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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fresh outbreak of the persecution; and fei'vent was their
gratitude to God on finding their anticipations to be ground-
less. After the removal of Augusta to Prague, however, it
was commonly rumored that he had been executed. The
Executive Council being determined, at all hazards, to eman-
cipate itself from his rule, made use of this rumor, although
it could not be substantiated, in order to bring to an issue the
question of the appointment of new bishops. A day of fasting
and prayer having been observed, the Synod convened, on the
fifth of June, 1553, at Prerau. The necessities of the case
were discussed and, with great unanimity, it was resolved to
elect new bishops. The choice of the Synod fell upon John
Czerny and Matthias Cerwenka. But how should they be
consecrated, Wenzel and Daniel, whom Bishop Sionsky had
empowered to conduct an episcopal ordination, having died ?
In this emergency the Synod authorized the Assistant Bishops
Strejc and Paulin to perform the act of consecration,^* and
after it had been consummated, all the members of the Council
laid their hands on Czerny and Cerwenka and blessed them.^
That this was neither a regular nor a legitimate consecration,
is clear. But the Synod deemed the case to be one for which
there was no law except that of necessity. Nor did the true
succession remain broken ; it was renewed by Augusta after
his liberation.

Krajek grew more and more earnest in re-establishing the
Unity on his domains. At Jungbunzlau he had a new and
larger chapel built. It was dedicated on Good Friday, March
the twenty-third, 1554, in spite of a royal edict which the
Baron received on the previous day, ordering the absolute
suppression of the Brethren and the general confiscation of
their church property.^" In consequence of this mandate
Krajek sent a memorial to the Regent, in which he protested

2* Jaffet's Sword of Goliath, I. p. 19, etc. R's. Z., p. 280.

^^ Dekrete d. B. U., p. 173, etc., cited by Czerwenka.

^^ This edict was dated March the ninth, 155.4. All nobles who upheld
the Brethren were threatened with severe punishments. L. F., VIII. p.
73, etc., cited by Gindely.


against being called a heretic, and asked his intervention
with the King on behalf of the Unity. Its other nobles
transmitted similar communications. Ferdinand, to whom
they were forwarded, was so confounded by their number and
tone;, that he forgot his edict. Toward the end of the year,
however, he issued the strictest orders that it should be
observed, except — strange to say ! — at Jungbunzlau. The
persecution broke out afresh and threatened to become as
severe as it had ever been."''

In order to devise ways and means to meet this emergency,
the Synod was called together on the twenty-fifth of January,
1555. At the suggestion of Krajek, an appeal to the Arch-
duke Maximilian, the future King of Bohemia, was resolved on.

Maximilian was born at Vienna on the thirty-first of July,
1527. Among his tutors were secret Protestants, through
whose influence his views on the religious questions of the
day became more liberal than his father's. He corresponded
with Melanehthon and Paul Eber, applied to the Duke of
Wiirtemberg for the writings of the Reformers, appointed
John Pfauser, a Lutheran, his court-preacher, and another
Lutheran the tutor of his children.

It was in view of a tendency so decidedly partial to Prot-
estantism that the Brethren hoped for his good will and for
toleration through his aid. John Blahoslaw was sent to
Vienna as their commissioner. He arrived on the fifteenth
of March, 1555, and succeeded in interesting Pfauser in the
object of his mission, who promised to prepare the way for
further negotiations.^

During Blahoslaw's absence, Baron Krajek died, March the
eighteenth, 1555, at Jungbu nzlau.^ His death was a severe

*' About two hundred Utraquist priests, who inclined to Lutheranism,
were driven from Boliemia at this time. Tliey fled to Meissen and the
Palatinate, where they received consoling letters from Melanehthon.

28 Blahoslaw wrote a full account of all his visits to Vienna, which narra-
tive has been preserved in L. F., VIII. and reproduced in Quellen, pp.

'^^ Ernst Krajek was the son of Conrad Krajek. He was buried in tlie
new cemetery at Junglmnzlau, John Czerny delivering the funeral discourse.
At a later time a chapel was built over his grave. Todtenbuch, p. 26.


blow to the Unity. The youth and inexperience of his four
sons, who inherited his domains, succumbed to the craft of its
enemies, so that the new chapel, built by their father, was

On the eleventh of November, of the same year, the Synod
met again, at Prossnitz, and resolved to publish a new
hymnal — the preparation of which was intrusted to Czerny,
Blahoslaw and Adam Sturm^'^ — and to take in hand another
mission to Maximilian. Blahoslaw was again appointed
commissioner and intrusted with the following documents :
A petition to Maximilian ; a paper giving the reasons why
the Brethren had separated from the Roman Catholic
Church ; ^^ the Confession of 1 532 ; copies of the petitions
sent, in 1547, to Ferdinand and Charles the Fifth. But
Blahoslaw did not see the Archduke in person ; he gave the
documents to Pfauser, who promised to deliver them. Nor
did these visits fulfill the hopes of the Brethren.^^ All that
they gained was an indefinite promise, made by Maximilian
through his court-preacher, that he would do for them what
he could.

In the course of the year 1556 John Czerny carried on a
correspondence with the Duke of East Prussia, who desired
to secure a priest of the Unity as his court-preacher, which
request was declined;^ and with Flacius Illyricus, the cele-
brated author of the Catalogus Testium Veritatis and editor
of the Magdeburg Centuries. It was with regard to this

^° Sturm was a citizen of Leitomischl at the time when the Brethren
emigrated to Prussia and accompanied them. There he lost his Avife, and
afterward went to Moravia, where he entered the priesthood. At the time
of his death, October the fifth, 1565, he had charge of the parish at Leipnik.
He was an able hymnologist. t

»' Quellen, pp. 150-159.

^^ A third mission, at the instigation of Vergerius, was undertaken in
1557. It had for its special object the liberation of Bishop Augusta. The
Duke of Wiirtemberg sent, to this end, a very earnest appeal to Maxi-
milian, at the request of a number of Polish nobles. Quellen, p. 179 ;
Croeger, I. p. 298. John Kokita was appointed on this mission, but as he
fell ill, Blahoslaw took his place.

^^ Correspondence given in Quellen, pp. 112-121.


work that he wrote to the Council. He wished to enlist the
aid of the Brethren in his historical studies. The Brethren
— he asserted — were not the spiritual seed of Hus, but
descended from the Waldenses. They should commission
some one to visit Italy in order to investigate their early
history. In his answer to this communication Czerny cor-
rected its mistakes and sent Blahoslaw to Maffdeburf"; so that
he might give Flacius a complete account of the origin of the
Unity .^* But Flacius obstinately maintained his position,
and nothing could induce him to acknowledge that he had
fallen into a gross error. " He is," wrote Blahoslaw in his
journal, " a zealous and learned man ; he means to be
upright; but his highmindedness, obstinacy, and determina-
tion never to yield, stand in his way. He might compete
with Osiander in pride, quarrelsomeness and inaccessibility to
argument. While disputing with me, he became so angry
that his hands trembled." ^^ The result of Blahoslaw's
mission to Magdeburg was, on the one hand, the first History
of the Unitas Fratrum,^^ and, on the other, the inveterate
prejudice against the Brethren which Flacius thereafter
manifested on all occasions.

After Augusta and Bilek had been brought back to
Piirglitz, the former fell ill and remained in this state for
three months, without a physician, without medicine, without
a nurse. Bilek's entreaties to be allowed to minister to him
were refused. That under such circumstances the Bishop
eventually recovered, was almost a miracle. In the course
of time the rigor of their imprisonment was relaxed; and
with the permission of the Governor one of their original
guards was hired to wait on them. In this way Augusta's
correspondence with the Council was resumed. But this

** The letter of Flacius is found in Quellen, p. 273, that of Czerny in
Quellen, p. 275.

35 L. F., VIII. pp. 148-154, cited by Gindely.

3® This is the brief Latin History by Blahoslaw whicli we have repeatedly
quoted and which is found in L. F., VIII. It was written in 1556 and has
been published by GoU in his Quellen und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte
der Bohm.-Briider.


body did not follow aii opeu and upright course. The
appointment of new bishops was carefully concealed from
him, and a series of sermons on the Apostles' Creed,
which he had written in prison as a manual for daily
worship, was published only in part and in a greatly altered
form. The Council did not tell him that this work failed to
meet with its approbation ; and when he heard of the
mutilated edition and reproved Czerny for taking such an
unwarranted liberty, a truthful explanation of the case was
still withheld. Czerny merely begged his pardon and asked
him to allow the abbreviated manual to be used.



The Synod of Slezan and the History of the Church in Bohemia
and Moravia, to Augusta's liberatioii. A. D. 1557-1564.

The Jesuits in Bohemia. — Centennial Synod at Slezan. — Bishops elected.
— Three ecclesiastical Provinces constituted. — Fourth Mission to
Vienna. — Ferdinand proclaimed Emperor of Germany. — Meeting
of the Executive Council at Jungbunzlau. — Bodenstein applies to be
admitted to the Ministry of the Brethren. — Augusta's and Bilek's
Condition ameliorated. — Feud of the Bishop with the Council. —
Philippine Welser at Piirglitz. — The memorable Easter Festival. —
Measures to bring about the Liberation of the two Prisoners. — Re-
moved to the Jesuit College at Prague. — They deny their Faith. —
Augusta remanded to Purglitz. — Bilek free. — Excluded by the Council.
— Vergerius desires to join the Unity. — Augusta liberated. — Death of
the Emperor Ferdinand.

The concessions which his brother, the Emperor, was
obliged to grant the Protestants in Germany, roused Ferdinand
to withstand them the more resolutely in Bohemia. In the
former country, through the Religious Peace of Augsburg,
they were put upon the same footing as the Roman Catholics
(September, 1555); in the latter country, a few months prior
to the conclusion of this peace, appeared, at the King's own
invitation, the Jesuits, in the establishment of whose order he
recognized " the finger of God." They came to begin a new
crusade against evangelical liberty ; and although they en-
countered great opposition and were exceedingly unpopular
even among the Catholics, so that they could, at first, accom-
plish but little, their patience proved to be inexhaustible and
in due time had its reward. For when the Anti-reformation


was inaugurated, they swept Protestantism out of sight and
laid afresh upon Bohemia and Moravia the yoke of Home in
all its heaviness.^

Antipathy to the Brethren in particular continued to fill
Ferdinand's heart. Scarcely a year passed by in which he did
not issue a new edict against them. But these edicts failed
to revive a general persecution ; while in Moravia the Unity

Amidst such circumstances there convened at Slezan, on the
twenty-fourth of August, 1557, the centennial Synod of the
Unitas Fratrum.^ A century had been numbered since its
founding at Kunwald. The little seed had grown to be a
great tree. This tree had been bruised, its trunk scarred, and
some of its boughs broken ; but it had always revived and
flourished with new vigor. The larger part of Bohemia and
Moravia, and many portions of Poland and East Prussia,
rejoiced in its refreshing shade. Fervent gratitude to God
pervaded the Synod, and its members failed not to realize the
obligations which rested upon them to foster the branch of
His planting, that to it might come, in ever larger numbers,
sinners seeking rest and peace for their souls.

All the members of the Executive Council, more than two
hundred priests, and many deacons, acolytes and nobles,
attended this Synod .^ First of all a resolution was adopted

' On the eighteenth of April, 1555, twelve Jesuits, with the famous Peter
Canisius at their head, arrived in Prague and took possession of the Domini-
can monastery, near the bridge, in the Altstadt, which edifice Ferdinand
had given them. Upon its site, and upon the site of various neighboring
churches and other buildings, a new Jesuit college was erected in 1653 and
called the Clementinum. It is still standing, and forms a vast pile with a
splendid library and other apjjointments.

^ Dekrete d. B. U., p. 183, etc., cited by Czerwenka. Slezan was in Mora-
via, and several other synods were held tliere; but the name of this town
was subsequently changed, so that we cannot, at the present day, determine
where it was situated.

^ Regenvolscius, p. 61. The following nobles were present: Barons
Frederick von Zerotin, Frederick von Nachod, Benedict von Bilkow, from
Moravia and Boliemia, and Counts Jacob Ostrorog, Raphael Lescinski,
John Tomitzki, Albert Marszewski an<l John Krotoski, from Poland.


to elect two more bishops and thus re-establish the rule
according to which four bishops were to stand at the head of
the Unity. George Israel and John Blahoslaw were chosen
and ordained by Czerny and Cerwenka.* Wenzel Cech
having obtained a large number of votes, ranked, in the
Council, next after the bishops.

In the second place, the position of the Churches in Poland
and East Prussia was discussed. They were, as yet, missionary
Churches. But the Polish had increased in number and in-
fluence, so that they counted between thirty and forty, which
were modeled after the Bohemian and Moravian type of the
Unity .^ Its faith had, moreover, been accepted by a majority
of the magnates of Great Poland ; and Posen, Lissa, Lobsens,
Schocken, Ostrorog, Chocz, Barcin, Stawiszyn, Lutomirz,
together with other towns, were full of its adherents. In
view of such an expansion of the work a change in its char-
acter became desirable. With this object in view the Polish
representatives petitioned the Synod to set the newly ap-
pointed Bishop, George Israel, over the parishes in their
country and in East Prussia. This petition was granted ;
and thus the Polish and Prussian Churches became an integral
part of the Unitas Fratrum. At the same time Blahoslaw
was commissioned to superintend the Moravian parishes, and
Czerny and Cerwenka, the Bohemian. In this way three
ecclesiastical Provinces — the Bohemian, the Moravian, and
the Polish-Prussian — 'Cach with one or more bishops of its
own, were formed within the Unity. It was a measure which
the Synod did not formally decree, but which resulted from

* This was again an irregular ordination by which, strictly speaking,
Israel and Blahoslaw were constituted assistant bishojas, in as much as
Czerny and Cerwenka, in reality were not bishops, but assistant bishops.

^ Lukaszewicz, p. 36, says there were thirty parishes in Poland, in 1557 ;
Vergerius, in his Introduction to his new edition of the Confession of the
Brethren, says that he found about forty. The number increased, at a later
time, to seventy-nine (Lukaszewicz's List). Kegenvolscius, pp. 111-113,
counts up sixty in Great Poland, more than seven in Little Poland, five in
Silesia, and eight in Prussia.


its action, and, by common consent, was thereafter recognized
as a part of the constitution of the Church.''

In the third place the mutual relations of the Polish Protest-
ants were considered. The decisions given by the Synod, in
answer to questions put by the delegates from Poland with
regard to this point, tended to foster a union, without impair-
ing the integrity of the Brethren's Church.

Finally the vacancies in the Council were filled, so that this
body again numbered twelve members.

In September Blahoslaw undertook a fourth mission to
Vienna.^ He again had frequent interviews with Pfauser,
who told him that Maximilian, on reading the letter of the
Duke of Wurtemberg, had said : " I will remember the
Bohemians and would willingly help these good people, if I
could accomplish anything with my father. But even if this
were possible, my opponents in Bohemia, upon whose influence
depends everything which is to be done for that country, stand
in the way. Nevertheless if God gives me the government —
although I well know that these opponents do not desire this
— the Bohemians shall find a happy change. My hope is in
God that a change will come to pass." Vague promises like
this continued to be the only result of all the efforts the
Brethren made to win Maximilian's support. It was a mis-
taken policy which they were pursuing.

On the third of August, 1556, Ferdinand, as Roman King,
assumed the imperial government which, together with the
Netherlands, Spain, Naples and the New World, had been
resigned by his brother, Charles the Fifth, who thus gave the
most notable instance on record of a disappointed life, of a
reign blind to its glorious opportunities, and of the frailty of
human greatness. Nearly two years elapsed, however, before
Ferdinand was acknowledged by the Electors. They met,

^ The three Provinces of the ancient Unitas Fratrum correspond to the
three Provinces of the Renewed Church —the German or Continental, the
British, and the American — which are synodically acknowledged. " Pro-
vinces " is the official term by which these parts are known.

"> Quellen, pp. 182-184.


after protracted negotiations, at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, in
1558, and on the twenty-lbnrth of March proclaimed him
Emperor of Germany. He returned to Prague in November,
where he was received with grand ceremonies and every
demonstration of loyalty.

In the same year the Executive Council of the Unity met
at Jungbunzlau. Bishop Augusta being unable to fulfill the
duties of Chief Judge, Czerny and Israel were invested with
this office. The jurisdiction of the former extended over
Bohemia and Moravia; that of the latter, over Poland.
Blahoslaw was constituted Cerwenka's assistant as archivist;
and various rules were adopted relating to the discipline.^ At a
subsequent meeting this body had to decide an unexpected
question. Anton Bodenstein, the distinguished Lutheran
divine of East Prussia, who has been mentioned in another
connection, applied for admission to the ministry of the
Brethren's Church (June the twenty-eighth, 1558). As the
enthusiasm with which he had lauded their evangelical char-
acter and holy life, when he first became acquainted with
them, had subsequently, through the influence of Flacius,
changed into violent animosity and active opposition, the
Council suspected his sincerity and declined his overture.
Unabashed by this rebuff, he made two more attempts to gain
his object. But the Council remained firm.^

Meantime the Archduke Ferdinand had been frequently
coming to Piirglitz in order to hunt in its forests. His pres-
ence at the Castle, according to royal usage, brought about an
amelioration in the condition of the two prisoners. By far
the greatest benefaction which it conferred upon them, was the
removal of the shutters from their cellar- windows, so that
they could see the light of day.

Through the death of the man by whose aid Augusta had
carried on his correspondence, it was, about this time, inter-
rupted for a season. In 1559, however, two noble ladies,
members of the Unity, visited Piirglitz, brought a number of

® Dekrete d. B. U., p. 185, etc., cited by Czerwenka.

' Qnellen, pp. 240-255, contains the entire correspondence.


letters, and were permitted to have several interviews, at
meal-times, with both the prisoners. Before leaving these
ladies engaged another servant to farther the correspondence.
It was on the occasion of their visit, and either through
them or through the letters which they brought, that Augusta,
for the first time, heard of the election and ordination of new
bishops. Disappointed ambition, wounded pride and intense
anger inflamed his heart. Without stopping to weigh the
circumstances of the case, without giving it a moment's re-
flection, he seized his pen and wrote to the Council, declaring
the acts of the Synod of 1553 illegal and fulminating an
anathema against its leaders. This first letter he followed up
with a number of others, all conceived in the same dictatorial
spirit and bristling with similar harsh words.

The Council met at Zerawic in order to consider these com-
munications ; and resolved to maintain its ground. A reply
was framed setting forth : that the Unity was to be governed
not by one bishop, but by four bishops, in accordance with
the testament of Luke ; that no bishop could undertake any-
thing without the consent of his colleagues, and that all the
bishops, as a body, were bound to consult the Council ; that
these were fundamental principles of the constitution, which
principles must be maintained, at all hazards.^*^

By this reply the Council practically cut itself loose from
the authority of its President. And this Augusta well under-
stood. Hence his auger rose to such a pitch that he thought
of disowning the Brethren and forsaking the Unity. It was
a desperate idea, born of his passion, and rejected as soon as
he had grown calm again. Nevertheless the position which
he now assumed formed the second step in his downward
career. It is true that he had been deceived, by having, for six
years, been allowed to believe that he was the only bishop.
It is true that such a course evinced, on the part of the Coun-
cil, not only a want of common integrity but also a conscious-
ness of guilt, and in itself considered was unbrotherly and

JODekrete d. B. U., p. 202, cited by Czerweuka.


unmanly. It is true that he had a right to expect more con-
sideration and reverence at the hands of those over whom he
was set and to whom he had given an example of endurance
for the Gospel's sake almost unparalleled in history. But
none of these things justified his anger, his ambitious prefer-
ence of himself above the interests of the Church, his unworthy
fear of being superseded, his painful lack of that dignified
humility and blameless deportment which are the fairest
characteristics of a bishop.

In the following year (1560), the Archduke brought to the
Castle, Philippine Welser, his beautiful wife, whom he had
secretly married in 1550 ; and appointed Ladislaus von Stern-
berg its Governor." The Baroness von Sternberg was to be
Philippine's companion. For Augusta and Bilek the coming
of. these ladies, and of the new Governor, proved to be the
beginning of a better time. Both Sternberg and his wife
manifested a deep interest in their welfare; visited the Bishop
and advised him to draw up a petition asking to be set
free. Sternberg presented this paper to the Archduke, who
received it graciously and forwarded it to his father. Ferdi-
nand, since the Diet of 1552, had taken no further notice
of the request which the Bishop of Olmiitz at that time
had made, and had persistently declined to entertain any
other of the same character. Now, however, he wrote to
his son that Augusta and Bilek should be liberated provided
they were willing to recant unconditionally and join the
Catholic Church. He added that no further steps should be
taken in the case without the sanction of the Jesuits at Prague.

Six articles, in all probability formulated by these Fathers,
were accordingly laid before Augusta, who rejected them at
once. By the advice of Sternberg he however drew up a

" Philippine Welser was the daughter of a rich patrician of Augsburg
and celebrated for her beauty and extraordinary talents. The Arch-
duke's father was greatly displeased with the marriage which, for eiglit
years, he refused to recognize. In 1558, however, he became reconciled to
it, and created Philippine, Margravine of Burgau. She died in 1580. The
marriage proved to be one of uninterrupted happiness.


Online LibraryEdmund Alexander De SchweinitzThe 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 text (page 29 of 64)