Edmund Alexander De Schweinitz.

The history of the church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Or, The unity of the Brethren, founded by the followers of John Hus, The Bohemian reformer amd martyr online

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Correspondence with the Council.— Assistant Bishops ordained.— Fer-
dinand and the Union of the Utraquists with the Catholics. — His
interview with the Moravian Diet. — Death of Bishop Sionsky. —
Augusta appoints Czerny his Vicar.— Persecution wanes. — Unsuccessful
attempt to bring about the Liberation of Augusta.— The Council meets
openly in Bohemia. — Augusta forbids the election of new Bishops. —
John Blahoslaw.— The Parish of Jungbunzlau.— Death of Wenzel and
Daniel.— Augusta's Correspondence detected.— Czerny and Cerwenka
appointed Bishops.— Baron Krajek and the Eegent. -Renewal of tlie
Persecution.— The Brethren appeal to Maximilian.— Flacius lUyricus
and the Unity.— Further Experiences of Augusta.

The condition of the Brethren who remained in Bohemia
was not ameliorated. Public worship ceased altogether;
most of the chapels, with the land belonging to them, were
either confiscated or in the hands of the Utraquists and
Catholics ; to confess the true faith was still to run the risk
of imprisonment, of bitter sufferings, perhaps of death. A
large part of the membership was forced to conform outwardly
to the usages of the National Church. In many families dis-
sensions broke out and interfered with the religion even of
the home. On royal domains and such other estates as were
not owned by members of the Unity, the number of the
Brethren decreased about one-half. It was a time of sore
tribulation and heavy gloom. And yet even now they were


not left wholly without the means of grace. Pastoral letters
circulated among them, written by the Executive Council,
and two priests, Paulin and Wenzel Hussita, braving all
perils, distinguished themselves by the zeal with which they
ministered to the parishes in secret.

Meantime Augusta and Bilek lay in their dark cellars at
Piirglitz. In the summer of 1549 the weary monotony of
their imprisonment was fearfully interrupted. Excited afresh
by the suspicion of intrigues between Augusta and the Elector
of Saxony and by the information that there were Bohemian
barons who still protected the Brethren, Ferdinand sent two
of his confidential councilors to institute a new hearing. On
Sunday, August the seventh, they visited the Bishop's dungeon
and questioned him very closely. As a sign of what he might
expect, they brought the executioner with them. Augusta's
answers were the same as at Prague. The next day the
commissioners came again and began a still more searching
examination, but brought to light nothing that would have
satisfied the suspicions of the King. On Tuesday, August
the ninth, they appeared a third time and ordered the appli-
cation of torture. The Bishop was subjected to it, again
upon a ladder, his head shorn and his mouth gagged. It was
the third ordeal of the kind. But again he passed througli
triumphantly. On the following day Bilek was lashed
to the ladder; but before the act of torturing began, the
Governor's wife, by her compassionate pleadings, secured his

In Moravia the peace of the Unity remained unbroken.
The Executive Council had taken up its seat at Prerau ; and
at the same place Bishop Mach Sionsky convened the Synod
on the twenty-eighth of October, 1549. This body took into
consideration the state of the Church both in Bohemia and
East Prussia. Some of the conclusions reached were the
following :

^ Bucholtz, VI. p. 440. It was at the Governor's own suggestion that his
wife interceded for Bilek.


First, if no priest of the Unity can be secured, children may-
be baptized by Roman Catholic or Utraquist priests, but the
parents are not, on that account, to leave the Brethren ; second,
the poor, who have greatly suffered during the persecution, are
to be better cared for ; third, in order to satisfy Speratus, who
has written to the Synod on the subject, several young men are
to be sent to German universities ; fourth, the reasons for the
voluntary celibacy of the priests, concerning which he has asked
for further information, are to be communicated to him ; fifth,
all official letters and other historical documents are to be care-
fully collected and preserved.^

Sionsky's report of the constraint under which the Brethren
in East Prussia were suffering, was received in silence. Soon
after the Synod he began a series of official visits to the
Moravian and, as far as possible, to the Bohemian parishes

While thus engaged an important change took place in
Augusta's situation. The number of his guards had been
reduced from twenty to six.^ In January, of 1550, one of
these six, a native of Leitomischl, was bribed to supply him
with money, lights, books and writing materials. Augusta at
once opened a correspondence with the Council. Everything
of importance was reported to him and he gave his opinions
as freely and authoritatively as though he were presiding at
the meetings of that body. He wrote frequently to the
parishes also, A member of the Church took up his
residence at Piirglitz in order to receive and forward the
letters ; at a later time he was relieved by a priest, whom the
Council specially intrusted with this duty. The good will of
the new Governor, who was set over the Castle in spring,
rendered the clandestine use of lights and books unnecessary.
He provided Augusta and Bilek with both. Of the corre-
spondence, however, he knew nothing.

After having finished his visits to the churches. Bishop

* Dekrete d. B. U. p. 167, cited by Czerwenka. The last resolution, which
was owing to the destruction of the archives at Leitomischl, in 1546, (vide
p. 152 of this History), led to the collection now known as the Lissa Folios.
This collection was begun by Czerny and John Blahoslaw, and continued
by the later bishops.

* At a later time the number was reduced to three.


Sionsky, in the spring of 1550, convened the Synod at
Prossnitz. The future government of the Unity, in view of
his possible death and of Augusta's continued imprisonment,
formed the subject of anxious deliberations. To elect new
bishops and have them consecrated by Sionsky and the two
assistants, Wenzel and Daniel, would have been the proper
and natural course. But it was not adopted, no doubt because
it did not meet with Augusta's approval.* Sionsky, however,
ordained three new assistant bishops — John Czerny, Matthias
Strejc and Paul Paulin — gave them authority to oversee the
churches, assigned them dioceses and set them over the entire
priesthood.^ At the same time he conferred upon Wenzel
Wroutecky and Daniel Hranicky, the two oldest assistant
bishops, power to consecrate bishops.^

* There is no record showing that Augusta opposed an election of bishops
at this time, but as he persistently did so on later occasions, and as his
opposition seems to be the only possible reason why such an election was
not undertaken, we must take for granted that he had communicated with
the Synod on the subject.

^ JafFet's Sword of Goliath, I. pp. 15, 19, etc., R's Z., p. 278. John Czerny
was ordained to the priesthood in 1537 and elected to the Council in 1543-
He was a model of piety, diligence and earnestness, worthy of being always
remembered. (Todtenbuch, p. 38.) Matthias Strejc or Streyc (Vetter) was
ordained to the priesthood in 1521 and elected to the Council in 1537 — a
man of sharp understanding, eloquent, cautious but very timid. He died
May the thirteenth, 1555, at Krzizanow. — Paul Paulin was ordained to the
priesthood in 151:0 and became a member of the Council. He was a man
of great influence which, however, waned toward the end of his life, partly
on account of protracted ill health. He died, at Prerau, on the twenty-
ninth of June, 1564. (Todtenbuch, p. 37.)

^ Dekrete d. B. U., p. 170, cited by Czerwenka. Gindely, I. p. 347, says
that Sionsky gave Strejc and Czerny — neither he nor Czerwenka mentions
Paulin — authority to convene the Synod and watch over the discipline, but
not the power to ordain. And yet he refers to precisely the same authority
which we have given, viz.: JafFet's Sword of Goliath, where we read:
Sionsky, " as a prudent man, constituted and set apart episcopal vicars,
supported in this arrangement by the first two, viz.: Wenzel Wroutecky
and Daniel Hranicky, and added to them Brother Matthias Strejc, Brother
Czerny and Brother Paulin. And he imparted to them complete episcopal
power, to order all things which they might deem necessary in the
churches, gave them dioceses which they were to administer, and set them
over the entire priesthood." Gindely himself, moreover, in another


Meanwhile Ferdinand, after having brought about the
election of his oldest son, Maximilian, as his successor on the
Bohemian throne (February the fourteenth, 1549), strenuously
urged the union of the Utraquists with the Catholics. Aided
by Mistopol he prepared twelve articles having this end in
view, although they were wholly Romish in their tendency.
In December these articles were laid before the Diet; but the
opposition which they evoked on the part of the Utraquist
nobles who, in spite of Mistopol's efforts, were joined by one
of his deans and thirty of his priests, was so violent that the
King postponed the union to a later period.*^ In order to
take oif the edge of his disappointment, he sent from Augs-
burg, to which city he repaired immediately after the Diet, a
new decree enforcing the continued persecution of the
Brethren. This decree Baron Pernstein made the occasion
for oppressing them on his domains, especially at Pardubitz^
with still greater severity ; while Bishop Sionsky embraced
the opportunity to send a letter full of fatherly admonitions
to stand fast, to exercise patience and to submit to the will of

In April of the following year (1550), Ferdinand met the
Moravian Diet at Briinn and tried to induce this body to pass
a law against the Brethren living in the margraviate. But
he sustained an ignominious defeat. Wenzel von Ludanic,
the Governor of Moravia, whose parents belonged to the
Unity and who had been educated in its sdiools, closed a
fiery address with these words:

" Most gracious King, when your Majesty swore the oath by
which you were constituted Margrave of Moravia, the number of
those who held to the pure and unadulterated faith was small.

passage, calls Strejc and Czerny, Vice Seniors, that is, Assistant Bishops-
While therefore it is evident that they, together with Paulin, were ordained
to this degree, it is not clear what authority, if any, they received witli
regard to consecrating bishops. For although Jaffet in another part of his
Sword of Goliath, II. p. 52, etc., says that they were ordained in order that)
in case of necessity, they could consecrate bishops, he practically retracts
this position when speaking of the consecration in 1553.

' L. F., VIII. p. 2, etc. R's Z. pp. 303-312.

8 L. F., VIII. p. 2, etc.


This was owing to a want of knowledge of the true worship of
God and of the proper use of the sacraments. Now that it has
pleased Him to dispel the darkness, we thank Him from the
depths of our hearts that He has brought us to a recognition of
the Gospel in its purity ; and beseech and conjure your Grace
not to interfere with this highest good and not to' forbid the
exercise of our religion. ISTot one of us will move the breadth of
a hair from our conviction. As regards myself, I will rather lose
my head than give up my faith. Sooner shall Moravia disappear
in fire and ashes than permit coercion in matters of religion."^

Turning to the members of the Diet Ludauic asked whether
he had correctly expressed their views. A general " Aye !"
rang through the chamber. The King, in the hope that a
personal appeal would avail, called upon all such as were
willing to obey him, to step to one side. Only five barons
and two knights responded. When Ludanie saw this, he
read aloud the oath which Ferdinand had sworn, as Mar-
grave of Moravia. Full of indignation Ferdinand left the
Diet and, soon after, as he stood at the window of his palace,
saw, to his still greater chagrin, almost the entire body pass
in triumphal procession, escorting the Governor to his home.

On the sixteenth of April, 1552, Bishop ]Mack Sionsky
died at Gilgenburg, in East Prussia. He was a great man
wise, courageous and noble-minded, serving God and the
Brethren with all his heart.^" His death plunged their
Church into the utmost perplexity. There were five assistant
bishops and the following seven other members of the
Executive Council : George Israel, Matthias Cerwenka,
Wenzel Cech, George Ujec, Jacob Sidlar, John Husita and
Wenzel Holy ;" but the President of this body and the only

3 Gindely, I. p. 353.

'" Sionsky was a tall man and his appearance stately. He was buried in
the Polish Bohemian church at Gilgenburg, "behind the little door;" a
mural tablet, with a Latin epitaph, was set up by two of his friends, George
Cyklowsky and John Lorenz. Matthias Czerwenka preached the funeral
sermon. Todtenbuch, pp. 21, 23.

11 Cech was ordained to the priesthood in 1540 and elected to the Council
in 1550, a pious and zealous man, possessed of an extraordinary under-
standing. Died, at Meseritz, March the twentieth, 1560. (Todtenbuch, p.
30.) Ujec, ordained to the priesthood in 1534, elected to the Council, at


remaining bishop was still immured within the walls of
Piirglitz. To whom should the government of the Church
be intrusted? In order to settle this question the Council
met on the twelfth of June, in Moravia, but reached no
satisfactory conclusion. Hence the Synod was convened.
Either by this body or previously by the Council, Augusta
was asked for his opinion. He forbade the election of new
bishops,'^ but appointed John Czerny as his vicar, giving him
authority to preside at the Council, and in connection with its
members and especially the other assistant bishops, to govern
the Church.^^

This was the first step in Augusta's downward career. He
ouo-ht to have allowed the election of a new bishop and to
have consecrated him in his dungeon. Such a consecration
would, indeed, have been perilous, but not impossible. He
was now guarded, comparatively, in a loose way ; and one of
the men-at-arms being in the pay of the Executive Council,
would have done whatever this body asked of him. But
Augusta was determined not to be superseded in his episcopal
authority. He imagined that his long and terrible sufferings
entitled him to rule the Unity even from a prison, and he
seems to have had a strong presentiment of his eventual

New Year, 1550, a distinguished pastor, who led, for many years, a blame-
less life. Died, at Dacic, in Moravia, February the twenty-seventh, 1560.
(Todtenbuch, p. 30.) Sidlar, ordained to the priesthood 1531, elected to the
Council in 1550, murdered, in 1551, by robbers in a wood near Eibenschiitz-
Ho was a brother of John Strejc (Vetter), humble, pious, diligent, beloved
by the people and a favorite of the nobles. (Todtenbuch, p. 23.) Husita,
ordained to the priesthood in 1543, a learned man, studied under Luther at
Wittenberg, an eloquent speaker, fond of fun, somewhat proud, very
boastful and ambitious. Died, October the twenty-seventh, 1552, at
Eibenschiitz. (Todtenbuch, p. 24.) Holy, ordained to the priesthood,
175.3, elected to Council, 1550, a man pleasing to God and the Unity,
faithful, diligent, upright and blameless. Died, August the twenty-ninth,
1570, at Brandeis on the Adler. (Todtenbuch, p. 44.)

12 Czerwenka, I. p. 298. Gindely's account of the meeting of the Council
and Synod, L. F., VIII. being his authority, is confused. The Dekrete d.
B. U. give no information with regard to these meetings.

'=* Jafi'et's Sword of Goliath, I. p. 19, etc. E's Z. p. 279.


liberation. So great was the reverence with Avhich he was
regarded, that the Synod submitted to his decision.

In accordance with its enactment a visit to the Prussian
and Polish churches was undertaken by John Husita and
Cyklowsky.'^ In the former they re-established the usages
and customs of the Brethren, which, in many instances, had
given way to Lutheran novelties, and recalled the young men
who had been sent to the University of Konigsberg.

About this time (1551) the persecution waned ^^ and many
unfaithful members of the Unity, who had turned their backs
upon it in the hour of danger, asked to be readmitted to its
fellowship. Augusta was consulted with regard to the
matter. His decision was, that all such as sincerely repented
were to be anew received, with the exception of those who, in
order not to lose their property, had refused to emigrate.
This decision was accepted and carried out by the Council.

In addition to his correspondence with this body he wrote,
while in prison, a number of theological treatises, which are,
however, not extant, and composed many hymns. Of these
hymns Bilek made an illuminated copy.^^

The Council now determined to bring about, if possible,
the liberation of Augusta. Various circumstances seemed to
render such an effort hopeful. The persecution, as has been
said, had practically ceased ; a decided reaction in favor of the
Unity was beginning to show itself among the Bohemian
nobles ; ^'' Ferdinand realized, more and more, that the
Brethren could not be suppressed ; and in Germany the cause
of Protestantism gained new strength through the intrigues

'* Cyklowsky was a young, zealous, fiery deacon, ordained to the priest-
liood in 1553, and destined for the Executive Council to which, it was
generally understood, lie would be elected by the Synod of 1557, but while
on the way to its meeting lie died, at Krzizanowa, Friday before St-
Bartholomew (August the twenty-fourth). Todtenbuch, p. 28.

^^ Czerny's Narrative, L. F. VIII., p. 40, etc. R's Z., p. 314, etc.

'® Bilek's original MS. is preserved in the Imperial Library of Vienna.
Gindely, I. p. 517, Note 88.

" L. F. VIII., p. 58, etc., R's Z., contains some remarkable instances of
this reaction.


of Maurice of Saxony against the Emperor. So successful
was the Council in agitating its project, that a large number
of the members of the Diet was won. At its meeting at
Prague, in January, 1552, they agreed to petition the King
for an amnesty on behalf of all who had taken part in the
League of 1547, and especially for the liberation of Augusta
and Bilek. John Dubravius, Bishop of Olmiitz, the cele-
brated historian of Bohemia, consented to be the spokesman
and addressed Ferdinand in these words :

"All the states here assembled have appealed not only to me
but likewise to the other high dignitaries of the kingdom, to the
end that we should speak to your Grace with regard to the
liberation of your prisoners. They have been languishing long
enough and have sufficiently atoned for their faults. In unison
with all the states we therefore beg that they may be set at

Although surprised, the King retained his self-possession,
and merely said that he would take time until the next day to
consider this request. But it was not until the close of the
Diet and only after the Bishop had reminded him of his
promise, that he vouchsafed an answer. It was evasive.
He must have leisure to consider the question still more
carefully ; on some future occasion he would make known
his decision. Thus saying he turned to leave the chamber
while, loud enough for him to hear. Baron Zatecky
exclaimed : " Good God, do Thou judge ! Those in Piirglitz
were tortured; the rest were deprived of their estates; and
still one knows not whether one shall or shall not pardon
them !" ''

The disappointment of the Brethren was very great. They
had confidently expected the liberation of Augusta. In other
respects, however, they were encouraged and grew bolder.
The Emperor's disgraceful flight from Innsbruck before
Maurice of Saxony, the breaking up in confusion of the
Council of Trent, and the negotiations for peace which
followed, could not but react favorably upon the Unity in

18 L. F. VIII., p. 58, etc. R's Z., p. 317.

19 Czerny's narrative in L. F. VIII., cited by Gindely.


Bohemia.-" John Czerny openly took up his residence at
Jungbunzlau and convened the Council in that town (June
the twelfth, 1552). At this meeting the appointment of a
new bishop formed the principal subject of deliberation, and
a letter to Augusta was agreed on, entreating him to permit an
election. But again he declined. The Council — so he wrote
— should patiently await his liberation. And again the
Council submitted.

This body now devoted itself to the resuscitation of the
Church in Bohemia. In such work John Blahoslaw,
although a young man, took an active part.

He belonged to a noble family and was born at Prerau, in
1523, on the first Friday of Lent. Having received a
thorough education in the schools of the Brethren, at Gold-
berg under the celebrated Trotzendorf,^^ and at the Univer-
sities of Wittenberg, Konigsberg and Basel, he was ordained
a deacon in 1553, and advanced to the priesthood in the same
year. Distinguished for his faithfulness, diligence and learn-
ing, he became one of the most noted leaders and eminent
writers of the Unity. " In the Bohemian literature of the
sixteenth century," says Gindely, " there is not a single work
to be found which, for elegance of style, flow of thought and
purity of diction, can be compared with the writings of
Blahoslaw." ^^

The Church at Jungbunzlau, where he labored under the
direction of John Czerny, continued to look up. The chapel

^° These negotiations eventuated in the Treaty of Passau, July the
thirty-first, 1552, which gave the Protestants of Germany comjslete religious

^' Trotzendorf, so called from his birthplace, his real name being
Valentine Friedland, was one of the most celebrated teachers of the
sixteenth century, distinguished as a linguist and theologian. His jjupils
represented all parts of Europe. In 1556, while explaining the twenty-
third Psalm, he suddenly said : " Dear hearers, this instant I am summoned
to another school," fell over and was dead.

^^ Gindely, I. p. 366 ; Todtenbuch, pp. 48, 49. Gindely has given a
history of Blahoslaw's life, with a complete list of his literary works, in the
Bohemian Musealzeitschrift for 1856.


was reopened and worship publicly held ; Baron Krajek, who
was as devoted a member of the Unity as his ilkistrious father
had been, taking the position that the edicts of the King were
directed against the Picards and not against the Brethren.

In autumn, on the Sunday prior to the Day of St. Simon
and St. Jude (October the twenty-eighth), Wenzel Wroutecky
died at Prostegow. He reached a great age and spent his life
in holy works. Not long after, on the thirteenth of January
of the following year (1553), his colleague, Daniel Hranicky,
followed him into eternity. He too was an aged sire, distin-
guished for his piety and the righteousness of his life. He
was one of the exiles who sought refuge in Moldavia, and
was well acquainted with Matthias Corvinus. Both these
Assistant Bishops remembered the founders of the Unity, and
constituted the last link which united them with a new and
more progressive generation.^^

A few weeks subsequent to the death of Hranicky there
occurred, at Piirglitz, an event which led to far reaching
consequences. Through the negligence of a servant who was
not in the secret, the correspondence which Augusta was
carrying on, became known to the Governor (February the
tenth, 1553). The Bishop's dungeon was searched, and many
letters, together with other papers, were found and seized.
After the lapse of two months, during which the uncertainty
of the fate awaiting him became daily more painful, he and
Bilek were conveyed to Prague and, chained together by the
feet, confined in the same cell of the White Tower. They
fully expected to be put to death. But when it appeared that
Augusta's letters contained exhortations to the Brethren to
endure, with unwavering patience, whatever might come
upon them ; that the letters of the Council related exclusively
to the affairs of the Unity ; and that nothing of a treasonable
or disloyal character could be discovered ; the two prisoners
were sent back to Piirglitz. There they were put into closer
confinement ; otherwise their condition remained unchanged.

2» Todtenbuch, pp. 24, 25.


The news of what had occurred, led the Brethren to fear a