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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Lobkowitz, Martinic, and Adam von Sternberg, Rudolph
became unfaithful to his pledge. In spite of the near meeting
of what promised to be the most momentous Diet of his reign
he issued three decrees interfering anew with the religious
beliefs of his subjects. A course so infatuated did not promise
harmony, but made the Evangelical states all the more
determined to gain their end.

The Diet opened on the twenty-eighth of January, 1609.
Budowa, Stephen von Sternberg and Matthias von Thurn
were the leaders on the Protestant side. Five times the states
renewed their demand for religious liberty; five times the
Emperor, incited by the Archbishop, the Jesuits and the
head-strong among his own councilors, declined to grant their
demand. Was this that settlement of the religious question
which he had solemnly promised when his brother's army
was menacing his capital? But he had still another stroke in
reserve. On the thirty-first of March the Diet was prorogued.
This perfidious measure roused Budowa to action. Calling to
the Protestant members as they were dispersing he begged
them to meet the next morning. They came and enthusi-
astically adopted a written declaration, which he had drawn
up, that the course of the Government obliged the Evangelical
states to convene, on their own responsibility, on the coming
fourth of May, in order to take measures for the defence of
their religion, their country, their families and king. Mean-
time envoys were to be sent to Matthias, to the Electors of
Saxony, Brandenburg and the Palatinate, to the Duke of
Brunswick and the Silesiau and Lusatian Diets, in order to
ask for their intervention.

Toward the end of April the nobles, accompanied by
numerous retainers, hastened to Prague. On the appointed
day they repaired to the Hradschin. Their first act was,
once more to approach Rudolph with protestations of loyalty
and the earnest petition that he would reopen the Diet.
These overtures were harshly rejected. Even the use of a
hall was refused. Then they took their holy cause into their
own keeping. Standing in the court-yard of the Castle they


solemnly swore, with bared heads and right hands lifted up
to heaven, that they would gain religious liberty at any cost
and be true to each other whatever might betide. This done,
they marched, in closed ranks, to the Council House of the
Neustadt, paying no attention to the royal officer who ordered
them to disperse, and took possession of that building.

On the next morning (May the sixth), these fearless
defenders of their faith met again. Before the deliberations
opened they all, at Budowa's suggestion, fell on their knees
and sang a hymn beginning, " Send us. Lord, Thy Holy
Spirit." Its solemn strains reached the multitude without
which instantly grew still, and many a murmured intercession
mingled with the hymn. After the singing a prayer was
offered. The subsequent meetings were opened and closed in
the same way. And when a memorial had been prepared
and six nobles were sent to present it to Rudolph, the rest
remained in the Council House calling upon the Lord to turn
the king's heart and prosper their undertaking.

Rudolph was disposed to yield. The memorial, the repre-
sentations of the Saxon ambassadors, the reply of the powers
to whom the states had appealed and who all, with the excep-
tion of Matthias, promised their aid, could not but impress
him. Hence he reopened the Diet (May the twenty-fifth).
But the Archduke Leopold, Bishop of Passau, who, soon
after, arrived in Prague, and the persistent obstinacy of his
own councilors, wiped out such impressions. On the fifth of
June, in answer to the petition of the Diet, he once moi-e
declined to grant religious liberty. The Evangelical states
immediately appointed a committee to take measures for their
defence j while the Catholic states made common cause with
them, in spite of the protest of the imperial councilors. In a
few days the report of the committee was ready. This report
embodied an address to the Emperor; the draft of a charter;
and an appeal to the public. The address declined all further
negotiations with the imperial councilors and announced the
intention of the states to elect Directors and arm themselves.
Rudolph now tried, in various ways, to compromise. But


the states remained firm. Their draft of a charter was their
ultimatum. They appointed thirty Directors, and while
Prague raised four thousand five hundred men, the nobles
hastened to their domains to levy additional troops. The
Emperor was forced to yield. After negotiating, for several
days, with the Directors, who manfully maintained the
demands of their constituents, he signed the charter, iu the
evening of Thursday, the ninth of July. It became Lobko-
witz's duty, as Chancellor, to countersign it. But he refused;
saying that his conscience forbade him. Hence Adam von
Sternberg, the Burggrave of Prague, attached his signature.^

Upon the basis of the Bohemian Confession of 1575 the
charter granted absolute religious liberty throughout the
kingdom; the University and the "Lower Consistory of
Prague," ^ were given over to the Protestants ; they received
permission to erect churches and establish schools ; the Diet
was empowered to elect Defenders ; and all edicts, whatever
their origin or form, against the Protestants, were forever
rescinded. In the draft presented by the Diet the word
" Evangelical " was used to designate the Protestant party ;
in the charter itself this party was designated as "all those
three estates of our Bohemian kingdom that receive the body
and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under both kinds." This
was the only change which Rudolph made. It embraced
under the common name of " Utraquists," the Unitas Fratrum,
the Lutherans, the Reformed, and the remnant of Old Utra-
quists, who, however, were soon lost among the other denomi-

^ John Menzel, tlie royal Secretary, also declined signing, and Panl
Michna, a foreigner, recently appointed Secretary of the Chancellor's office,
signed in his place.

* These words of the charter do not imply inferiority, but relate to the
seat of the old Utraquist Consistory, in the lower part of the city; whereas
tlie Catholic Consistory had its seat on the Hradschin Hill.

* The charter was written in Boheniiau. Ferdinand the Second destroyed
the original ; but there is a copy, beautifully engrossed on jjarchment, in the
library of Zittau, in Saxony, together witii an affidavit of tlie' burgomaster
and coimcil of the Neusladt of Prague, setting forth that this transcript is


In accordance Avith this charter, the same clay on which it
was signed, the Protestant Directors and the Catholic states
concluded an " Agreement," providing for amicable relations
between the two Churches, especially in towns and villages
where both were represented. To this important document
Lobkowitz, Slawata and Martinic refused to attach their
signatures. On the twelfth of July the charter was delivered
to the Directors and carried, in solemn procession, through
the streets, which were thronged with a jubilant multitude,
to the Altstadt, where psalms of praise were chanted in the
church of the Holy Cross. In the same edifice, three days
later, a solemn thanksgiving service took place. But the
festival was not confined to that sanctuary. The entire city
was alive with joy. Bells rang out a glad peal ; inscriptions
adorned houses and gates ; the people sang and shouted and
congratulated each other ; while the keynote of all such mani-
festations was, Te Deum laudamus! Amidst this jubilee, in
which many Catholics joined, the Jesuits appointed a forty
hours' devotion, " that the Romish faith might be gra-
ciously preserved from the scandalous undertakings of the

On the twenty-second of July, of the same year, the Diet
reassembled. Its most important duty was, to regulate the
internal affairs of the Evangelical Church and especially the
relation of the Brethren to their fellow Protestants. After

true and correct. It is, without doubt, that copy which was preserved in
the archives of the Protestant Consistory and was brought to Zittau in the
Anti-Reformation. John Borott, Pastor of the Bohemian cliurch at that
place, publislied it in 1803, togetlier witli a German translation and im-
portant notes (Der von Rudolpli dem Zweiten ertlaeilte Majestatsbrief, etc.,
Gorliz, bei C. G. Anton, 1803). Gindely gives the charter in full, II. pp.
445-454 ; also Pesclieck, I. p. 159, etc. ; in the English translation of
Pescheck's work it is found in Vol. I. pp. 167-177. The charter and the
Agreement of the Protestants and Catholics were recorded in the National
Register's office; the original documents, inclosed in a silver case, were
deposited in the Castle of Carlstein, on the Moldau, about seventeen miles
below Prague. In this Castle all the official documents of the kingdom
were preserved.


protracted consultations a document was })repared embracing,
in substance, the following points :

All parties, namely, the Brethren, the Lutherans, the Reformed
and those priests who have been ordained by the Archbishop
but have joined the Protestants, accept the Bohemian Confession
of 1575; the name by which they are to be known in common
is, " Utraquist Christians ;" a pious and learned priest is to be
elected Administrator of the Consistory ; next to him in rank is
to stand a Bishop of the Unity ; the other members of the Con-
sistory are to be three professors of the University, and seven
priests, of whom two are to belong to the Brethren ; the Con-
sistory directs and superintends the Bohemian Evangelical
Church ; the Administrator, with the assistance of the other
members, ordains its priests, but priests of the Brethren are to be
ordained "according to the mode and order in use among them,"
although " the said Administrator is also to lay his hands upon
them ;" such priests are to be installed by the Bishops of the
Unity and the Administrator shall not hinder these Bishops in
any way, but every one shall abide by his own order, ceremonies
and rites ; priests ordained in foreign countries and wishing to
serve a Bohemian parish must apply to the Consistory and
accept the Bohemian Confession."

When this paper had been agreed upon, there was held, in
the Thein church, a solemn service in the course of Avhich a
sermon was preached and, at the close, the Te Deum chanted.
From the church the congregation proceeded to the Carollnum,

^ Czerwenka, II. p. 578, is guilty of a strange inaccuracy. He says tliat
tlie priests of the Brethren were thereafter ordained by the Administrator.
This is simply absurd, as the Ratio Disciplin(B, adopted a few years later,
shows. The document, which Czerwenka had before him, reads : " Like-
wise those persons of his (the Administrator) own order, or belonging to his
own party, desiring to enter the priestly office among those called the
United Brethren, being found fit and wortliy by tliem, and willing to con-
form to the doctrine contained in this Confession, shall be examined,
ordained and consecrated, according to the mode and order in use among
them; and tlie said Administrator is also to lay his hands upon tliem"
(Pescheck, I. p. 202). Moreover, this passage not only refutes Czerwenka,
but also refers, in our judgment, merely to such candidates for the priest-
hood as came from the Administrator's "own party," that is, from the
Lutheran and Reformed Churches, and not to such as were born and bred
in the Unity, who were ordained without tlie aid of the Administrator.
The entire document is given by Pescheck, I. p. 197-203, and by Skala, I.
p. 249, etc.


where the document was signed by the representatives of the
Diet, on the one part, and the Bishops and priests of the
Brethren, on the other. Tliere were present many nobles,
citizens, and clergy, to the number of five hundred from all
parts of the country. This important act was consummated
on the twenty-eighth of September, 1609.

While the Unitas Fratruni cordially united with its fellow
Protestants in the way which has now been set forth, it had
no thought of relinquishing its own confession, constitution,
peculiarities, or orders. This is evident from its subsequent
history. In accordance with its enlarged views, such a posi-
tion was consistent. The Brethren could form an integral
part of the Evangelical Church of Bohemia and yet maintain
all that was their own.

On the sixth of October the election of the Consistory and
Defenders took place.

Elias Sud von Semanin, incumbent of the Thein church,
was chosen Administrator of the Consistory and Matthias
Cyrus the episcopal representative of the Unity.'' Its other
two representatives were John Cyrill and John Corvin. The
Consistory received minute instructions, setting forth its duties
and privileges, as also the ritual and ceremonies which it was
to regulate.^

Twenty-four Defenders were next elected — eight barons,
eight knights and eight citizens. About one-third of these
Defenders belonged to the Unity. Budowa was prominent.
They, too, received instructions carefully formulated.^ It
was their duty to look after the Consistory and University ,^
and to guard against any infringement of the Bohemian Con-
fession, of the union of the Protestants, of the charter and the
Agreement with the Catholics.

Not until all these affairs had been settled did the states
disband their army. Rudolph gave them a written amnesty.

' He was, however, not consecrated to the episcopacy until 1611.
* Instructions in full given by Pescheck, I. pp. 204-223.
'' Instructions to the Defenders, Pescheck, I. pp. 223-233.


This amnesty Ijobkowitz, Slawata and Martinic again refused
to sign. In the next session of the Diet Budowa called thera
to an account. They excused themselves by saying, that their
declination was a matter of conscience. A fiery speech, in
which he denounced them as enemies of liberty and peace,
constituted Budowa's reply. This jar was the first sign
portending a short-lived existence of religious liberty.

On the twenty-third of February, 1610, the Diet adjourned.



The Unitas Fratrum as a legally recognized Church in Bohemia.
Its further History in Poland. A. D. 1610-1620.

Rapid Development of Protestantism. — Churches, Schools and the Uni-
versity. — Number of Protestants. — Rudolph's Conspiracy and Resigna-
tion. — His Death. — Matthias succeeds him. — Progress of the Unity. —
Proposed Endowments. — Death of Bishops Ariston, Turnovius, Bar-
tholomew Nemcansky and Narcissus. — Consecration of Cruciger,
Rybinius, Gertich, Koneczny, Cyrus, Erastus and John Turnovius. —
Zerotin as Governor of Moravia. — State of the Brethren in Poland. —
Effort to renew the Sendomirian Confederation. — Ostrorog. — Printing
Press and Endowment. — Synod of Zerawic. — The Ratio Disciplinae. —
John Amos Comenius. — Death of Bishop Cyrus and Consecration of
Cyrill. — Dispute about the Bethlehem Chapel.

The Bohemian charter was the fruit produced by the labors
and conflicts and intercessions of two centuries. It repre-
sented the dying testimony of John Hus, the battle-cry of tlie
Taborites, the sufferings of Gregory and all his fellow con-
fessors, the prayers in which the Brethren had been instant,
their endurance amid.st persecutions, the holy work which one
generation had transmitted to the next, the trust and hopes of
other Protestants, the longing of a nation to serve God as
conscience dictated. And now that such aspirations had been
fulfilled, a joyous development began in the religious life of
the kingdom. In Prague, in other cities, in nearly every town
and village, there were churches in which was preached the
free grace of Christ, justification by faith, all the counsel of
God. Before long twenty-two places of Protestant worship
could be counted in the capital, while nearly five hundred


Evangelical clergymen, each in charge of a parish, were labor-
ing throughout the kingdom.^ Protestants and Catholics
lived at peace. The "Agreement" was faithfully observed.
" One could often find," says Pelzel, a Roman Catholic his-
torian, "in one and the same Bohemian village, two or three
parishes, ministers and teachers, representing as many different
confessions, but all maintaining amicable relations."^

Bohemia had always been noted for its schools ; now they
began to flourish and increase in an unprecedented degree.
There was not a market-town without at least one school,
while larger towns had several. In Prague there were sixteen,
besides two gymnasia. Paul Stransky, a celebrated Professor
of the University, testifies that the Bohemian schools were, at
that time, the best in Europe. They were parish schools, each
in charge commonly of two teachers, sometimes of five or six.
No one was employed as an instructor unless he had attained
to the degree of a Bachelor of Arts ; in a majority of cases the
teachers had reached the degree of Masters. The result was
that men could be found in the ordinary walks of life, familiar
with Virgil, Ovid and Horace, even with Homer and Ana-
creon, and able to compose Latin and Greek verses.^

However unsuccessful Rudolph's reign proved to be in
other respects, it was a golden age for Bohemian learning and
literature. Prague could boast of celebrities like Tycho Brahe,
the astronomer, John Kepler, the mathematician, John Jessen,
the physiologist and anatomist, all drawn to that city through
the Emperor's munificence. The University enjoyed his
special favor. It had fallen into decay, but began to revive
under his fosterino; care.

I Perscheck, I. p. 239 and Czerwenka, IT. p. 594, who gives the names of
the churches in Prague.

^ Pelzel, II. p. 653.

3 Pelzel, II. p. 678, who is our authority for all that we have said with
regard to schools. Their superior character, as set forth by tliis author and
by Stransky, must be understood in a relative sense. It is well known that
the system of education, in that age, was open, in many respects, to severe
criticism and induced Comenius to devise his better method.


Sucli a restoration was zealously pushed forward by the
Protestant Consistory and Defenders, as soon as the University
passed into their hands. Its resources were developed ; its
ancient fame was restored. Budowa took a deep interest in
this seat of learning. The Professors were distinguished for
their thorough scholarship and enlightened understanding.
Besides Jessen and Stransky, some of the most celebrated were
B ichaczius, Nigellus, Simon Skala, Campanns and Troilus.

That the general revival of learning throughout the kingdom
was a direct result of Protestantism, Pelzel acknowledges.
" The most remarkable feature of the case," he says, " is the
fact, that the Protestants of Bohemia, who always tried to
enlighten the people, brought this about. Nearly all the
learned men of this period belonged to their Church." *

The rapid increase of the membership of the Evangelical
Church, was another consequence of religious liberty. Bohe-
mia became, even more completely than prior to the granting
of the charter, a Protestant country. We may give statistics
which are at least approximately correct. The total popula-
tion amounted to about three million. Of this number per-
haps two hundred and fifty thousand were Catholics, and
about two million seven hundred and fifty thousand Pro-
testants. It is important, in order to gain a correct insight
into the character of the Anti-Reformation, to remember these

Rudolph bitterly repented of his course, both in its relation
to Matthias and the Protestants. He hated his brother and
bewailed his own weakness in granting the charter. The
Archduke Leopold encouraged such sentiments. They plotted
together and, at last, formed a conspiracy to deprive Matthias
of the succession, transfer it to Leopold and crush Protest-
antism. Several Catholic nobles, among them Slawata and
Martinic, were privy to tliis plot. In order to carry it out

* Pelzel, II. p. 679.

* These statistics are based upon the information derived from Gindely
and elsewhere given, that the Catholics constituted less than one-tenth of
the population. Vide p. 439.


the Archduke, under pretense of defending his diocese of
Passau, raised an army of twelve thousand men — the scum
and refuse of various nations. Led by General Ram6e these
troops advanced into Bohemia, plundering, burning and
murdering wherever they came. In February, of 1611, they
appeared before Prague, effected an entrance through Leopold's
connivance, and began a terrible carnage, until they were driven
beyond the walls by the infuriated citizens, whom Count
Thurn supported with a small body of men. Soon after an
army raised by the states came to the rescue. Into its hands
fell Francis Tennagel, Leopold's councilor, who disclosed the
entire conspiracy. The states immediately sent for Matthias.
He arrived on the twenty-fourth of March, at the head of his
troops ; "■ the army of Passau," as Leopold's men were called,
fled in hot haste. Three days later the states petitioned
Matthias to assume the government, and constrained Rudolph
to convene the Diet. On the eleventh of April the latter
resiirned the crown of Bohemia, with which the former was
invested on the twenty-third of May, after having promised
to issue a new charter. Meanwhile he sanctioned the rights
and privileges granted by his brother.

Thus Rudolph lost all his possessions. An archduchy, a
dukedom, two margraviates and two kingdoms slipped from
his grasp ; nothing remained but the empty dignity of a
German Emperor. For nine months he brooded over his
fall, his wrongs and the best means of regaining his domin-
ions; until on the twentieth of January, 1612, death thought
his unhappy career to a close.^

The Brethren were not behind their fellow Protestants in
utilizing the privileges of the charter. Their parishes pros-

8 In the hope of retrieving his losses Rudolph began negotiations with
the Protestant Union— organized, in 1608, by a number of princes for
mutual protection and in order to aid the Evangelical party irrespective of
doctrinal differences — and would, no doubt, have joined it if death had not
overtaken him. The Hist. Persecutionum, cap. XLI, gives a strange and
wholly unhistoric account of his intention to found an " Order of Peace "
(Ordo Pacis); the favorable view which it takes of his character and reign
is equally incorrect.


pered and were multiplied. Prague, in particular, offered
them a field from which they gathered rich harvests. The
venerable Bethlehem Chapel which had long been closed, was
formally reopened and given to them, because " their Unity
was, so to say, the legitimate daughter of Hus ;" ^ and when
this edifice became too small for their membership, they began,
in 1614, to build the church of Simon and Judah, which was
finished in 1618. At Jungbunzlau their parish and school
were reorganized ; at Brandeis on the Adler Charles von
Zerotin erected for them the church of John the Baptist. He
conferred upon the membership in that town so many other
benefits, that it came to be known as " the Brethren's promised
land." To the work of education they devoted themselves
with new zeal. Their schools ranked first.^

In Moravia, too, the Unity flourished. Zerotin conceived
the idea of endowing it with funds and estates ; Baron Rosen-
berg was ready to carry out a similar project in Bohemia.
The titles to such property were to be vested in the bishops.
But these discountenanced the entire scheme ; " partly," says
Comenius, " because such endowments could not be concealed,
and if known, would create envy ; partly because, looking at
older examples (in the Catholic Church), they remembered
that they too were human and might make an improper use
of such gifts ; but chiefly because of the interdict of God
{inferdidum Dei), Did not the Apostles choose rather to be
dispensers of the divine word than to serve tables? (Acts 6.)
Hence like the Apostles they preferred rather to distribute
heavenly treasures, than to take care of earthly riches."
While, therefore, single churches, as we have elsewhere said,
owned property, the Unity as such, in Bohemia and Moravia,
was not endowed.^

' Hist. Persecutionum, cap. XL. 3.

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 42 of 64)