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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sustained by immense wealth. He owned eight estates in
Moravia and one in Bohemia. His revenues Avere princely.^^

In order to give an idea of the style in which the barons of
the Unity lived, we will briefly describe Zerotin's home. It
was not exceptional in its magnificence, but a sample of the
seats of the higher aristocracy throughout Bohemia and

The domain on which he resided lay to the west of Briinn
and was called Namiest. It embraced an area of more than
twenty-five square miles ; its chief town, bearing the same
name as the estate, was situated on the Oslava, at the foot of
a hill crowned with massive rocks that were overtopped by
two crags. On these crags, between which was constructed a
draw-bridge, towered the stately home of Zerotin. The one
was covered with the dwellings of his officials ; from the other,
which beetled over the valley of the Oslava, rose the Castle.

^^ Chlumecky aptly calls Zerotin, " both a Maecenas and a scholar." His
estates were the following : Namiest, Kralitz, Rositz, Struty, Loninitz,
Drewohostitz, Prerau, Turnitz, and Brandeis on the Adler.


Round about it stood the houses of his retainers and domestics.
The sides of the hill presented a park of pines, beeches and
very old oaks. This park was stocked with deer. A flight
of broad marble steps, with statues on either hand, led to a
splendid portal opening into the court-yard, in the middle
of which appeared a fountain representing Neptune sur-
rounded by dolphins. The Castle was three stories high,
built in the romanesque style, and contained nearly one hun-
dred apartments.

Its establishment and all its appointments were regal in
their character. The Baron was surrounded by a court. To
it belonged scholars and artists whom he had invited to make
his house their home; gentlemen of the chamber, all of noble
birth ; pages waiting on him or the Baroness, and represent-
ing some of the most ancient families of Moravia ; the masters
and teachers of these pages ; secretaries ; equerries ; masters
of the chase ; and last, but by no means least, the chaplain,
who was a priest of the Unity. The retinue of servants was
very large. It consisted of valets, lackeys, haiducks, grooms,
stable-boys, huntsmen, barbers, watchmen and couriers ; the
culinary department was in charge of a kitchen-master with
numerous cooks and bakers under him ; in addition, there were
household tailors, shoemakers, saddlers and other tradesmen.

The Castle was rarely without guests. Among these the
bishops and ministers of the Unity were ever welcome.
They exercised a great influence in the family ; the chaplain
was the Baron's confidential adviser; religion gave tone to
the whole house. Every morning and evening the hymns of
the Brethren swelled, in sweet harmony, through its halls,
and from the Kralitz Bible were read aloud the words of
eternal life. It was a home, says Chlumecky, in which " pre-
vailed abundance without extravagance, hilarity without
excess, piety without sanctimoniousness." ^^

On his return from France Zerotin took part in a campaign
against the Turks. While thus engaged he was appointed
Assessor of the kSupreme Court of Moravia. In this position,

" Chlumecky's Zerotin, pp. 141-146.


no less than in the Diet, he distinguished himself by his
liberal course and soon stood at the head of a party that con-
tended for religious freedom and civil rights. In all his
efTorts he was supported by his cousin, Frederick von Zerotin,
the Governor of Moravia.

After Frederick's death (May the thirtieth, 1598), the
Romish reaction assumed formidable proportions and began
to single out Zerotin as a shining mark for its arrows. His
ruin would lead to the destruction of the Brethren's Church,
So argued the Catholic leaders, with whom his personal
enemies made common cause. About the beginning of the
year 1600, he was formally charged with treason and heresy.
The trial took place at Prague and resulted in his triumph-
ant acquittal. The reactionists were baffled; his personal
enemies covered with confusion. They succeeded, however,
in driving him from his seat on the bench.

At this time the chief advisers of the Emperor were the
notorious Melchior Khlesel,^^ Zbynek von Duba, Archbishop
of Prague, Albert von Lobkowitz, the Chancellor, Joroslaw
von Martinic, John Menzel, the imperial Secretary, and three
Jesuits, George Scherer, William Lamorraain and Jacob Ger-
anus, the Rector of the College. These men ceased not to
plot against the Unity and Protestantism in general. Their
designs in relation to Zerotin had failed, but a conspiracy
involving the destruction of the Brethren in a body might
be more successful. For months the capital was full of rumors.
A grand stroke, it was whispered, had been concocted. Prague
would soon see terrible things. For such dark sayings there
was cause. On the second of September, 1 602, heralds issued
from the gates of the Hradschin, came down into the city and
with the blast of trumpets published, from street to street, a
decree renewing the Edict of St. James.

1^ Khlesel was the son of a baker, who was a Lutheran. Through the
influence of the Jesuit Scherer he became a pervert to the Romish faith
and entered the service of the Catholic Church, in which he rose to be
Bishop of Vienna and subsequently a Cardinal. He was the bitter and un-
compromising foe of Protestantism in every shape and form.



The infamy of this measure was surpassed only by its bold-
faced assurance. A Romish persecution was ordered in a
Protestant country! Of the nobility scarcely one-tenth, of
the people less than one-tenth, belonged to the Catholic
Church .^^ And yet this insignificant minority meant to
coerce the conscience of a nation.

At first Prague and all Bohemia stood aghast. Although
the Picards only were mentioned in the edict, no one doubted
that it was aimed at the Protestants as a body. But the con-
sternation soon subsided. The magistrates of the capital re-
ported to the Chancellor that it was impossible to carry out
their instructions. A burlesque of the decree appeared,
ostensibly issued in heaven by God. This parody, probably
from the pen of a member of the Unity, met with an immense
sale. It was followed by a hymn in memory of Hus and the
reprint of a satirical production published at the time of the
Council of Trent." Men laughed over these travesties, and
yet failed not to realize that they were signs of a grave crisis.

The Brethren of Prague deemed it prudent to omit their
public worship and meet in secret; those at Jungbunzlau
suffered an irreparable loss. This town, in 1597, had bought
its freedom of Bohuslaw Hasseustein and thus become a royal
city. It constituted the most flourishing seat of the Unity in
all Bohemia. In addition to Mount Carmel, with its ancient
chapel, parsonage and school, was the beautiful church built
by Krajek, in 1555. The membership was large and pros-
perous. Here synods were often held, on which occasions
Jungbunzlau was thronged with bishops and ministers. It
formed the centre of sacred memories reaching back to the
earliest time of the Brethren and around many a familiar spot
clustered hallowed associations of a later age.

In this venerable precinct appeared two imperial commis-
sioners, and on the eleventh of November, 1602, closed the

'^ Gindeiy's Eudoif 11. u. seine Zeit, I. p. 179,

" Czerwenka, II. pp. 509, 510. Sixtus Palma, the publisher, was im-
prisoned and eventuallj' banished.


chapel and church ; on the twenty-third of December, the
parsonage and school. Several mouths later these buildings,
together with the land belonging to them, were confiscated by
the Emperor and, in 1606, sold to the town, which endowed a
hospital with the entire property. A similar fate befell the
parish at Moldauteinitz.

The perils threatening the Unity awakened a new champion
in its defence.

Wenzel Budowec von Budowa, born about the year 1547,
after spending twelve years in foreign countries, partly at
universities and partly on travels, and acquiring a number
of languages, had been associated, in the reign of Maximilian,
with Baron David Ungnad in an imperial embassy to Con-
stantinople. In that city he passed four years and mastered
both the Arabic and Turkish tongues. ^^ He returned to Bo-
hemia rich in experience, progressive in his views, strong in
his determination to secure religious liberty for his Church
and countrymen.

At the Diet that met at Prague, in January, 1603, he be-
came, by common consent, the leader of the Protestant party.
It was proposed to withhold supplies from the Emperor until
he had revoked his decree. But Budowa delivered a brilliant
speech, in which, after showing that the edict affected all
Protestants alike, he urged measures that would be strictly
legal. Money for the war against the Turks should be
unconditionally voted, but at the same time a petition should
be presented to the Emperor asking him to protect his subjects
against an edict which had originated through the evil
counsels of his advisers and their ignorance of the constitu-
tional law of Bohemia. This suggestion was adopted. But
when the clique behind Rudolph's throne perceived that the
Protestant states meant to employ legal and not, as they had
hoped, revolutionary measures, they induced him to pro-

'^ While at Constantinople he studied the Mohammedan religion and re-
futed its claims in a work which he entitled "Antialkoran." This work
was by many so entirely misunderstood that he was accused of having
embraced the Moliammedan faitli.


rogue the Diet before the petition could be signed and to call
Budowa to an account for his speech.

Budowa pledged his word to appear whenever cited. In
the following month the citation took place. He repaired to
Prague and deposited in the Chancellor's office the petition
of the Diet, a German translation of the Bohemian Con-
fession, and a paper of his own proving by incontrovertible
arguments that the states had the law on their side. When
these papers were presented to Rudolph he was so deeply-
impressed that lie quashed further proceedings against Bu-
dowa and sent him a message saying, that he desired, above
all things, to maintain friendly relations with the Protestants.

But his advisers were not satisfied. With a high hand
they carried out measures still more reactionary in their char-
acter. A second decree appeared, ordering a strict observ-
ance of the first, especially in royal cities ; a Catholic Synod
was held (September the twenty-eighth, 1605), the first since
the rehabilitation of the arch-bishopric; every priest, pro-
fessor, student, physician, teacher, bookseller and printer was
required to sign an oath of allegiance to the ecclesiastical
authorities ; and a strict censorship of the press was established.

Such measures could not but defeat themselves. They
cemented the bond between the Brethren and Lutherans.
They roused up both these parties. They formed the step-
ping stone to religious liberty.



The Polish Branch of the Church to the General Synod of
Thorn. A. D. 1581-1595.

Opposition to tlie Sendomirian Confederation. — Gerike and Enoch. — Synod
of Posen. — General Synod of Wladislaw. — Gerike and the Jesuits. —
Death of King Steplien. — Election of Sigismund tlie Third. — His
bigoted Policy and its Results. — Appeal to the Diet. — Breach and
Reconciliation between Gliczner and Turnovius. — The General Synod
of Thorn and its Enactments. — Gerike excommunicated. — Results of
the Synod.

The union among the Protestants of Poland began to totter.
This was owing to the baneful influences w'hich proceeded
from Posen. In that city were two Lutheran churches; the
one German, in charge of Paul Gerike; the other Polish, with
John Enoch, a renegade from the Brethren whose discipline
he could not brook, as its minister. Upon both these men
had fallen Morgenstern's mantle of intolerance. In language
as bitter as that which had come from his lips they preached
against the Consensus Sendomiriensis and denounced the fel-
lowship of the Lutherans with the Unity. Such a course was
suicidal. The encroachments of the Roman Catholics could
be successfully resisted only by an unbroken phalanx. This
the Protestant leaders fully realized, and in order to restore
harmony, convoked at Posen a joint Synod of the Brethren
and the Lutherans. It met on the fourteenth of February,
1582. Three bishops of the Unity, thirty of its priests, two
Lutheran superintendents and twenty ministers took part in
its deliberations. The Consensus was anew ratified; while


Gerike and Euocli were rebuked and admonished to desist
from their injurious course. In the following year, at a Gen-
eral Synod held at AVladislaw, on the ninth of June, a still
more formal agreement was entered into by all the three Pro-
testant Churches, that the confederation of Sendomir should
be maintained. In order to give to it more authority the
publication of the Consensus, in Latin and Polish, was re-
solved upon. Several senators, many magnates and about
seventy clerical representatives of the Brethren's, the Lutheran
and the Reformed Confessions composed the membership of
this Synod.^

These convocations, however, did not heal the breach at
Posen. Enoch grew more tractable and, after a time, re-
signed his- charge; but his successor, Andrew Luperian, the
son-in-law of Morgenstern, showed himself to be a bitter foe
of union, and Gerike, smarting under the reproof which he
had received, became more violent than before. Not satisfied
with personally declining to recognize the Brethren, he for-
bade his parishioners to visit their church, and uublushingly
proclaimed from his pulpit, that an alliance between the
Lutherans and Jesuits would be preferable to the Seudomir-
ian confederation. The Jesuits were not slow to profit by
these dissensions. They flattered Gerike's vanity, assuring
him that he was the only true Lutheran in all Poland ; they
praised his zeal ; tliey incited him to still more vehement de-
nunciations; and then contrasted the quarrels of the Protest-
ants with the peace and unity prevailing among Catholics.
The result Avas, that not a few Protestants of Posen were
triumphantly led back, by the cunning Fathers, to the bosom
of the mother-church.

Gerike and his associate ministers at Posen were not alone
in their opposition to the Consensus; a similar tendency ex-
isted among the German Lutheran churches of Lithuania.
This was plainly seen in the so-called Concordia Vilnensis
which they issued (1583), and became still more evident from

' Lukaszewicz, pji. 99 and 100 ; Krasiuski, p. 79, etc.


the fact that they declined to send delegates to the General
Synods. But they did not, like Gerike, openly attack the
confederation ; and it was supported by the Polish Lutheran
churches of Lithuania.

In 1586 King Stephen died, at Grodno, after a brief
illness. This event was a severe blow to the Protestant
cause. He had remained true to the principle laid down at
the beginning of his reign. Catholic though he was, he had
not interfered with the religious beliefs of his subjects. His
successor, Sigismund the Third, elected on the nineteenth of
August, 1587, pursued a different course. The only son of
John the Third, of Sweden, a Protestant monarch, and the
grandson of the illustrious Gustavus Vasa, he nevertheless,
through the influence of his mother, became a bigoted Pom-
anist.^ The sway exercised over him by the Jesuits was
absohite. He was a mere tool in their hands. Without the
advice of Bernhard Golynski, one of their order and his private
confessor, he did nothing, whether in matters of religion or
of the state.

Of the nefarious counsels which he thus received, his reign
began to give evidence. An open persecution would have
been premature. Other ways were, therefore, suggested. The
most notable showed the astuteness of the Fathers. By all
the means within his reach he commenced favoring the Cath-
olics. To them alone he granted the starosties which were
at his disposal ; ^ they were invested with the highest and

2 His mother was the sister of Bigismund Augustus, of Poland. Sigis-
mund the Third was born June the twentieth, 1566. The Archduke
Maximilian of Austria disputed his election and supported, by the force of
arms, his own claims, until he was taken prisoner and forced to renounce
the crown. After the death of Sigismund's father (1592) he became King
of Sweden also, but Avas deposed in 1604 and his uncle, Charles the Ninth,
whom he had appointed Kegent, ascended the Swedish throne.

* Krasinski, II. p. 93, Note, says : " The kings of Poland possessed a great
number of domains known under the name of Starosties, which they were
obliged to distribute to nobles, who held tliem for life. These estates were
converted into powerful instruments of seduction in the hands of Sigismund
the Third, wlio with them rewai-ded tliose who deserted from Protestant-
ism, or tlie Greek Church, and became converts to Komanism."


most lucrative offices; if recent perverts from the Evangelical
faith, he heaped riches and distinctions upon them ; honors
and emoluments were held out to noblemen as inducements to
deny their religion; vacancies in the Senate, which at the
beginning of his reign had been an almost wholly Protestant
body, were filled with Romanists until but two Protestant
members remained ; to the complaints which came from the
Evangelical party in all sections of his kingdom, he turned a
deaf ear.

The ultimate result of the Jesuitical policy thus inaugu-
rated was the ruin of Poland ; its immediate consequences
were heavy losses inflicted on Protestantism. Many of its
adherents fell away — magnates and inferior nobles, citizens
and peasants ; many domains on which its churches and
schools had been a shining light, grew dark with Romish
superstition and intolerance. At the same time the Jesuits
themselves were indefatigable in their efforts. From the
pulpit, with all the eloquence of which they were masters,
they appealed to the Poles to return to the Catholic Church ;
through the press they sent forth a stream of polemical
writings. The Archbishop of Gnesen, the Bishop of Cujavia
and the Bishop of Posen lent their powerful aid. Svnods
were held in order to promote the authority of Rome ; at
Kalish a second Jesuit College was founded. Even violent
measures were resorted to. At Cracow a mob, instigated by
the Jesuits and led by the students of the University, burned
the Protestant church (1591); at Posen, two years later, the
pupils of the Jesuit schools attempted to destroy the Breth-
ren's church, but were obliged to desist when they found the
populace unwilling to join in the outrage. Sigismund himself,
on his way to Sweden, seized the principal churches of Thorn
and Elbing and gave them to the Catholics. It was high
time for the Protestants to bestir themselves.

The Brethren took the initiative. Bishop Turnovius pro-
ceeded to Warsaw, in May, 1593, and appealed to the Diet.
He was in the noon-tide of his influence and popularity,
respected both by nobles and the common people for his learn-


ing, eloquence and zeal."* His appeal was supported by
many magnates ; and in spite of the efforts of its Catholic
members the Diet passed a severe law against all disturbers
of the public peace. For a time the Protestants remained

But discord continued to throw their own ranks into con-
fusion. Gerike inveighed, as vehemently as ever, against the
Consensus; Erasmus Gliczner, excited by the remonstrances
of Lutheran divines in Germany, began to waver. In 1594
he published, at Dantzic, a Polish version of the Augustana,
Avith a preface criticising the Confessions both of the Brethren
and the Reformed and making no allusion whatever to the
Sendomirian confederation. This unwarranted proceeding
was highly resented by Turnovius, who wrote his celebrated
" Defence of the Consensus Sendomii'iensisr An open breach
took place. It would have led to grave consequences, if the
two leaders had not been reconciled, through the exertions of
Count Andrew Leszcynski and other magnates, at the Diet of
Cracow, in the following year.^

On the same occasion it was agreed to convoke another
General Synod. Invitations were sent to all parts of the

The response was prompt and enthusiastic.^ From Great
and Little Poland, from Lithuania, Polish Prussia, Red and

* Turnovius spoke Polish, Bohemian and German with great fluency,
was master of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew, a poet of no mean rank, a pro-
ficient in music, an astronomer and a historian.

^ A written compact, containing nine points, was signed by Gliczner and
Turnovius, as also by several witnesses. This compact is given by Luk-
aszewicz, pp. 106 and 107 ; Jablonski in Con. Send., pp. 240 and 241 ;
Salig Hist. Aug. Conf., p. 787. Tlie full title of Turnovius' work was: " De-
fence of the Sendomirian Consensus and of the evangelical confessions
contained therein, against that improper edition of the Augsburg Confes-
sion which annuls this Consensus. In the year 1594."

* Full accounts of the Synod are found in Krasinski, II. chap. -3 , Fischer,
II. pp. 39-82; Lukaszewicz, i^p. 107-134, whose principal sources are Dan-
iel Mikolajewski's official report as clerical secretary and a MS. History
of the Synod by Turnovius. This History, translated from the Polish
into German, is found in full in Fischer, II. Anhang, No. 2, p. 405, etc.


White Russia, from Volhynia, Podolia and the Ukraine, a
large number of nobles flocked to Thorn, the place of meeting.
They were joined by more than seventy clerical delegates.
The Brethren, the Lutherans and the Reformed were all
fully represented. After a solemn service of praise and
prayer in the church of St. Mary, the Synod was opened on
the twenty-first of August, 1595. Stanislaus Orzelski, Starost
of Radziejow, a man of learning and influence, was chosen lay
president; Andrew Rzeczycki, Chamberlain of Lublin, his
assistant; Bishop Turuovius, Erasmus Gliczner and Francis
Jezierski, the Superintendent of the Reformed churches in
Little Poland, clerical presidents. The sessions were held in
the aula of the gymnasium ; every morning, early at six
o'clock, a synodical sermon was preached in the church.
Several attempts were made by representatives of the King,
of the Bishop of Cujavia, and of three palatinates, to break
up the Synod ; but it did not allow itself to be intimidated
and, declaring its convocation to be in accordance w'ith con-
stitutional law, proceeded to the important business for which
it had been called.

This business comprised the Consensus Sendomiriensis, the
discipline, church-government, and the persecutions of the
Jesuits. In relation to the last of these points a deputation of
twelve magnates was appointed to lay before the King the
grievances of his Protestant subjects ; with regard to the other
points, eighteen enactments were adopted. The first treated
of the Consensus and was formulated as follows :

"Our evangelical Consensus, adopted at Seudomir in 1570, ex-
plained by the Consignatio of Posen in the same year, revised
and ratified by the General Synods of Cracow, Petrikau and
Wladislaw — as this is set forth in the conies printed, in Latin
and Polish, at Thorn, in 1592 — we unanimously re-adopt and re-
affirm at this our General Synod of Thorn : we protest against
the course of our opponents who, by word of mouth and in their
writings, have ventured to cast into our teeth that we are not
united and that our Consensus is spurious : and we testify, that
we faithfully hold to and foster this true Consensus, and accord-
ing to its principles are united in holy harmony."

The remaining enactments related to the obligatory char-


acter of the Consensus, the discipline, schools, the duty of
patrons, the goverumentof the churches, and the importance of
observing prayer and fast days in view of the dangers threat-
ening the Polish Protestants/ On the twenty-sixth of August
the Synod adjourned with praise and thanksgiving to God.

Its proceedings in relation to Paul Gerike had been sum-
mary. Inasmuch as he had refused to accept the Consensus,
had continued to protest against the confederation, and, at last,
secretly left Thorn, he had been excommunicated. And now,

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 40 of 64)