The life and times of Master John Hus/Chapter 8





Though the council had been obliged to grant Hus a public hearing, it did so most reluctantly and with the firm intention that he should be declared guilty and under all circumstances prevented from returning to Bohemia—on this Sigismund laid great stress. During a deliberation of the council, which immediately preceded the trial, it was resolved that, should Hus not retract, he should be handed over to the secular authorities to receive condign punishment. By a legal fiction the church avoided ordering the execution of the sentence. Death at the stake was the penalty for heresy according to a law of the Emperor Frederick II., who, as Dr. Lenz writes in his clever defence of the conduct of the council,[1] “cannot be considered a friend of the popes, and still less an ultramontane.” Though the matter will have to be mentioned again later, it should here already be stated that Sigismund had pledged his honour to allow Hus to return to Bohemia from Constance, whatever sentence might have been passed on him there. The secular authority to whom Hus should have been handed over was his own sovereign, King Venceslas, not the burgomaster of Constance. The possibility of Hus’s retracting had also been taken into consideration. It was decided that in that case Hus should, in punishment of the scandal which he had caused, be imprisoned for life in a Swedish monastery, in a cell that was to be walled up, leaving only a small opening through which food and drink were to be handed to the prisoner.[2]

On the morning of June 5 Hus was conveyed from the Tower of Gottlieben to the monastery of the Franciscan order[3] at Constance, which was to be the last of his prisons. The members of the council who were to interrogate Hus, with Cardinal D’Ailly as their head, assembled in the refectory of the Franciscan monastery, and many other members were also present. The accusations against Hus were read out before, he was admitted into the hall. As Mladenovic writes in a passage which I have already quoted, many statements never made by Hus were attributed to him and many passages, quoted from his writings had been falsified. We meet with this complaint frequently, and it appears to have been one of the principal grievances of Hus. He began now to see that the trial was a mere formality by means of which Sigismund wished to appease the increasing irritation of the Bohemians. A significant incident which occurred at the very beginning of the trial was at any rate sufficient to dispel whatever illusions Hus and his companions may still have preserved. Before Hus appeared in the hall the document stating the accusations against him, which have been so often mentioned, and ending with his condemnation had been prepared and was shown to some of the members of the assembly. A young Bohemian named Oldrich who was present[4] succeeded in obtaining a glance at the document and read in it the passage which contained the condemnation of Hus and several statements of importance for the trial. A forged letter was referred to, in which Hus was purported to have written that, should he retract his teaching at Constance, such a retraction was to be considered as obtained by force and therefore invalid.[5] It was intended by this cunning device to prevent Hus’s regaining his liberty, even should he retract the statements to which objection was made; this, as he repeatedly declared, he was prepared to do, if contrary evidence were produced. Oldrich immediately informed Mladenovic of what he had seen, and the latter reported to Lord Venceslas of Duba and John of Chlum that the sentence on Hus had already been drawn up. The Bohemian nobles appealed to Sigismund. No one was more anxious than was the King of Hungary that Hus should, under all circumstances, be prevented from returning to Bohemia. He was not, however, under the circumstances, able to show his true feelings, and indeed feigned anger and indignation. He sent Louis Count Palatine and Frederick Burgrave of Nuremberg to the members of the council, ordering them not to condemn Hus immediately, but first to grant him a hearing.

Hus was now introduced into the hall. He had previously sent to Lords Duba and Chlum the original manuscripts of his book De Ecclesia, and of his writings against Palec and Stanislas of Znoymo. The articles that were now read out contained many extracts from these works, but whether these quotations were genuine, and to what extent they were the work of Palec and Michael was not examined during the so-called trial. Hus contented himself with declaring that if there was anything evil or erroneous in his writings, he was ready humbly to amend it. After the articles, the depositions of the witnesses were read out. Hus then attempted to speak, but was immediately interrupted by loud cries “as with one voice.” Those of his friends who had been unable to enter the hall, but remained outside, heard him “turning now to the right, now to the left, now forward, now backward, answering those who were crying out at him and assailing him.” When he wished to point out ambiguities contained in the act of accusation and to declare that the accusers had interpreted certain statements contained in his writings in a manner different from that which he had intended, even louder cries arose. Some screamed: “Abandon all sophistry, say Yes or No;” others began to deride him. The tumult became yet greater when Hus attempted to quote the holy fathers of the church. All cried: “This is of no importance! this is not to the question!” When Hus, seeing that the assembly had determined to prevent his being heard, ceased speaking, all cried out to him: “Behold, thou art silent, thou hast admitted thy errors!”[6] Writing to Lord John of Chlum in the evening of June 5, Hus says: “All cried out at me, as did the Jews against Jesus.” Still hoping that he might be treated more fairly at another meeting, he writes not quite hopelessly at the end of the same letter: “I doubt whether they will allow me to quote the views of St. Augustine on the praedestinati and praesciti, or on evil prelates.” The proceedings on the first day of Hus’s trial were so scandalous[7] that it was determined to suspend the sitting and continue the trial on June 7.

On June 7, the second day of the trial, a total eclipse of the sun took place. It was particularly noticed by the pious citizens of Prague, who believed that it foreshadowed the doom of their beloved master.[8] Darkness also covered the city of Constance, and lights had to be lit in the refectory when the trial was resumed. A large body of Hungarian mercenaries had been placed in the refectory by Sigismund’s order. The emperor still feared or feigned to fear that Hus would escape him. Articles of accusation against Hus were again read out, and the first subject discussed were the difficult questions connected with the sacrament, the remanence of bread, and transubstantiation. Hus seems to have been allowed a somewhat greater liberty of speech than on the first day of the trial. It was stated that Hus had in his sermons in the Bethlehem chapel repeated Wycliffe’s teaching on the question of transubstantiation.[9] Cardinal D’Ailly, who presided, believed that it would be easy for him, who was famed as one of the most brilliant dialectitians of his day, to confound Hus, of whose intellectual powers he appears to have had a mean opinion. To him—and the opinion has been revived by some modern writers—Hus appeared as a man of little education, who only copied and repeated Wycliffe’s views. As already mentioned, recent research has proved that Hus was a man of learning, not unversed in scholastic controversy. He certainly proved it on this occasion. When Hus stated that he believed in transubstantiation, D’Ailly asked him in the terminology of scholasticism whether he believed in “universals” (universalia a parte rei). Hus affirmed that he did so, and the cardinal now wished to force him to draw the consequence that if “universals” were admitted the transformation of the substance of the consecrated bread (transubstantiatio) could not be maintained; for if Hus taught the doctrine of transubstantiation, he would have to admit that together with the cessation of the individuality (singulare) of the consecrated bread, its universale also ended. Hus, with great perspicacity, refuted the insidious arguments of D’Ailly, by stating that he considered transubstantiation as an exceptional case in which, together with the singulare, the universale also ceased to exist; in all other cases the singulare continued to exist (in aliis singularibus subjectatur).[10] Hus’s defence was undoubtedly successful, and he heartily expressed his joy in a letter written on that evening. His enemies, however, continued their attacks with undaunted energy. No matter appeared irrelevant which was likely to throw suspicion on Hus. His former English antagonist, John Stokes, again appeared on the scene. He stated that he had while at Prague read a treatise which was attributed to Hus and which contained many errors concerning the sacrament. Nothing was known of this treatise, nor indeed whether it existed. Hus was able firmly and truthfully to declare that he was not the author of this treatise. These attacks by means of vague accusations and insinuations would probably have continued, had not one of the English members of the council exclaimed: “Why are these irrelevant matters introduced, that do not concern the faith? He (Hus) thinks rightly concerning the sacrament of the altar, as we have heard.”

The scholastic duel between Hus and Cardinal D’Ailly was the only occasion during the trial in which the conflict between nominalists and realists came to the fore. The absolute recklessness with which it was attempted to attribute to Hus ideas and statements which were quite alien to him prove the animosity of the nominalists against him. It was stated that Hus had said “that there were more than three persons in the trinity (sic) and that one of them was John Hus.” One of the nominalist writers formally brought this accusation against Hus.[11] The nominalism of writers of this school led to practical, though prudently veiled, scepticism, which considered it possible to maintain every conceivable thesis with an appearance of truth. As no accusations against Hus could be truthfully proved, D’Ailly, cleverly availing himself of the statements of the informers, Palec and Michael, attacked Hus with the sophistry of the nominalist school.

It is, however, easy to exaggerate the influence of the well-worn controversy between nominalists and realists on the fate of Hus. Hus used scholastic dialectics as a skilful fencer uses his sword, to parry the attacks of an implacable enemy. His heart was elsewhere, and this his enemies well knew. An opulent and immoral clergy and a vicious and ambitious emperor were equally determined to bring to the stake the humble priest who had dared to praise poverty, virtue, and self-sacrifice.

After this controversy the judges began to summon further witnesses. They were mainly Bohemians whom, as has already been mentioned, the Bishop of Litomysl and his allies had brought from their country to bear witness against Hus. Many had come to Constance unwillingly, probably on receipt of a considerable bribe, and hardly knew what they were expected to testify. The principal purpose of these depositions was to prove the entire dependence of Hus on Wycliffe. As the writings of the English divine had some time previously been declared to be heretical, the identification of Hus with Wycliffe necessarily involved the condemnation of Hus. The latter indeed endeavoured to define the difference between his own views and those of Wycliffe on several subjects, but was now again interrupted by loud cries. He was, however, able to declare in words that I have already quoted, that he did not wish to preach or follow the erroneous teaching of Wycliffe or of any one else, that Wycliffe was not his father or indeed a Bohemian, and that if he had disseminated errors, it was the duty of the English to see to this. When the article referring to Hus’s appeal to Jesus Christ was read out, it was received by the assembly with loud laughter and derision. On the whole, eight articles were read out on this day. Many contained distorted versions of remarks that Hus had made, often many years previously, when conversing with his friends at Prague. Words of praise of Wycliffe spoken by Hus were interpreted as implying his complete acceptation of all the tenets of the English divine. The trial or rather the reading out of the articles of accusation against Hus was then suspended, and it was decided that the proceedings should continue on the following day.

At the end of the sitting an incident occurred which proves both D’Ailly’s great animosity against Hus, and the fear which he and the other opulent prelates entertained that Hus might yet escape unless it were possible to render him obnoxious to the temporal powers. Before the assembly separated, the Cardinal of Cambray made the following statement:[12] “When I was riding from Rome (to Constance), some prelates from Bohemia met me on the road, and when I asked them what news they had they answered: ‘Most reverend father, we bring evil news; all the clergy is being despoiled of its prebends and possessions.’” Then, addressing Hus, the Cardinal of Cambray continued: “Magister John, when thou wert brought into the palace (of the bishop) and we asked thee how thou hadst come here, thou didst say that thou hadst come here of thy free will and that if thou hadst not wished to come, neither the King of Bohemia, nor the lord King of the Romans could have forced thee to come.” The master answered: “Yes, I said that I had come here of my free will, and that if I had not wished to come, there were so many and so great lords in the kingdom of Bohemia, who love me and to whose castles I could have retired concealing myself there, that neither that king nor this one could have forced me to come.” The cardinal shook his head, and, his face somewhat altered by indignation, said: “See, what audacity.” Then while the others murmured, Lord John of Chlum said: “He speaks the truth; what he says is true. I am but a poor knight in our kingdom, but I would keep him for a year, so that he could not be seized. Also are there many and great lords who love him, and who have strongholds in which they could protect him against both kings.” It is needless to point out that these remarks both on the part of Hus and of Lord John were most injudicious. They had said exactly what the astute cardinal had wished them to say. Sigismund, whose vanity was inordinate, wished to appear at Constance as an absolute emperor, and nothing could wound him more severely than this revelation of the weakness of the Luxemburg dynasty in Bohemia. Though D’Ailly was perhaps not aware of this, Sigismund was from the first determined to silence Hus permanently. His bitterness against the Bohemian church-reformer, however, no doubt now became greater. His parting words to Hus on leaving the refectory were therefore most ungracious. He strongly advised Hus to recant, declaring that he would grant no protection to a heretic; rather would he be the one to fire the stake to burn such an offender.

The third day of the trial, ultima audientia dicta, veriusque derisio,[13] as Mladenovic writes, was the eighth of June. An enormous mass of evidence against Hus had been collected by Michael de causis and Stephen Palec, and a huge number of articles had to be read out. Twenty-six articles extracted from Hus’s treatise De Ecclesia were first read to the assembly. They had previously been shown to Hus, and his replies had also been noted down. It was not difficult for the accusers to prove that Hus had spoken and written strongly against the administration and organisation of the Roman Church—such as they were in his day. This evil administration he had declared to be responsible for the terrible prevalence of simony and immorality among the clergy—a fact which even the most ardent opponent of church-reform could not deny. It was less easy to convict Hus of heretical statements with regard to matters of dogma, though the accusers were by no means scrupulous in their system of attack. Many statements contained in Hus’s book had been altered and distorted to make them appear more invidious.[14] The one point with regard to which the accusers of Hus had some foundation for their statement, that his teaching differed from that of the Roman Church, was the difficult and obscure question of predestination. Hus, indeed, maintained that his opinions were in accordance with those of St. Augustine, but the school of theologians which exercised most influence at the council was secretly, though not openly, antagonistic to many views of that saint. In Article 19 it was stated that Hus had said that “the nobles of the world should compel the priesthood to observe Christ’s law.” This was on the whole in accordance with Hus’s views, but he pointed out that he had stated that the church militant consisted of the priests, who should preserve the law purely, the nobles of the world, who should compel them to observe Christ’s regulations, and the vulgar, who must, according to Christ’s law, serve the other ranks. It did not escape D’Ailly, the most acute as well as the most learned of Hus’s antagonists, that these views were likely to gain for Hus numerous adherents among the sovereigns and nobles, many of whom disapproved of the extreme opulence and power of the priesthood. D’Ailly determined again to denounce Hus as an enemy of the temporal authorities and, as will be seen almost immediately, succeeded in doing so. Article 21 again referred to Hus’s appeal to Christ, a matter that evidently rankled in the minds of his opponents. The mention was again received with cries of derision.

When the reading of the first series of articles had ended, the Cardinal of Cambray remarked that yet more heretical statements could have been found in the treatise De Ecclesia. The next articles, seven in number, referred to statements contained in Hus’s treatise entitled Responsio ad scripta Mag. Stephani Palec. The extracts, made, no doubt, by Palec himself, were in many cases falsified and distorted. Mladenovic, indeed, heads his account of these articles by the words: “Articles extracted from the treatise against Master Stephen Palec (but rarely faithfully).”[15] The accusations are very similar to the preceding ones, and indeed to all the accusations made against Hus at the council. It was repeated that he had attacked the authority of the pope and the church, that he had taught the doctrine of predestination, and that he had stated that unworthy priests could not validly administer the sacrament. As regards the last-named point, it is sufficient to state that Hus had frequently, both by word and in writing, expressed the contrary view. The first of these articles gave rise to a somewhat prolonged discussion. The article accused Hus of having stated that “if the pope, a bishop, or a prelate was in the state of mortal sin, he was not pope, bishop, or prelate.” Hus’s answer was certainly imprudent and devoid of worldly wisdom. He said: “Yes, and he who is in the state of mortal sin cannot either rightly be a king before God, as is shown by the Book of Kings, chap. iv. v. 16, where God, through Samuel, said to Saul: ‘As thou hast rejected my word, I reject thee from being king.’”[16] This statement did not remain unnoticed by the enemies of Hus. Von der Hardt and Mladenovic give almost identical accounts of the discussion that now ensued. Sigismund was looking out of a window of the refectory, having as his companions the Count Palatine and the Burgrave of Nuremberg. They talked much of John Hus, and the king finally said that there never was a more pernicious heretic. But when the prelates heard the words which Hus had spoken they all exclaimed, “Call the king”; but the king, who was talking about Hus near the window, did not hear them. Then those who presided called to the men who were nearer the king saying, “Bring him (the king) here that he may hear what concerns him. Then when the emperor[17] had been called, John was ordered to repeat what he had said about unworthy kings. When he had done so the emperor said, “John Hus, no one lives without sinning.” Then the Cardinal of Cambray, greatly irritated, said: “Is it then not enough that, despising the ecclesiastical state, thou endeavourest to degrade it by thy writings and thy tenets? Now thou attemptest also to eject the kings from their state!” Palec then began to quote some laws by means of which he wished to prove that Saul was a king even after he had heard these words of Samuel, and that David had therefore forbidden that he should be slain, not because of holiness of life, which he possessed not, but because of the sanctity of his anointment. Then when Hus quoted the words of St. Cyprian, who said: “Vainly does he claim to belong to Christianity who nowise imitates Christ in his conduct,” Palec answered: “See what foolishness! in what way is it to the purpose to allege that because a man is not a true Christian he is therefore not a true pope, or bishop, or king? For the learned know that (the words) pope, bishop, king, signify an office, but Christian a merit. Thus it is clear that a man may be a true pope, bishop, or king though he is not a true Christian.” The seventh article accused Hus of having stated that the condemnation of articles derived from Wycliffe’s writings had been irrational and unjust. Cardinal D’Ailly said: “John Hus, you said that you would not defend any error of Wycliffe. Yet it appears from your writings that you have publicly defended his articles.” Hus answered: “I say the same thing which I said before; that I do not wish to defend the errors of Wycliffe, or of any one else. But it appeared to me contrary to my conscience simply to approve of the condemnation of the articles while no exposition of the arguments of the other side had taken place. Therefore did I not approve of the condemnation of the articles.” It deserves notice that on this important question, which was frequently raised before and during the trial, Hus remained perfectly consistent, and indeed expressed his point of view almost in the same words.

Finally, six articles extracted from Hus’s work, Responsio ad Scripta M. Stanislai de Znoymo, were read out. They covered the same ground as the former accusations. It was only at the sitting of the council on the day of the execution of Hus that the accusation of having declared that he was a fourth person of the divinity was formally raised against him. The members of the council, who knew that Hus’s condemnation was a foregone conclusion, listened to the lengthy proceedings with increasing impatience. Laughter and derisive remarks on Hus became more and more frequent.[18]

When all the articles containing the accusations against Hus had been read out, Cardinal D’Ailly said, addressing Hus: “Thou hast heard how great is the heinousness of the accusations that have been brought against thee. It is thy duty to reflect now on what thou wilt do.” The cardinal then pointed out that two ways were open to him. He must submit himself humbly to the judgment and sentence of the council, which, in consideration of Sigismund and his brother the King of Bohemia, would treat him leniently. This no doubt referred to the plan of confining Hus for life in a distant monastery. Should he, however, not consent to this submission, and still wish to defend some of his tenets, then a hearing would not be refused to him, but he would act thus at his greatest peril. Hus replied: “I do not wish to maintain any errors, but will humbly submit to the decrees of the council; but I cannot, not to offend God and my conscience, say that I held erroneous opinions, which I never held, and which I never had at heart. I beg only that hearing may be granted me that I may express my views regarding the accusations that have been made against me.” Hus then enumerated several important points on which he had either not been allowed to speak at all, or had been interrupted when attempting to do so. We here again meet with the same contradictory views concerning the purpose of the council that are evident from the time of Hus’s arrival at Constance to the moment of his death. Hus believed that he would be allowed freely to expound and defend his opinions, while the members of the council considered that he had been summoned to Constance to recant whatever heretical views had been rightly or wrongly ascribed to him, and then to submit to whatever punishment should be awarded to him. Hus's reply, which did not express immediate and unconditional surrender, was received with general indignation, and loud cries summoned him to submit. D’Ailly, and afterwards the Cardinal of Florence (Zabarella), continued to reason with Hus, urging him to follow the advice of the council. Sigismund also strongly advised him to recant heretical views, even if he had never held them. This, of course, appeared the greatest of sins to a pious and straightforward priest, such as was Hus. He, who firmly believed that nothing he had said or written was contrary to God’s word could never consent to appear as a professed heretic to his countrymen, who had so warmly welcomed his teaching. Hus’s answer to Sigismund was almost identical with that which he had given to the Cardinal of Cambray. The indignation of the members of the council became yet greater. “An old bald-headed bishop from Poland”[19] declared that canon law precisely indicated the treatment that should be meted out to heretics, and a “fat priest sitting at the window in precious robes, who appeared to be a Prussian,”[20] exclaimed with a loud voice: “Let him not be allowed to recant, for even if he recants, he will not keep to it.”[21] Hus, however, did not recant, nor was it in consideration of his reiterated and consistent statements possible for him to do so. Palec, wishing to envenom the already prevalent animosity against Hus, now began to animadvert on his attitude on the occasion of the execution of the three young men who had taken part in the demonstrations against the misuse of indulgences.[22] No promise was made to Hus assuring him that he would be allowed freely to expound his views, and he was reconducted to prison by the Bishop of Riga, in whose custody he had been ever since his return from Gottlieben to Constance. On leaving the hall Hus met John of Chlum, one of the Bohemian noblemen who were then at Constance. Chlum gave him his hand and endeavoured to comfort him. Hus, as Mladenovic tells us, was deeply touched that he did not disdain to salute him who was rejected by almost all and spurned as a heretic, and to give him his hand.

At the end of the sitting an incident occurred that deserves to be told in the words of Mladenovic, who was present. He writes: “After his (Hus’s) departure, all who were present, prelates and cardinals, wished to leave and had already risen. Then the soldiers who were on guard in the background also retired, and our men (i.e., the friends of Hus) went near the window, and Lord John of Chlum, Lord Venceslas of Lestna and P.[23] the bachelor of arts, still remained within. These men the king, it appears, did not notice, but thought that they had retired when the master was conducted back to prison. Then the king said: ‘Reverend fathers, you have already heard the many things that are in his (Hus’s) books, those which he has confessed, those which have been sufficiently proved against him; each single one of those would be sufficient to condemn him. Therefore, if he will not recant these errors, and abjure them and declare himself opposed to them, let him be burnt, or you will yourselves deal with him according to your (canon) law, as you know. And be it known to you that even if he promises to recant, and even if he does so, you must not believe him, neither will I, for if he returned to the kingdom (of Bohemia) and to his furtherers, he would spread these and other errors, and a new heresy would arise, worse than the former one. You must therefore entirely forbid him to preach, and prevent his returning to his friends, that he may not spread any further heresies. And his articles that have been condemned here, you must send to my brother in the Bohemian land, and—oh, the sorrow!—also to Poland, and other lands where he has secret disciples, and many furtherers; and wheresoever men are found who hold such views, let the bishops and prelates punish them, that the branches be torn out together with the root; and let the council write to the kings and princes begging them to favour among their prelates most those who have at this holy council worked most strenuously at the destruction of heresy. Know also that it is written that every word (sentence) depends on two or three witnesses, but here the hundredth part would suffice to condemn him. And you must also quickly make an end of his secret friends and furtherers, for I shall be leaving shortly, and specially (must you make an end of) this one, this one,’[24] then resuming his speech, ‘this one who is detained here.’ They then said, ‘Jerome.’ And he: ‘Yes, Jerome.’ ‘We shall make an end with this man in less than a day (the prelates said); it will be easier, for this one,’ alluding to Hus, ‘is the master, and this Jerome is his disciple.’ Then again the king (said): ‘Assuredly, I was still young when this sect arose and began in Bohemia; and behold how greatly it has grown and multiplied since!’[25] After these words they all joyfully left the refectory.”

No conjectures, however sagacious, concerning Sigismund’s intentions with regard to Hus can show them more clearly than Sigismund’s own words do here. As Dr. Flajshans very truly writes: “These few words, spoken in an unguarded moment, cost Sigismund the Bohemian crown.”

After the ending of the third day of Hus’s trial, it was obvious to all that his condemnation and execution would take place in a few days. No one was so thoroughly aware of this as Hus himself, and his parting letters to his friends, which will be mentioned presently, are among the most precious of those that have been preserved.

If some delay yet occurred before his execution, it was because some still hoped that it might be possible to induce Hus to recant. His French enemies indeed, such as Gerson and D’Ailly, probably preferred that the Bohemian church-reformer should be publicly burnt at the stake, but Sigismund, who kept his own intentions on the Bohemian throne in view, hesitated. Strong remonstrances, couched in ever more energetic language—of which I have here only been able to mention a few—continued to reach him from Bohemia and Moravia. Though he may still have thought that the death or disappearance of Hus would break the strength of the Hussite movement, he necessarily perceived that the public martyrdom of the hero of the nation might very possibly cause a revolutionary outbreak. It was, on the other hand, certain that, should Hus recant in any form, he would entirely lose his prestige with the Bohemian people. If after such a recantation Hus were quietly removed to a secluded monastery in distant Sweden, Sigismund’s plans on Bohemia would be greatly furthered. The council so deeply indebted to him would be quite willing to bring against King Venceslas and Queen Sophia the accusations of heresy that were already being prepared.

It would not, however, be fair to suggest that all the members of the council were devoid of pity for the pious and God-loving Bohemian priest. Among those who secretly felt sympathy for Hus was a prominent prelate whose name is not known to us. Von der Hardt’s statement,[26] that Hus’s secret friend was John of Brogni, cardinal-bishop of Ostia, is almost certainly incorrect. This prelate, whom Hus merely describes as “pater,” entered into correspondence with him. The kind-hearted priest strongly endeavoured to persuade Hus to renounce the opinions which had been condemned—not only those he had actually expressed, but also those that had been wrongly ascribed to him. Among other arguments, the “father” impressed on Hus that it was not he personally, but his superiors and the entire council which would bear the responsibility should he abandon the opinions which he had formerly held.[27] As Dr. Lechler has well pointed out, the question whether Hus should yield to the authority of others, or rely on his own conscience, was the all-important one. “Hus had,” Dr. Lechler[28] writes, “either to subject his own conscience to that of others, to that of very weighty men certainly as they included the members of a great council of the church, or to follow resolutely and fearlessly the dictates of his own conscience. The same question confronted him which afterwards confronted Luther when he appeared before Cajetan, at Augsburg, and again when he appeared before the emperor and the imperial diet. The same question again arose before the Protestant estates of Germany, when they appeared at Spires in 1529, and more recently before the bishops, priests, and members of the Roman Church, when the dogma of the infallible ministry of the pope was introduced. Herein,” Dr. Lechler continues, “lies the greatness of Hus, that, in spite of his humility and childlike nature, in spite of his great self-distrust, he did not allow himself to be intimidated by the unanimous opinion of a great council representing so large a part of the learning, intellectual power, and ecclesiastical authority of the time, that he preferred to bear the shame of being considered an obstinate heretic, and even to suffer the pangs of death at the stake, rather than consent to a recantation which he knew to be a falsehood.”

Hus therefore declined, though in a courteous and grateful fashion, the suggestions of the kind “father.” His letters in these, the last weeks of his life, are numerous and very precious. Now certain that his end is very near, he takes leave of his friends and gives his last advice and consolation to his disciples.[29] These letters clearly portray his thoughts and feelings in the time that immediately preceded his martyrdom. It is therefore of interest to transcribe some parts of these letters. In one of the earliest of these letters addressed “to his Bohemian friends,” Hus refers somewhat bitterly to the conduct of Sigismund. The letter is therefore important, as Sigismund’s part in the condemnation of Hus has often been misrepresented and misunderstood. Hus writes: “As regards Peter,[30] I am pleased. I do not keep his letters, but destroy them. Do not let them send me sheets containing six pages of paper,[31] for I fear they may cause trouble to the messenger and others. I also pray in the name of God that all the lords should entreat the king to allow me to be heard once more, that I may answer the accusations, as indeed the king promised at the last meeting of the council. It will be greatly to his shame if he overlooks this promise. But I presume that his word is as trustworthy as it was with regard to the safe-conduct, and in Bohemia they already told me to beware of his safe-conduct. Others said: ‘He himself will deliver you into the hands of his enemies.’ Lord Mikes Divoky[32] said to me in the presence of Magister Jesenic: ‘Magister, know for certain that you will be condemned.’ He, I think, knew the king’s intentions. I thought that the king (Sigismund) understood God’s law and the truth, but I find he understands them very little. He condemned me before my enemies did. Had he but followed the example of the heathen Pilate, who, having heard the accusations, said: ‘I have found no fault in this man,’ or had he but said: ‘Behold, I have given this man a safe-conduct. If he will not submit to the decision of the council, I will send him back to the King of Bohemia with your (the council’s) decision and evidence, that he (the King of Bohemia) and his clergy may pronounce judgment on him;’ for he (Sigismund) let me know through Henry Lefl and others that he would grant me sufficient hearing, and, if I did not submit to the sentence, send me safely back.”

On June 10—two days after the second hearing—Hus wrote the letter which of all his letters has obtained, and rightly obtained, the greatest fame.[33] It is addressed To the Whole Bohemian Nation.”[34] Hus writes: “Master John Hus, in good hope a servant of God, hopes that the Lord God will grant to all true Bohemians who love and will love the Lord God, to live and die in His grace, and to reside for ever in celestial joy. Amen.

“Faithful in God, men and women, rich and poor! I beg and entreat you to love the Lord God, praise His word, gladly hear it and live according to it. Cling, I beg you, to the divine truth, which I have preached to you according to God’s law. I also beg that if any one has heard either in my sermons, or privately, anything contrary to God’s truth, or if I have written anything such—which I trust to God is not the case—he should not retain it. I further beg also that if any one has seen levity in me in word or deed, he should not retain (remember) it; but let him pray to God for me that God may forgive. I beg you to love, praise, and honour those priests who lead a moral life, those in particular who work for the word of God. I beg you to beware of crafty people, particularly of unworthy priests of whom our Saviour has said that they are clothed like sheep, but are inwardly greedy wolves. I beg the nobles to treat the poor people kindly and rule them justly. I beg the burghers to conduct their business honestly. I beg the artisans to perform their duties conscientiously and joyfully. I beg the servants to serve their masters and mistresses faithfully. I beg the teachers to live honestly, to instruct their pupils carefully, to love God above all ; for the sake of His glory and the good of the community, not from avarice and worldly ambition should they teach. I beg the students and other scholars to obey and follow their masters in everything that is good, and to study for the (sake of the) praise of God, for their own salvation, and that of others. I beg all to thank Lord Venceslas of Duba, otherwise of Lestna, Lord John of Chlum, Lord Henry of Plumlov, Lord William Zajic, Lord Myska, and the other nobles of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as the faithful lords of the Polish kingdom, and to gratefully remember their zeal; for as brave defenders of God and upholders of the truth they often withstood the whole council, speaking and replying in favour of my liberation; render thanks particularly to Lord Venceslas of Duba and to the Lord of Chlum, and believe what they will tell you;[35] for they were present at the council on several days when I defended myself. These men know which Bohemians[36] falsely accused me of many infamous deeds, how the whole council railed against me, and how I answered the questions that were addressed to me. I beg you also to pray for his Majesty the Roman and Bohemian king,[37] and for his queen, and for the lords, that our beloved God may abide with them in His grace now, and afterwards guide them to eternal bliss.

“I write this letter to you in prison and in fetters, expecting to-morrow the sentence of death, full of hope in God, resolved not to recede from the divine truth, nor to recant the errors which false witnesses have invented and attributed to me. How God has acted towards me, how he has been with me during all my troubles—that you will only know when by the grace of God we shall meet again in heaven. Of Master Jerome, my beloved comrade, I hear nothing except that he is in prison, as I am, expecting death and that because of his faith, which he bravely expounded to the Bohemians. It was those Bohemians who are our bitterest enemies who delivered us up for imprisonment to our other enemies. I beg you to pray to God for these men. I also beg you all, but especially the Praguers, to befriend the Bethlehem chapel, as long as God permits that the divine word be preached there. The devil has been greatly incensed against this spot, and has incited against it the parish priests and canons, knowing that his (the devil’s) kingdom is disturbed by the preaching at that spot. I hope that God will deign to preserve the chapel, and that others will preach and will obtain there greater success than was possible to an imperfect man such as I am. I also beg you to love each other, not to allow good men to be oppressed, and to grant to all that which is due to them. Written on Monday, the night before the feast of St. Vitus, after the feast of the good angels” (June 10).

Several of the letters of Hus, which follow this one in chronological order, refer to events in Bohemia which occurred after the master’s departure, and which have already been mentioned here.[38] The council, the majority of whose members were Italians, does not appear to have had much knowledge of the state of affairs in Bohemia; but since the deposition of Pope John, Sigismund had entirely assumed the direction of the assembly. Never deficient in vanity and presumption, he claimed to act fully as representative of the papacy up to the time that a new pontiff should have been elected.[39] It was undoubtedly through his influence that the question of communion in the two kinds in Bohemia was brought before the council and there fully discussed. The theologians who were consulted, though not denying that communion in the two kinds had been instituted by Jesus Christ, condemned its revival by Jacobellus in Bohemia.[40] The matter was finally settled at a meeting of the council on June 15. A statement was read out by the Archbishop of Milan declaring that, “Though Christ had at the Last Supper administered the venerated sacrament of communion in the two species of bread and wine, yet nevertheless the laudable authority of the holy canons and the approved custom of the church have established that communion should be administered only to those who are fasting. Similarly, though in the primitive church, the faithful received communion in the two kinds, yet it was afterwards decreed that priests only should receive communion in the two kinds, and the laymen in the species of bread only. As therefore this custom was wisely introduced by the church and the holy fathers, and has long been observed, it is to be considered as a law, which cannot be contested or changed except by the authority of the church. Therefore no priest shall, under penalty of excommunication, administer communion to the people in the two kinds. Those who have committed this offence shall, if they do penitence, be re-admitted into the bosom of the church. Those who harden their hearts and refuse to do penance shall be considered as heretics, and the aid of the secular arm shall be demanded for their punishment.”[41]

The historical importance of this decree cannot be overrated. Communion in the two kinds became the watchword of the Hussite Bohemian Church up to its extinction in 1620. In the place of a battle-flag the Bohemian priests carried a monstrance containing the sacrament—which it became customary to call the “ark”—before the troops when they engaged in battle.[42]

The administration of communion in the two kinds was only introduced by Master Jacobellus of Stribro[43] after Hus had left Prague, and he does not appear at first to have given much attention to the matter. In the first letter, addressed to the “Friends at Constance” (it is undated, but belongs probably to the beginning of the year 1415), in which Hus refers to this subject, he expresses no positive opinion, but writes that Scripture and the custom of the primitive church appear favourable to utraquism. After the Roman Church had by the decree of June 15 established a new dogma with regard to a matter on which freedom of opinion had previously existed, Hus expressed himself more positively. On June 21 he addressed a letter on this subject to Gallus (in Bohemian, Havlik), preacher at the Bethlehem chapel. Havlik was one of those priests who opposed Jacobellus when he first established utraquism. Hus writes: "Beloved brother Gallus, preacher of the word of Christ! Do not oppose the sacrament of the chalice of the Lord which Christ established through Himself and through His apostle; for no word of Scripture is opposed to it, only custom which, I ween, sprang from negligence; for we must not follow custom, but Christ’s example and the truth. Already has the council, alleging custom, condemned the use of the chalice at the communion of laymen as a heresy, and he who practises it is to be punished as a heretic unless he comes to his right mind (conforms to the decree of the council). What wickedness! Behold, they condemn Christ’s enactment as heresy! I therefore beg thee in the name of God no longer to oppose Jacobellus, lest dissension arise among the faithful—a thing over which the devil would rejoice. Be then, dearest, prepared to suffer when administering communion in the two kinds. Cling bravely to Christ’s truth, reject unworthy fears, confirm the other brethren in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The arguments in favour of communion with the chalice thou wilt find in what I have written in Constance. Greet the faithful in Christ.”

Several of Hus’s last Bohemian letters addressed “to the faithful Bohemians” (vernym Cechum) are of the highest interest. Following on the condemnation of utraquism decreed by the council on June 15, that assembly had on June 23 decreed that all Hus’s writings should be burnt. This included Hus’s works written in his own language, which most of the members of the council were unable to understand. The informer Palec may have acted as translator, but it is more probable that he only submitted to the council extracts selected by him which afforded a sufficient pretext for the destruction of the books. Hus refers to this matter in several letters; in one dated June 24, and probably intended to be read to the congregation at Bethlehem, he writes: “Beloved, I exhort you not to tremble or to be struck down by fear because they have condemned my books to be burnt. Remember that they burnt the prophecies of Jeremiah, which God had ordered him to write; yet did they not escape that which he had prophesied; for after they had been burnt God commanded that they (the prophecies) should again be written down and more words added. This was done. He (Jeremiah), being in prison, dictated, and the saintly Baruch, his secretary, wrote down his words; as is written in Jeremiah, chapter xxxv. or lv.[44] Similarly is it written in the books of the Machabees that the law of God was burnt and that they tortured those who possessed it. Then in the time of the New Testament they burnt the holy men, together with the books of God’s law. Thus the cardinals condemned the books of St. Gregory, which are named Moralia,[45] and they would have burnt them all, had not God, through his (Gregory’s) one disciple, Peter, saved them. Also St. John Chrysostomus was condemned as a heretic by two councils of priests, but the gracious Lord God, after the death of St. John, revealed their falsehood. Having these things before your eyes, let not fear prevent you from reading my books, nor induce you to give them up to be burnt. Remember what our gracious Saviour said as a warning (Matthew, chapter xxiv.), that before the day of judgment there will be great tribulation such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, so that, were it possible, even the elect would be lead into error, but because of the elect these days will be shortened.[46] Bearing this in your minds, dearest, persevere bravely, for I hope to God that the following[47] of Antichrist will fear you and leave you in peace, and that the Council of Constance will not come to Bohemia; for I believe that many who are at this council will die before they have extorted these books from you; many members of this council also will disperse like storks throughout the lands, and only when winter comes will they know what evil deeds they did in summer. Consider that they (the members of the council) branded their chief as a heretic. Answer now, ye preachers who preach that the pope is an earthly God, that he cannot sin, that he cannot commit simony, that, as the jurists[48] affirm, the pope is the head of the entire holy church, which he rules very wisely, that he is the heart of the holy church, which he spiritually nourishes, the fountain from which all power and goodness flow, the sun of the holy church and the faultless refuge to which all Christians should fly. But now, behold, this head has been struck off. The earthly God is in bonds, and he is openly convicted of sin, the fountain has become dry, the sun has become dim, the heart has been plucked out, the refuge has fled from Constance and has been abandoned, so that none can flee to it. The council has condemned him (Pope John XXIII.) as a heretic because he sold indulgences and bishoprics, and other benefices, and among those who condemned him were many who had themselves bought such things from him, and others who had trafficked in them. Thus John, Bishop of Litomysl, was present, who twice bid for the archbishopric of Prague, but others outbid him. Oh, why did they not first remove the beam from their own eye? Truly their (canon) law says: ‘If one has obtained some dignity by means of money, let him be deprived of it.’ Therefore should the seller and buyer, and he who deposits money,[49] or acts as agent, be publicly condemned. St. Peter condemned and accursed Simon because he wished to buy for money the power of the Holy Ghost. These (the members of the council) condemn indeed and curse the vendors, but they themselves continue buyers and givers of earnest-money. There is a bishop at Constance who bought (benefices) and another who sold, and the pope received money for giving his consent. It is thus also in Bohemia (and Moravia),[50] as is known to you. Oh, had but the Lord Jesus said at the council: ‘He among you that is without the sin of simony, let him condemn Pope John!’ It seems to me that they would have run away, one after the other. Why then did they kneel before him, kiss his feet, call him holiest father, knowing that he was a heretic, a murderer, one guilty of nameless sin—of all of which offences he was convicted? Why did the cardinals choose him as pope, knowing that he was an evil murderer, one who had killed the holy father?[51] Why did they allow him to commit simony when he had become pope—they who had been appointed his counsellors, that they should counsel him wisely? And are not those guilty who together with him committed simony? Why then, till he (Pope John XXIII.) fled from Constance, did none dare say anything to him but ‘holiest father?’ Then indeed they were still afraid of him. But when the secular power with the consent or by the will of God seized him, then they conspired against him, concerting among themselves to prevent his being freed. Assuredly the wickedness, sinfulness, and shame of Antichrist became manifest in this pope and in the other members of the council. Already may God’s faithful servants understand the words of the Saviour when he said: ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet (whoso readeth let him understand).’[52] The great abomination is pride, avarice, simony. By desolation are meant honours that are devoid of modesty and other virtues, as we see plainly when looking at those who hold offices and honours. Oh, could I but describe these sins that the faithful may shun them. Gladly would I do so, but I hope to God that he will grant after me men who are braver than those of the present day, who will show better the wickedness of Antichrist,[53] and lay down their lives for the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will, I pray, grant you and me eternal happiness. Amen. Written on the day of St. John the Baptist in prison, and in fetters, mindful that John also was in prison and in fetters and was decapitated for God’s truth.”

A letter of Hus written two days later, also addressed to “the faithful Bohemians,” again refers to the decree ordering the burning of his Bohemian writings. The letter also contains an allusion to the terrible state of depravation prevailing in Constance in consequence of the presence of so many ecclesiastics. Such matters have often been overlooked by writers of all parties. Yet they deserve attention. It was the burning indignation kindled in the minds of clean-living and respectable men by such scandals that produced the movement in favour of church-reform far more than any differences of opinion on matters of dogma. In this letter (June 26), which need not be translated entirely, Hus writes: “It has occurred to me to inform you how the council, haughty, avaricious and full of all iniquity, has condemned my Bohemian books, which it had neither heard nor seen, nor, had it heard them, would have understood; for there were at the council Italians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Spaniards and Germans, and men of other nations. The only ones who would have understood them were John, Bishop of Litomysl and the other Bohemian instigators, with the chapters of Prague and the Vysehrad,[54] who originated the insults to God’s truth and to our Bohemian home,[55] which (country) I, trusting in God, hold to be the most pious land, zealous for the divine word and for morality. Oh, had you but seen this council, which calls itself the most holy council and claims infallibility! you would have beheld great abomination, of which I have heard the Suabians say, that in thirty years their city Constance or Kostnice[56] will not be purged of the sins which the council committed in their town; some say that the council has scandalised all; others spat out when they beheld the foul deeds.”

On the following day—June 27—Hus sent a letter of farewell to the University of Prague with which he had been so losely connected during his studies and during his prolonged truggle against the enemies of church-reform. In this letter, written in Latin according to the custom of the learned of that time, Hus exhorts the masters, bachelors, and students of the university to love each other, to root out schisms, to strive above all for the glory of God, bearing in mind how he (Hus) had always striven to further the progress of the university for the honour of God, how he had sorrowed over discord and excesses among the students, how he had wished to join in union the members of the illustrious Bohemian nation. “And behold,” Hus continues, “some of those who were dearest to me,[57] for whom I would have laid down my life, have assailed me with insult and calumny, have brought on me much bitterness and a bitter death. May the omnipotent God forgive them, for they know not what they do. I pray for these men with a sincere heart, that God may spare them. Meanwhile, beloved in Jesus Christ, stand by the acknowledged truth, which conquers all and grows ever stronger unto all eternity. Be it also known to you that I have recanted no article nor abjured one. The council also wished that I should declare false all the articles, and any one, which they might extract from my writings. I refused to do so unless their falseness could be proved from Scripture; should any one of the articles have been falsely interpreted I abhor such an interpretation and commend its correction to Jesus Christ, who knows my sincere innermost intentions, not interpreting them in an evil sense, such as was not in my intention. You also I exhort in the Lord to reject whatever evil sense may be given to any of the articles, but to retain the truth. Pray to God for me and greet one another in holy peace.″

The last letter of Hus which has been preserved is dated June 29. Written in Bohemian, it contains a short farewell to Hus’s friends in Bohemia, to whom it is addressed. Hus writes: “May God be with you and grant you eternal reward for the good which you have done to me and still do, though my body will soon be dead. Do not allow Lord John (of Chlum), that true and noble knight, my benefactor, to incur any danger, I beg you in the name of God, dear Sir Peter the mintmaster and Lady Anna.[58] I beg you also to live well and obey God according to my teaching. To the queen,[59] my most gracious mistress, express my thanks for all the benefits which she has bestowed on me. Greet your household and the other faithful friends, whom I cannot all name. I beg you also to pray for me to the Lord God, within whose holy grace we shall by His help meet. Amen. I write this letter expecting my death-sentence in prison and in fetters, which, as I hope, I endure for the sake of God’s law. I beg you in the name of the Lord God not to allow the good priests[60] to be ill-treated.” A quaint postscript follows the letter; it runs thus:

“Peter,[61] dearest friend, keep my fur coat in memory of me.

“Lord Henry Lefl, live in good friendship with your wife. I thank you for your benefits; God will requite them to you.”

“Faithful friends, Sir Lider and Lady Margaret, also Master Skuocek,[62] Mikeska,[63] and others, may God grant you eternal reward for the trouble you have taken for me and the benefits you have conferred on me.

“Faithful and beloved Magister Christian,[64] may God be with thee.

“Magister Martin, my disciple, remember that which I have faithfully taught thee. Master Nicholas, Peter, priest of the queen,[65] and other magisters, be zealous for the word of God. Priest Havlik, preach the word of God. And I beg you all to remain steadfast in God’s faith.”

There is no doubt that after the hearing on June 8 Hus hoped to be allowed to appear again before the council and expound his views more thoroughly than he had hitherto been allowed to do. The council, on the other hand, was already enraged by the slight and unsuccessful attempts he had been allowed to make to define his views. It was determined no longer to defer the formal condemnation and sentence. The council believed that sufficient evidence against Hus already existed. Few members of the assembly probably troubled to wade through Hus’s voluminous Latin works, and those written in his own language were only understood by his own countrymen and persecutors. Yet by means of so-called articles quoted, often unfairly, from Hus’s various works, it was thought that full proof of heresy had been established. If Hus was none the less allowed to live nearly a month after the third day of the hearing, this must be attributed to the attempts made to induce him to recant. I have already referred to the reasons why some of Hus’s opponents would have preferred such a recantation to a public execution, and have already mentioned the steps taken by the “father” for that purpose. Another attempt to induce Hus to recant was made on July 5, the day preceding the one fixed for his last appearance before the council, and also for his death, should he still remain impenitent. This last attempt at mediation was made directly through the influence of King Sigismund, who was, of course, better acquainted with the state of affairs in Bohemia than were the members of the council. Two Bohemian noblemen, John of Chlum and Venceslas of Duba, visited Hus, accompanied by four bishops and several priests. When Hus had been led out of his prison in the Franciscan monastery, Lord Venceslas addressed him in frank and manly words, which contrast very favourably with the crafty, insincere, and treacherous manner in which the council dealt with Hus. Duba said: “Behold, Master John, we are laymen and cannot give advice. Consider then if thou feelest thyself guilty of any of the things of which thou art accused. If so, do not hesitate to accept instruction and to recant. But if thou dost not feel guilty of these things that are brought forward against thee, be guided by thy conscience, do nothing against thy conscience, nor lie before the face of God; rather hold unto death to the truth as thou hast understood it.” Hus answered humbly and in tears: “Be it known to you that if I knew that I had written or preached anything against the law and the holy mother the church, I would humbly recant it; may God be my witness to this; but I always desire that they should show me doctrines that are better and more credible than those which I have written and taught. If such be shown me, I will gladly recant.” Then one of the bishops who was standing near answered, saying: “Wilt thou then be wiser than the whole council?” But the master said to him: “I do not claim to be wiser than the whole council, but, I beg you, give me the meanest (minimus) man at the council that he may instruct me in better and more effective doctrine, and I am prepared immediately to recant.” In answer to these words the bishops said: “Behold, how obstinate he is in his heresy.” Then, after ordering him to be led back to his prison, they went away.[66]

The following day—July 6—had been fixed on for the execution, or as the Bohemians deemed it, the martyrdom of Hus. The council, to give more solemnity to the proceedings, met at the cathedral on this occasion. Sigismund sat on a throne near the high altar in full state, surrounded by all his courtiers. The members of the council were present almost without exception, and the rest of the vast cathedral was filled with spectators, among them almost all the Bohemians who were then at Constance. It was probably in view of their expected presence that Sigismund had made extensive military preparations. He had assembled at Constance a large force of Hungarian mercenaries, who as hereditary enemies of the Bohemians were ready to obey even the most severe orders which they might receive. Archbishop Wallenrod was deputed to conduct Hus from his prison to the cathedral. Hus was “dressed in black with a handsome silver girdle, and wore his robes as a magister.” As soon as he had left the prison, the couch on which he had slept during his last days was burnt and the ashes were thrown into the Rhine. The fame of his sanctity had already spread so widely that it was feared that the Bohemians would endeavour to collect relics of the martyr. When Hus, with the archbishop and his gaolers, arrived at the cathedral, he was not at first admitted into the interior of the building, where high mass was being celebrated. A wooden partition had been erected at the gate of the cathedral, behind which Hus waited till the religious ceremonies had been concluded. Hus was then admitted into the interior of the cathedral. After passing the sixth column in the nave he knelt down and prayed fervently for several minutes.[67] The judicial proceedings—if we can venture to give them that name—now began immediately. After the Bishop of Constance had seriously admonished all present not to disturb the proceedings, the Bishop of Lodi preached a short sermon in which he laid stress on the danger of heresy, and also expressed strong disapproval of simony. He no doubt knew that numerous members of the assembly were accused of being simonists, and that this had greatly contributed to strengthen Hus as a preacher of church-reform. Henry de Piro, the lay administrator, or, as it was termed, “procurator” of the council, then proposed that the proceedings against Hus should now be brought to a conclusion, that he might be delivered over to the secular authorities for punishment. One of the bishops was then instructed to read out the articles containing the heresies of which Hus was accused. Sixteen of them were passages derived from the writings of Wycliffe which Hus had incorporated in his works, thus assuming responsibility for them. Hus accepted the responsibility, but he begged to be allowed to explain the sense in which he had interpreted Wycliffe's words. All who have even a slight knowledge of the writings of the English divine know how difficult and often ambiguous they are. Hus's prayer was none the less refused. He was, indeed, on this day granted hardly any hearing and treated with greater brutality than when he previously appeared before the council. Thirty articles chosen from Hus's own works were then read out. They dealt, as had the former ones, mainly with the questions of predestination, of the sacrament—concerning which statements which he had never made were again falsely attributed to Hus,—of the church, and of the limits of the papal power. Hus again attempted to speak, but in spite of the admonition of the Bishop of Constance, he was interrupted by loud cries. When the article which referred to predestination[68] was read out, Hus wished to explain with what limitations he accepted that doctrine. He had always maintained that his teaching on that subject was identical with St. Augustine’s. Hus here incidentally referred to the treatment he had received on the part of the council. He again stated that he had come to Constance of his own free will and with a letter of safe-conduct from Sigismund. He looked in this moment at the emperor, who, it was noticed, blushed. The council now determined to silence Hus at any price. Cardinal D’Ailly, whose special bitterness against Hus has been noted by many writers, said to him: “Be silent now, you will afterwards reply to all the articles at the same time.” Hus answered: “How can I answer them all at the same time, when I cannot even think of them all at the same time?” When somewhat later, during the reading of the articles, Hus again attempted to explain his meaning, the Cardinal of Florence, Zabarella, said, rising from his seat: “Be silent, we have already heard thee sufficiently;” then addressing the beadles who surrounded Hus, he said to them: “Force him to be silent.” Hus then knelt down and said with a loud voice: “I beg you, in the name of God, to grant me a hearing, that those who are present may not think that I hold heretical opinions. After that deal with me as you see fit.” The prohibition, however, was maintained. Hus then for a time ceased to address the council, wishing to avoid that physical violence be used against him by the beadles and mercenary soldiers within the precincts of the cathedral. He continued to kneel, and prayed with eyes lifted heavenward, commending, as Mladenovic writes, his cause to God, the justest of judges.

After the articles followed the depositions of the, mostly Bohemian, witnesses against Hus. One of the accusers, a doctor of divinity, stated that Hus had declared “that he was and would be a fourth person in the divinity.”[69] It is not known who this doctor was, but suspicion certainly points to Stephen Palec, next to Michael de causis the most impudent and the most unscrupulous of the enemies of Hus. This accusation of blasphemy of the deepest dye roused Hus to make one more attempt to record a protest. “Let that doctor,” he said, “be named who has deposed this against me.” The bishop who was reading out the articles answered: “It is unnecessary that he should be named.” It is, however, probable that Hus was allowed to answer at some length.[70] The mercenaries who surrounded him, contrary to the orders which they had received, used no violence against him. The last accusation against Hus appeared so monstrous that even uneducated men felt the cruelty of preventing the accused from replying. Hus said, among other things: “Be it far from me that I should call myself the fourth person of the divinity; such a thought could find no place in my mind. But I consistently affirm that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God and one entity and a trinity of persons.” It should be mentioned that almost all modern writers belonging to the Roman Church, Hefele in particular, have admitted the absolute falsehood of this infamous accusation. Hus was, lastly, accused of having appealed to God, a proceeding which was declared to be heretical. In a brief statement which Hus was allowed to make he declared that he firmly maintained that there could be no surer appeal than that to Jesus Christ, the Lord, who is not influenced by evil gifts, nor deceived by false witnesses, but who judges all according to their merits.

When all the articles derived from Wycliffe’s and from Hus’s own writings and the statements of the witnesses had been read out, it became certain that the council intended to terminate the trial of Hus without further delay. He was not allowed to reply to the vast amount of accusations that had been brought against him; it would indeed, as Hus pointed out, have been impossible to do so at one continuous sitting. A declaration that Hus had sent to the council on July 1 was, however, read out.[71] He declared that, fearing to offend God and to commit perjury, he could not recant all the articles, nor indeed any of those that had been wrongly attributed to him by false witnesses, who had accused him—and he called on God as witness of this—of preaching, asserting, and defending views that he had never held. He further declared that if any statement which was really contained in his writings[72] was heretical, he detested and abhorred it, and was ready to recant it.

Sentence on Hus was then immediately passed. Two decrees were read out by “a bald and old Italian priest.” The first ordered all Hus’s writings, both in Latin and in his own language, to be destroyed. Hus said: “Why do you condemn my books, when I have always wished and asked for other better books that shall refute them (mine), and I still wish it? But up to now you have shown me no writings in contradiction to my own, nor have you proved that these contain any heresies. As to my Bohemian writings, which you have never seen, why do you condemn them? The second sentence dealt with the person of Hus. He was declared to be a true and manifest heretic, who was to be delivered over to the secular authorities for punishment. It has already been mentioned that, in accordance with an ancient custom, the church did not itself pronounce the sentence of death. Hus then knelt down, and praying with a loud voice said: “Lord Jesus Christ, forgive all my enemies, I entreat you, because of your great mercifulness. You know that they have falsely accused me, brought forth false witnesses against me, devised false articles against me. Forgive them because of your immense mercifulness.” When they heard this, many of the members of the council and particularly the foremost ecclesiastical dignitaries derided him.[73] The ignominious ceremonies known as the degradation and deconsecration were then performed. Hus was dressed in full ecclesiastical vestments and the chalice and paten were placed in his hands. Then the ecclesiastical vestments were removed and the chalice and paten again taken from him. While this was being done, the Archbishop of Milan, who with five bishops officiated at this function, said: “Oh, cursed Judas, who hast left the realms of peace and allied thyself with the Jews, we to-day take from thee the chalice of salvation.” Hus replied that he hoped to drink of the chalice in the heavenly kingdom on that very day. When these ceremonies had ended, the bishops said: “We commit thy soul to the devil.” Hus answered: “And I commit it to the most sacred Lord Jesus Christ.” A high paper cap was then as a sign of derision placed on the head of the martyr. On it were written the words: Hic est heresiarcha. Sigismund then requested Louis Count Palatine[74] to hand over Hus to the beadles of the city of Constance. A large armed force, consisting of some of the townsmen of Constance, Sigismund’s Hungarian mercenaries, and troops in the service of the Count Palatine and other German princes—about 3000 men in all—accompanied Hus. A large crowd, including many Bohemians, among them Mladenovic, joined the mournful procession, though Sigismund, hoping as far as possible to exclude the Bohemians, had given orders that the city gates should be closed as soon as Hus had passed. From the cathedral Hus was led through the churchyard—where his books were just being burnt—along the street now known as the “Huss Strasse,” past the house of the widow Fida, and through the Schnetz gate to the place of execution. That spot,[75] about a quarter of a mile from the Schnetz gate, is now marked by a stone with an inscription, and has become a favourite place of pilgrimage for Hus’s countrymen. The account of the last moments of the martyr can best be given in the words of Mladenovic,[76] who was present. He writes: “When he (Hus) had arrived at the place of torture he began, on bent knees, with his arms extended and his eyes lifted to heaven, to recite psalms with great fervour, particularly, ‘Have mercy on me, oh God,’ and ‘In thee, oh Lord, do I put my trust.’ He repeated the verse: ‘Into thy hand I commit my spirit,’ and it was noticed by his friends that he prayed joyfully and with a beautiful countenance. Now the place of torture was among gardens in a field on the road that leads from the city of Constance in the direction of the castle of Gottlieben, between the gate and the moat at the outworks of the city. Some laymen who stood near the spot said: ‘We know not what he has formerly said or done, but we now see and hear that he prays, and speaks holy words!’ Others said: ‘Assuredly it were well that he should have a confessor, who would hear him.’ But a priest who was riding past, clad in a green doublet that was lined with red silk, said: ‘He may not be heard, neither may a confessor be granted to him, for he is a heretic.’ Master John, however, while still in prison, had made confession to a doctor (of divinity), who was a monk,[77] and had been heard by him, and had received absolution, as he mentions in one of the letters which he sent to his disciples from prison. While he (Hus) was praying, as mentioned before, the crown of blasphemy, as it was called, fell from his head. He noticed that three devils were painted on it and smiled. And some of the mercenaries who stood near said: ‘Let it be again placed on his head, that he be burnt together with his masters, the devils whom he served!’

“Rising from his prayers by order of the lictor (soldier, or town-official), Hus said with a loud and intelligible voice, so that he could be well heard by his disciples: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, I will bear patiently and humbly this horrible, shameful, and cruel death for the sake of Thy gospel and the preaching of Thy word.’ When he was led past the spectators, he addressed them, begging them not to believe that he had ever
Burning of John Hus.jpg


(From Reichental’s Chronicle of the Council of Constance)

held, preached, or taught the tenets which had been ascribed to him by false witnesses. He was then stripped of his clothes and tied with cords to a stake, and his arms were turned backward to the stake. When his face was at first turned to the east, some of the spectators said: ‘Let him not be turned to the east, for he is a heretic, but to the west;’ and it was done thus. When a rusty chain was placed round his neck, he said, smiling, to the lictors: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, was bound with a harder and heavier chain, and I, poor wretch, fear not to be fettered with this chain for His sake.’ Now the stake consisted of a thick pole, which they had sharpened at one end and driven into the ground in this field; under the feet of the master they placed two faggots and some loads of wood. When attached to the stake he retained one of his boots, and a fetter on one of his feet. They then heaped up round his body wooden faggots mixed with straw so that they reached up to his chin.” Mladenovic then refers to the last attempt—it was little more than a formality—made by the imperial marshal, Pappenheim, to induce Hus to recant, and then describes the martyrdom. “When the lictors,” he writes, “lighted the pile, the master first sang with a loud voice, ‘Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us,’ and then again, ‘Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on us.’ When a third time he began singing, ‘Who art born of the virgin Mary,’ the wind soon blew the flames into his face; then, still silently praying and moving his lips, he expired in the Lord. The space of time during which, after having become silent, he still moved before dying was that required to recite two, or at most three paternosters.” Mladenovic then describes the detestable outrages that were committed on the remains of the body of Hus[78] to prevent their being preserved as relics by his countrymen.

That the execution of Hus would have world-wide consequences seems to have been foreseen by many of his contemporaries, and legends soon arose round the memory of the martyr. Thus it was said that an old woman had brought faggots to add to the funeral pile, and that Hus had then spoken the words: O sancta simplicitas. It was also said that Hus—and this legend was undoubtedly based on remarks of Hus that have been mentioned in this work—had predicted that he would have a successor who would be successful in the attempt in which he had failed—the general reform of the church.[79]

Few events in history have given rise to more controversy !than the trial and execution of Hus. In offering an opinion on this matter, it is necessary to distinguish between the conduct of the council and that of Sigismund. According to the ruling of the Roman Church, it was the duty of the council, as there was then no pope, to declare heretics all who differed from the teaching of the church, and to hand over such men to the temporal authorities. The latter were empowered by a decree of the Emperor Frederick II. to order them to be burnt. No faith could or should be kept with heretics.[80] Anything that resembled a bona-fide trial was, therefore, out of question. No legal representative could be granted a heretic. He had merely to appear before the council, recant everything he was accused of having said, and receive condign punishment. Gerson, one of the principal actors in the tragedy of Constance, strongly upheld this standpoint,[81] and it is that also of the earlier Roman writers on the death of Hus. Their attitude is certainly manlier and more straightforward than that of later defenders of the council, who falsely accused Hus of having attempted to fly from Constance, of having preached and said mass publicly at Constance, etc. It is true that, even if we admit the standpoint of the council, the attempts to interrupt Hus by cries and insults when he endeavoured to speak remain indefensible.

We have, however, to consider a further point which has recently attracted considerable attention: Was Hus a heretic? In other words, did he hold any doctrine that was opposed to the teaching of the Church of Rome in the development which it had attained at the beginning of the fifteenth century? It has here been repeatedly stated, and cannot be sufficiently often reaffirmed, that the principal cause on which Hus staked his life was that of church-reform. An intensely pious and rigidly virtuous priest, he viewed with what to worldly men may appear a puerile feeling of horror and indignation the unspeakable degradation of the Bohemian clergy. It has been necessary in this book, destined for the general public, to withhold much evidence on this point. The fact that the ruling powers of the Roman Church made no attempt to discountenance the vices of its clergy, together with the study of Wycliffe’s works, then led Hus to adverse criticism of the ecclesiastical organisation of the church, and of papacy in particular. Though there were, as already mentioned, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries writers who maintained the overwhelming power and authority of the pope as strongly and as unconditionally as has been done recently, yet freedom of opinion on such matters still existed at the time of Hus, and he cannot be called a heretic for expressing views contrary to those of Rome on questions which only the councils of Trent and the Vatican have declared to be matters of dogma. It is certain that many of the accusations against Hus were absolutely false. This applies not only to the monstrous statement that Hus had pretended to be a fourth person within the divinity, but also to such accusations as that Hus had declared the sacrament to be invalid when administered by an unworthy priest. Hus had in his writings frequently and distinctly expressed the contrary opinion. The question therefore arose whether a revision of the judgment on Hus, such as took place in the case of Joan of Arc, would not be possible. Professor Kalousek of the Bohemian University of Prague, one of the most distinguished historians of Bohemia, as long ago as in 1869, addressed a pseudonymous letter to one of the newspapers of Prague suggesting such a revision. The matter at the time attracted considerable attention, and several distinguished Roman Catholic priests published replies to the letter. In a lengthy and very fair work on the teaching of Hus, Dr. Anton Lenz, one of the most eminent Bohemian divines, though doing full justice to the moral qualities, the integrity, and piety of Hus, yet maintains that he was a heretic, and that the council was justified in declaring him to be one. It cannot, however, be denied that among the heretical views which Dr. Lenz in his able book attributed to Hus, some refer to matters which the Roman Church had not at that time declared to be dogmas. Another Bohemian priest, Dr. Francis Sulc, has published[82] a Latin and Bohemian version of the famed thirty articles against Hus, and has printed with each article the recognised teaching of the Roman Church on the subject in question. To one who has no pretence to write as a theologian it certainly appears that on certain questions, that of predestination in particular, Hus's teaching did differ from that of the Roman Church, even in the development which it had reached in the fifteenth century. The question is, however, a very difficult one, and Professor Kalousek has in a recent lecture truly stated that much further study of the life and the works of Hus is required. Even quite recently valuable works of the Bohemian church-reformer that were hidden away in formerly inaccessible libraries have been made public. It is hardly necessary to add that, in view of the present current of opinion in the Roman church, a rehabilitation of Hus is now much more improbable than at the time mentioned above.

Opinion will always differ with regard to the question whether Hus should be considered as the last of the mediæval reformers who wished only to purify the church and restore it to its primitive simplicity, or as a forerunner of the great church-reformers of the sixteenth century. Extreme writers of both parties have unanimously adopted the latter supposition. Moderate writers—who it is unnecessary to say are few in number—have alone sometimes expressed doubts. That Hus was a forerunner of Luther has been constantly maintained by ultramontane writers, and they extend to him the unconditionally adverse judgment which they pronounce on the German reformer. On the other hand, most German Protestant writers on the Hussite movement, such as Krummel, Lechler, Neander, have also declared Hus to be the precursor of the German reformation, and have praised him as such. Dr. Harnack alone has expressed a contrary opinion.[83] Luther himself undoubtedly considered Hus as his forerunner. In a well-known passage of his letters, written when he had just begun to study the works of Hus, he remarks: “We have all been Hussites without knowing it.” On many occasions Luther expressed his admiration for Hus in a manner not dissimilar from that in which the great Bohemian lauded Wycliffe. Thus in the introduction to his edition of Hus's letters, the German reformer calls him optimum et piisimum virum—to quote but one of many instances.[84] Elsewhere Luther writes: “If this man was not a noble, strong, and dauntless martyr and confessor of Christ, then will it indeed be hard for any man to obtain salvation.”

Hus’s countrymen have never taken much interest in these questions. To them he has always been a fearless enemy of simony, profligacy, and the unlimited power of the clergy, and a brave champion of his country and its nationality. To quote words I wrote more than ten years ago:[85] “If neglecting for a moment the minutiae of mediæval theological controversy, we consider as a martyr that man who willingly sacrifices his individual life for what he firmly believes to be the good of humanity at large, who ‘takes the world’s life on him and his own lays down,’ then assuredly there is no truer martyr in the world’s annals than John of Husinec.”

Very different from the judgment which should be passed on the attitude of the council with regard to Hus is that which we must pass on Sigismund. The council had made no promise of safety to Hus, and was acting in accordance with the teaching of the church when it urged Sigismund not to keep faith with a heretic. Sigismund, on the other hand, had in the most formal and solemn way assured Hus that he would be allowed to safely proceed to Constance, to be heard there freely, and whatever sentence should be passed on him, to return unharmed to Bohemia.[86] It is difficult to conceive baser treachery than that of Sigismund with regard to Hus. I must refer the reader to an earlier chapter of this book[87] for the motives that induced Sigismund to entice Hus to Constance, whence—this the King of Hungary had from the first decided—he was never to return to his own country. Yet Sigismund’s conduct has found defenders, and not only among the extreme adherents of the Church of Rome. One of Sigismund’s strongest partisans indeed does not, or did not, belong to any Christian community. It is stated that Sigismund, as a member of the Roman Church, was obliged to obey its command not to keep faith with a heretic, and that he had even exceeded his powers by granting a safe-conduct to Hus. This argument might have had some force at other periods of the history of the church, but at this one it certainly had none. Personal violence had been used against Pope Boniface VIII. and more recently a pope had been besieged at his castle of Avignon. Sigismund himself had imprisoned Pope John XXIII. Even among those who were faithful believers in the teaching of Rome, the popes and prelates had at that time fallen into disesteem and even contempt. Sigismund would certainly not have hesitated to ignore the demands of Pope John XXIII., and afterwards of the council with regard to Hus, had he thought it in his interest to do so. It is true that he shielded himself by invoking the authority of the church when his treachery caused general indignation in Bohemia. It has also been stated that the safe-conduct granted by Sigismund only assured the safe arrival of Hus at Constance. This, however, is in direct contradiction with the wording of the safe-conduct as well as with the fact that Hus started from Prague without this document. It has also been argued in defence of Sigismund that, if the safe-conduct given to Hus had guaranteed his immunity, his trial would have been illusory, as no punishment could have been inflicted. This argument is also founded on a misconception. Had the safe-conduct not been violated, Hus would have been conducted back to his country, and punished according to the decision of his sovereign, King Venceslas of Bohemia. That this by no means necessarily meant immunity will be clearly understood by all who remember that Venceslas had once before threatened Hus with death at the stake.

The contemporaries of Sigismund, and the Bohemians in particular, were almost unanimous in condemning Sigismund’s misdeed. When the news of the execution of Hus reached the Bohemian court, King Venceslas said: “They ought not to have treated him in this manner as he had a safe-conduct.” The king also expressed great indignation at the behaviour of the Bohemian priests, who by their false accusations and depositions had greatly contributed to the condemnation of Hus.[88] The Bohemian people never forgave Sigismund, “the dragon of the apocalypse,” as they called him, his treachery, and this feeling contributed largely to the intense bitterness and cruelty of the Hussite wars.

It is needless to say that during the last painful months of his life Hus had little time for literary activity. Except a few minor treatises, there belong to this period only a large number of letters. I have already copiously, though not, I think, in consideration of their value, too copiously quoted these letters.

  1. Uceni mistra Jana Husi (the Teaching of Master John Hus), p. 361.
  2. Dr. Flajshans, Mistr Jan Hus, p. 361.
  3. Between the cathedral and the church of St. Stephen. The building is now used as barracks.
  4. Lenfant, Histoire du Concile de Constance (p. 199) and Von der Hardt (T. iv. pp. 196, 306) state that Mladenovic himself discovered the document. This is contradicted by Mladenovic's own report, quoted above. Mladenovic cautiously gives only the initials of the names of the persons concerned.
  5. Quale mendacium! Omnipotens Deus.” Mladenovic writes with not unnatural indignation.
  6. This account is abridged from the narrative of Mladenovic, who was present at the trial of Hus.
  7. The proceedings of the Council of Constance were often very turbulent—not only on the occasion of the trial of Hus. They sometimes resembled the sittings of certain modern parliaments. Thus Pope John XXIII., when complaining to the King of France of the conduct of the emperor, accused Sigismund of having sent to the meetings of the council men of low rank, who interrupted the cardinals and prelates. Then “sibilabatur et fiebat eis (the prelates) tanta injuria quod oportebat ipsos obmutescere et abire confuse” (Tosti, History of the Council of Constance).
  8. Lawrence of Brezova writes: “{{lang|la|Item VII. die mensis Junii, qui erat feria VI. post Bonifacii hora XI. ecclipsatus est totus sol ita quod non poterant missae sine luminibus celebrari in signum quod sol Justiciae Christus in cordibus praelatorum multorum ad mortem Magistri Johannis Hus de proximo per concilium mortificandi anhelantium fuit obscuratus.” (Fontes rerum Bohemicarum, v. 338.)
  9. Nothing is more complicated, and indeed contradictory, than Wycliffe’s teaching with regard to transubstantiation and communion. The accusation was intentionally vague.
  10. Mladenovic, pp. 276–285. See also Hus’s letter written on June 7 (Palacky, Documenta, pp. 106–108). Tschackert, Peter von Ailly (pp. 226–230) gives a short, very lucid account of the scholastic discussion between Hus and D’Ailly.
  11. Hus concessit istam (thesin) quod Johannes Hus esset persona in divinis et quod plures essent personae in divinis quam tres.” (Mansi, xxvii. p. 758.) This matter was formally brought before the council at its meeting on July 6.
  12. Mladenovic, Relatio de M. J. Hus causa.
  13. Mr. Wratislaw has well translated this by “the last so-called hearing, or rather jeering.”
  14. It would lead too far to go into this matter. It may, however, to give but one example, be mentioned that Article 16 accused Hus of having declared that “Papa non quia Petri vicem tenet, sed quia magnam habet dotationem, ex eo est sanctissimus.” Hus’s reply ran thus: “Verba mea hic mutilita sunt et corrupta. Sic enim scripsi: Non enim quia vices tenet Petri et quia habet magnam dotationem ex eo est sanctissimus, sed si Christum sequitur in humilitate, mansuetudine, patientia, labore et magno charitatis vinculo, tunc est sanctus.” (Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 317.)
  15. Articuli extracti ex tractatu facto contra M. Stephanum Palec (sed rarus (sic) vere).
  16. The passage referred to, though not quoted verbally by Hus, is really in the book of 1 Samuel, chap. xiv. v. 26. Hus was not allowed the use of a Bible in prison, and though he was exceptionally well-read in Scripture, we sometimes meet with little mistakes.
  17. The contemporary writers on the Council of Constance call Sigismund indiscriminately emperor, king, King of the Romans, King of Hungary.
  18. In Von der Hardt’s full account of the proceedings we meet constantly—particularly towards the end—with notes such as: “Et cum hoc diceret, deridebatur, “Hic dixerunt”— the members of the council—“Ecce jam prophetizat,” etc.
  19. Mladenovic.
  20. Ibid.
  21. This refers to the untruthful accusation already mentioned, according to which Hus had written that should he recant at Constance, his recantation was to be considered as obtained by force, and therefore invalid.
  22. See p. 157.
  23. i.e., Peter of Mladenovic, the writer.
  24. Mladenovic represents Sigismund as hesitating in his speech—perhaps not remembering the name of Jerome.
  25. These words refer to the movement in favour of church-reform that arose in Bohemia. Some writers incorrectly see in them an allusion to Wycliffe and the Lollard troubles in England.
  26. The form of recantation submitted to Hus is thus described: “Revocationis forma a Johanne Ostiensi, cardinali Vivariensi vice-cancellario Husso proposita.” (Von der Hardt, iv. 329.)
  27. “Non moveat vos istud, quod condemnetis veritates quia non vos, sed ipsi damnant, qui sunt majores vestri, et etiam nostri de praesenti. Attendite hoc verbum: ne innitaris prudentiae tuae; multi scientifici et conscienciosi viri sunt in concilio; fili mi audi legem motris,” (“Pater," M. Joanni Hus, Palacky, Documenta).
  28. Dr. Lechler, Johann von Wiclif, vol. ii. p. 217. Dr. Lechler writes from the point of view of a Protestant divine.
  29. These letters, written some in Bohemian, some in Latin, have been frequently translated into English, the Bohemian ones from German or Latin translations. I have previously translated fragments of them in my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, and A History of Bohemian Literature.
  30. i.e., Mladenovic.
  31. In Latin, sextemi. The sending of large sheets of paper probably aroused the suspicions of the gaolers and spies.
  32. Lords Mikes of Divoky and Henry Lefl, mentioned later in this letter, were courtiers of King Sigismund.
  33. It has been frequently translated, though generally not from the Bohemian original. I translated—of course from the original—portions of this letter in my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, and History of Bohemian Literature. I here give the letter in its entirety.
  34. Veskeremu Narodu Ceskemu.
  35. i.e., on their return to Bohemia after Hus’s death.
  36. The Bishop of Litomysl and his agents.
  37. King Venceslas, who to the end of his life claimed to be King of the Romans as well as King of Bohemia.
  38. See p. 232.
  39. It is beyond the purpose of this book to examine whether Sigismund appointed bishops in Germany during the vacancy of the papal see; that he claimed the right to do so is certain.
  40. Hi (theologi) ergo post multos congressus et frequentes deliberationes teste Gersone tandem sex conclusionibus formatis recente a Jacobello inter Bohemos resuscitatum Eucharistiae usum condemnarunt.” (Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 331.)
  41. Abridged from Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 334.
  42. The fact that communion in the two kinds, “utraquism,” as it was called, acquired so great an importance among the Hussites, induced the Bohemians to endeavour to connect Hus himself as closely as possible with its introduction. They would certainly have proved their case, could we believe in the authenticity of a letter which is included in most collections of the letters of Hus. In this letter Hus writes: “Exhort all to profess their faith and to receive communion in the two kinds, that is the body and blood of Christ.” The letter, which is undated and addressed, “Sacerdoti cuidam,” is printed by Palacky also, but he strongly doubted its genuineness and believed that it was of later origin and belonged to the time when the Bohemians wished to prove that their great leader and martyr was entirely the originator of the doctrine on which they laid most stress. The letter is not found among the early MSS. of Hus but is included in the Nuremberg edition of his works. It is also possible that the letter is partly genuine and that the passage advocating utraquism was added later. Mr. Mares in his work, Listy Husovy (Letters of Hus) , includes the letter and believes it to be a work of Hus. On the whole it is probable that the theory according to which Jacobellus was the originator of utraquism is the correct one.
  43. In German, Miess; that town being little known, German writers have often called Jacobellus “of Meissen.”
  44. As was already remarked by Mladenovic in a MS. note, the passage referred to by Hus is in Jeremiah, chap, xxxvi. Hus was not allowed a Bible in prison.
  45. The book referred to is the Exposition of St. Job or Moralia, by Pope Gregory I., surnamed the “Great” (590–604).
  46. Here also Hus is obviously quoting from memory.
  47. In Bohemian, skola=school.
  48. i.e., those priests, very numerous in the time of Hus, who studied jurisprudence rather than theology.
  49. Earnest-money, that was paid down before the sale of a benefice was completed.
  50. The brackets are in the original.
  51. Hus refers to the widely-spread rumour that John XXIII. had poisoned Pope Alexander.
  52. St. Matthew xxiv. 15.
  53. This passage is one of those in which Hus speaks prophetically of those who were to continue his struggle for church-reform. These remarks are probably the foundation of the legend—to be noted later—according to which Hus had predicted the coming of Luther.
  54. The monks of Prague and the Vysehrad, who owned many of the largest states in Bohemia, became bitter enemies of Hus, as soon as he began to preach against avarice and simony.
  55. i.e., by defaming Bohemia as a heretical country.
  56. The Bohemian name of the town of Constance.
  57. Hus alludes to those priests who had formerly been his friends, but afterwards became spies and informers against him.
  58. This passage is not very clear. Peter of Svojsin, Bohemian mintmaster, and his wife, Lady Anna of Frimburg, were friends of Hus and of church-reform. They also had influence at the court of Venceslas. Hus begged them to be helpful to his protector, Lord John of Chlum.
  59. i.e., Queen Sophia.
  60. i.e., those priests who were opposed to simony.
  61. Probably Peter Mladenovic, “Petre amice carissime pellicium tibi serva in mei memoriam.” The words are in Latin in the Bohemian letter.
  62. Nothing is known of the persons mentioned here.
  63. Called also Marik Kacer, formerly vice-chancellor of the Bohemian kingdom.
  64. Master Christian (or Kristan) of Prachatice, one of the leading Bohemian church-reformers.
  65. Probably Hus’s successor as confessor of the queen.
  66. Mladenovic.
  67. The spot—I know not on what authority—is still shown to visitors to the cathedral. They are also told that the spot on the pavement where Hus knelt always remains dry even when the rest of it is very moist.
  68. It ran thus: “Unica et sancta universalis ecclesia quae est praedestinatorum universitas,” etc. (Mladenovic).
  69. Quomodo ipse se quartam fore et esse personam in divinis posuisset.” The importance of this accusation has been overlooked by many writers on Hus.
  70. This appears very probable, as Mladenovic, referring to Hus’s remarks, writes: Magister inter alia dixit.
  71. The document is printed in full in Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 389.
  72. This refers to the statement constantly repeated by Hus, that his writings had been incorrectly quoted.
  73. Et cum hoc dixisset, multi et praesertim sacerdotum principes deridebant ilium” (Mladenovic).
  74. Lenfant (Histoire du Concile de Constance) relates that when the elector Palatine Otho Henry, the last of his line, died childless, he said that God punished the sins of the forefathers even in the third and fourth generations, and that he had been punished because his great-great-grandfather, the Count Palatine Louis, had, by order of the emperor, conducted Hus to the stake.
  75. Contrary to what has been often stated, the spot is not in the immediate vicinity of the Rhine.
  76. That indefatigable Bohemian scholar, Mr. Patera, some years ago discovered and published a previously unknown contemporary Bohemian account of the death of Hus. I had intended to compare it with the account of Mladenovic, but, finding that this would interfere with the course of the narrative, I have preferred to give as an appendix a translation of the whole of the account.
  77. “Cuidam doctori monacho.”
  78. These ignoble outrages are described more fully by Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 450.
  79. The tale that Hus had said that they would indeed burn the goose (“hus” signifies goose in Bohemian), but that afterwards a swan would come, whom they would not burn, is founded on the totally erroneous supposition that “Luther” signifies “swan” in Bohemian.
  80. Ad poenam quoque pertinet et odium hereticorum quod fides illis data servanda non sit” (Simancha Inst, cath., pp. 46, 52, quoted by Lord Acton).
  81. See Schwab, Johannes Gerson, particularly p. 583.
  82. Privately printed at the press of the Bishop of Kralove Hradec (Königgratz).
  83. Die wiclifitisch—hussitische Bewegung . . . muss als die reifste Ausgestaltung der mittelalterlichen Reformbewegungen gelten. Allein es wird sich zeigen dass auch sie zwar vieles gelockert und vorbereitet, jedoch keinen reformatorischen Gedanken zum Ausdrucke gebracht hat: auch sie hält sich auf dem augustinisch—franciscanischem Boden” (Dr. Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. iii. pp. 412–413).
  84. It is a proof of Luther’s great admiration for Hus that when sending a wedding-present to his friend Nicholas Specht he chose a portrait of “the saintly John Hus.” (Letter to Nicholas Specht, December 12, 1538—The Letters of Martin Luther. Selected and translated by Margaret A. Currie.)
  85. A History of Bohemian Literature, p. 141.
  86. The distinguished Roman Catholic priest, Dr. Lenz, whom I have repeatedly quoted, writes: “Sigismund broke his word by not handing over Hus to the King of Bohemia after he had been condemned. He was not justified in carrying out the sentence of the council on the unhappy master.”
  87. See Chapter VI.
  88. Scriptores rerum Bohemicarum, ed. Palacky, vol. iii. pp. 20–21.