peter v. Ailly, p. 225.
- See the “tractatus Bonifacii (Ferrer) prioris Carthusiae majoris” in Martene et Durand, Thesaurus, II., p. 1436. The writer, a firm adherent of Pope Benedict XIII., may have been somewhat prejudiced against D’Ailly.
- Palacky, Documenta.
- Or “language.” The Bohemian word jazyk has both significations.
- Relatio, pp. 256–272. Only a brief account of the prolonged negotiations, in consequence of which at least the semblance of a public trial was granted to Hus, can be given here.
- “Ha! ha! This regards me and my friends.”
- Of the many writers on the trial of Hus none has better understood this than the late Mr. Wratislaw. He writes (John Hus, p. 261): “Instead of a secret inquisition and secret murder, we have the record of a public trial and a judicial homicide, in which we are at a loss to discover any valid or reasonable ground of condemnation.” The book of Mr. Wratislaw, written nearly thirty years ago, is still valuable though it has become somewhat antiquated.