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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Pescheck I, chapters 7, 8 and 9 ; Czerwenka, II, chapter 15 ; Gindely's 30-
jdhr. Krieg, Vols. I, II and III ; and a large number of original pamphlets
issued by both parties, and found in the Malin Library.

" Elected at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, June the twenty-fourth, 1612.


from the true faith ; allowed Cardinal Khlesel free sway as
his prime minister; and refused to do justice to the Protestants.

The Charter contained an unfortunate ambiguity. Ecclesi-
astical domains were not specified as included in the benefits
of religious liberty. Hence the Archbishop of Prague and
his clergy, supported by the Jesuits, claimed that such estates
were under their exclusive control and debarred from the
privileges granted elsewhere. That this was not the meaning
of the Charter is self-evident ; for it had been drawn up by

At the Diet of 1615 the Evangelical states formally laid
their grievances before the Emperor. But he had no ear for
the startling proofs which they unfolded of the violation of
the Charter, and would give no promise to correct the abuses
which had taken place. Imbittered by this repulse they
adopted an unjust and ill-advised enactment. Thereafter no
foreigner should be permitted to enjoy the rights of citizen-
ship, unless familiar with the Bohemian tongue, which, after
the death or resignation of the German incumbents and in-
structors then in office, was to be exclusively used in public
worship and teaching, newly-organized parishes and schools
being alone excepted. Had not the Revolution caused this
enactment to be practically forgotten, it would have led to
results different from those which its originators aimed at and
would have brought about feucls among the Protestants them-
selves. This the Jesuits foresaw and, therefore, induced
Matthias to give it his sanction.

In the following year (1616) a deputation of three nobles
had an interview with him at Brandeis and urged the rights
of the Evangelical party. His answer was, that he could not
permit the building of Protestant churches on ecclesiastical
domains, because the Charter did not grant this privilege ;
and that, having made over all the benefices on royal estates
to the Archbishop, he could not interfere with the acts of this
prelate. And yet Matthias was the monarch, who, prior and
subsequent to his coronation, had solemnly pledged himself,
by two formal documents, to maintain the rights and privi-


leges of the kingdom and especially its chartered religious

Upon a prelude so ominous followed the events which
brought on the Revolution. The first was the appointment
of a successor to Matthias, The Emperor was old and child-
less. Into whose hands should the sceptre pass ? Who was
best fitted to sway it to the glory of the House of Hapsburg
and in the interests of the Roman Catholic Church ? Insti-
gated by Peter Pazman, and encouraged by his own brothers
who waived their rights, his choice fell upon his cousin, Fer-
dinand Archduke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, a son of
the Archduke Charles and grandson of Ferdinand the First.
He was born at Gratz, on the ninth of July, 1578, and edu-
cated by the Jesuits. Through their influence he became an
intensely bigoted Romanist. When but twenty years of age
he vowed in the Chapel of the Virgin at Loretto, that he
would suppress Protestantism throughout his realm.^ Sternly
had he kept this vow. Not a vestige of Evangelical religion
remained except among the nobles ; and he was but waiting
for a favorable opportunity to force upon them the choice be-
tween the Catholic Church or exile. Rather, so he said,
would he take a staiF in his hand, gather his family around
him, and beg his bread from door to door, than tolerate a
heretic in his dominions.^ At the same time he was a man
of sound judgment, fearless determination and great energy.

Accompanied by this Prince, Matthias, in the spring of
1617, unexpectedly arrived at Prague and issued a proclama-
tion convening the Diet. It met on the sixth of June. No
season could have been more inconvenient for the nobles. The
harvest prevented tlieir leaving home. But for this very

^ Deductio, Beylage No. LXII, p. 153, where the document is given
which he issued prior to his coronation, and p. 162, No. LXIV, where is
found the one published after his coronation.

* Lamormain de Virtutibus Ferdinandi, cited by Pescheck, I, p. 257.

^ Pescheck, I, 258. In 1629 the opportunity for coercing his nobles pre-
sented itself to Ferdinand. The Beylagen to the Deductio contain full
accounts of his previous persecutions.


reason Matthias had fixed upon that time.^ He did not wish
to see a large attendance. Nor was he disappointed. Com-
paratively few of the states assembled. To those who were
present he announced that he had adopted Ferdinand as his
son, and demanded that they should accept him as their future
king. Of a constitutional election there was not a whisper.
The Catholics at once acceded to this demand. Of the Prot-
estants some indignantly returned to their estates ; others were
won over by promises or threats; only a small minority,
among whom Thurn, Schlick, Budowa, Fels, and William von
Lobkowitz were prominent, formed the opposition. These
men contended that so important a measure could not be de-
cided by a Bohemian Diet, but must be referred to a General
Diet ; they protested against accepting instead of electing a
king ; and when they saw that Ferdinand's appointment was
inevitable, they stipulated that he must at least swear to
respect the Charter and uphold the other privileges of the
kingdom. On the ninth of June the form of an election was
gone through with ; and on the twenty-ninth, after having
taken the prescribed oath, he was crowned. Prior to this
public pledge, however, he had, accompanied by the Jesuits,
gone to the sacristy of the Cathedral and there sworn a secret
oath, that he would never grant anything to the heretics
which would be prejudicial to the Koman Catholic Church/

What wonder that the Jesuits boasted of having won a vic-
tory ! That the Komanists generally triumphed ! That the
Baroness von Pernstein,as soon as the ceremonies of the corona-
tion were at an end, turned to those beside her and remarked,

® Hist. Persecutionum, Cap. XLII, 1.

' This fact is not only given in the Hist. Persecutionum, Cap. XLII, 13,
but also substantiated by Komish authority. In the preface to a work pub-
lished by the Jesuits in 1618, at Malzheim, in Alsace, and dedicated to the
Archduke Leopold, they admonish him to manifest the same zeal for his
Church as his brother Ferdinand, who although he swore, at his coronation,
to tolerate the heretics in Bohemia, had nevertheless previously bound
himself by an oath in the sacristy, never to yield to them in anything which
might run counter to the interests of Eomanism. Comp. Pescheck, I, p.
270, and Carol! Memorabilia Ecc. Saec. XVII, I, 452.


with a malicious smile, that the time had now come for testing
the question, whether the Catholics were to rule the Protestants,
or the Protestants the Catholics ! The whole proceeding at
Prague was contrary to the spirit of the constitution. A mon-
arch was forced upon Bohemia, and the countries incorporated
with it — Moravia, Lusatia and Silesia — had no voice in the

In the following December the Emperor, the new King,
and the entire court, returned to Vienna. This was the next
event which led to the Revolution. It would hardly have
occurred if Matthias had taken up his abode at Prague. His
absence required a substitute. But instead of intrusting the
kingdom to a governor, he appointed ten Regents. Seven of
these were Catholics and only three Protestants. The Catho-
lics were Adam von Sternberg, Waldstein, Thalemberg,
Slawata, Martinic, Matthias von Lobkowitz, and Charles von
Duba; the Protestants, Janowic, Krimic, and Gersdorf.
These latter soon perceived that they were powerless. Under
the arbitrary rule of the majority an unfriendly treatment of
the adherents of the Evangelical faith, and what was worse,
oppressive measures against them, met with encouragement.
In almost every particular were the Charter and the " Agree-
ment" violated. Such violations did not originate among the
people, but were planned and dictated by the Jesuits. It
was the purpose of these archconspirators, first, to deprive the
Protestants of all legal means of redress, and then to provoke
them to illegal acts which would brand them as rebels to whom
no mercy must be shown.

It is important to set forth in detail tlie character of such

Prominent ecclesiastics at Prague allowed no opportunity
to pass without denouncing the Charter as a " rascally docu-
ment," and invalid, because it had not been sanctioned by the
Pope. The Catholics were alienated from their Evangelical
countrymen, and encouraged to withdraw even from social
fellowship with them; to be present at their marriages or
baptisms, or funerals, was strictly forbidden. Marriages with


Protestants were aIlo^^'ed only in case the Catholic party pro-
mised to pervert the other. Protestants were reviled in every
possible manner ; the wives of their ministers were decried as
whores and the children as bastards; testimonials of their
having been born in lawful wedlock were invariably refused.
A Jesuit at Prague said in a sermon, that it was better to
have the devil in one's house than a wife who was a Lutheran ;
the devil could be exorcised, but not Lutheran wives. Other
Jesuits preached and wrote in a similar strain. Matthias von
Thurn was deprived of the governorship of Karlstein, and
this office was given to Martinic. An edict appeared infringing
upon religious liberty in royal cities ; and when the Altstadt
of Prague protested, a second and still severer edict was
issued, forbidding the publication of any work which had not
received the Chancellor's approval, thus establishing a most
unwarranted censorship of the press. The Evangelical min-
• ister of Aussig was banished and a Catholic priest put in his
place : this proceeding led to a bloody retaliation for which
the people were severely punished. At Prague the elders
of the Protestant churches were prohibited from meeting
without the permission of the royal judges, who were all
Catholics, and without informing these judges of the business
they proposed transacting. Protestants were removed from
office without cause. Their children lost the ridit of citizen-
ship. On ecclesiastical domains they were forced to go to
the Romish confessional, or sign papers pledging themselves
to obey the Romish Church. In many cases they were
allowed to marry only on condition of receiving the Romish
sacrament or of turning Catholics. Rich wards and orphans,
or daughters at school in convents, were inveigled into secret
marriages with Catholics. Children were torn from the
arms of widowed mothers and given to the Jesuits to educate.
In some parishes church-edifices were taken from the Pro-
testants ; in others they were hindered from filling vacant
pastorships; in others documents were wantonly destroyed,
and they were deprived of the privileges which such papers
had granted ; in still others they were refused burial on eon-


secrated ground, or their funeral services were maliciously
interrupted. The Abbot of Brauuau caused the Protestant
church in that town to be torn to the ground ; and when
representatives of the parish went to Prague to lodge com-
plaint, they were cast into prison. Another Protestant church,
situated on the estate of Klostergrab, ^^s^s closed by order of
the Archbishop to whom that domain belonged. A publica-
tion appeared attacking the Augsburg Confession; another,
defaming the Unitas Fratrum.^

These were the grievances of which the Protestants com-
plained and which formed the chief cause of the Revolution.
It is a long and black list. No one can go through it without
deep indignation. "A chaos existed; injustice was called
justice ; breaking the laws of the land, zeal for the Romish
Church; clinging to chartered liberty, a crime against the
majesty of the King." ^

The Defenders failing, in spite of all their efforts, to secure
redress, called a convention. This privilege had been granted
by the Diet of 1609. In cases of importance six Protestant
delegates from each circuit of the kingdom were to meet with
the Protestant office-bearers and councilors, for consultation
on the aifairs of their Church.^"

The convention began on the sixth of March, 1618, and was
held in the Carolinum. A remonstrance against the violations
of the Charter was adopted and presented to the Regents.
These denied that infringements had taken place and justified
what the paper complained of. Thereupon a petition to the
Emperor was drawn up, entreating him to exercise his authority
in the interests of the Charter ; and letters were sent to the

* The publication against the Brethren proceeded from their fellow
Protestants, and Count Schlick, whose prejudices against the Unity were
never fully removed, was probably responsible for it ; but it was written
under Romish influences and used as a weapon by the Catholics. An
anonymous reply appeared. The Apologies and their accompanying docu-
ments, subsequently issued by the states, fully substantiate all the griev-
ances adduced above.

^ Czerwenka, II. p. 605.

'" Behemischer Landtag, 1609, p. 10.


Moravian, Silesian aud Lusatian Diets, asking them to inter-
cede with him on behalf of his Protestant subjects. After
having determined to meet again on the twenty-first of May,
the convention adjourned.

Instead of answering the petition Matthias sent a letter to
the Regents. Its tone was hard and menacing. He refused
to listen to any grievances ; forbade the Defenders to call con-
ventions ; declared that the churches at Braunau and Klos-
tergrab had been closed in accordance with his orders ;
asserted that the Protestants, aud not the Catholics, had
broken the Charter ; and added, that if the states continued in
the course upon which they had entered, he would punish them
as rebels.^^ This letter roused a feeling of intense bitterness
throughout Bohemia. It was officially communicated to those
Defenders who were at Prague.'^ They listened to it in
silence, and after a few days read to the Regents a calm reply.
Protestant conventions, they said, were sanctioned by law ;
the Diet had provided for such meetings ; hence they were
constrained to decline interfering with the one appointed for
the month of May.'^

When the Regents perceived that the Defenders were not
to be intimidated, they tried to impair their influence by
alienating the royal cities ; and endeavored to create dissen-
sions among the Protestant clergy. Both these efforts were
partially successful.

Meantime the refusal of the Defenders to prohibit the
meeting of another convention had been reported to Vienna,
and on the seventeenth of April a second letter arrived,
reiterating, although in milder language, the imperial inter-

" This letter is given in Document No. 99, accompanying the Andere

'^ It was commonly said, that the obnoxious letter had been written by
the Regents themselves and merely signed by the Emperor. This, how-
ever, seems not to have been the case. Cardinal Khlesel was the author.
Gindely, in his 30-jahr. Krieg, I. p. 258, adduces the testimony of Slawata,
who says that he had himself been astonished at the severity of its tone.

'* Gindely, 30-jahr. Krieg, I. p. 259, Note, says, that there can be no
doubt of the legality of the position maintained by the Defenders.


diction. But they again declined to interfere. On the eigh-
teenth of May they adopted a formal paper, giving an account
of the conflict which had broken out and showing that their
course was strictly in accordance with the Charter and the
enactments of the Diet. This document was read, on Sunday
the twentieth, in all the Protestant churches of Prague.
Rosacius, the incumbent of the church of St. Nicholas in the
Klcinscite, added a fervent prayer, that God would bless the
Defenders in their arduous efforts to maintain religious liberty.

The next morning. May the twenty-first, the convention
met in the Carolmum, and was opened with the singing of the
ninety-first Psalm, a prayer, and an address by Rosacius.
Afterward, in accordance with a summons received from the
Regents, the entire body of representatives proceeded to the
Hradschin, where a third letter from the Emperor, dated May
the sixteenth, was read to them, which once more forbade their
meeting. They listened respectfully, asked for a copy of the
letter, and promised a speedy reply. In the court-yard of
the Castle they held an impromptu meeting and determined,
in spite of the prohibition of the Emperor, to assemble again
on the following morning. At that sitting the Defenders
were appointed to draft the reply of the convention. The
further business of the day consisted in negotiations with the
two city-councils of Prague which, through the machinations
of the Regents, had become disaffected. While these nego-
tiations were going on Count Thurn appeared with the
intelligence that he had been cited to Vienna. Amidst great
excitement the representatives swore to protect him.

■ Thurn's influence over them was unfortunate. He was a
German, but owned domains in Bohemia for which country
he cherished an enthusiastic love. No one could doubt his
zeal on behalf of the Evangelical cause; and yet by his
passionate disposition, reckless plans, and headstrong will, he
injured, instead of promoting. Protestantism.^^

" Schiller in his Geschichte des 30-jahr. Kriegs, Cotta's ed. of 1838, IX.
p. 75, characterizes Thurn as follows : " He was a hotheaded, violent man,
who loved confusion, because in the midst of it his talents shone forth.


This soon became evident. When the Defenders met in
order to draw up a reply to the Regents, he began to whisper
that the time for peaceful measures was at end, that the rights
of the Protestants must be maintained by force, that nothing
would be accomplished unless a " demonstration " took place.
Some of his friends earnestly dissuaded him from urging such
views. But in the course of the day he won over Wenzel
von Ruppa and Colonna von Fels. A plot was formed, into
which, before the evening came, several other representives
were drawn, to take the law into their own hands and put the
most obnoxious of the Regents to death. ^^ While this plot
was known only to the conspirators, the news spread that
decisive measures were impending. Prague became agitated.
The streets were crowded with people. Every face was grave ;
every heart anxious. Men asked each other ; what is going
to happen ? No one could tell. But the conviction grew gen-
eral, that the patience of the Evangelical states was exhausted
and that they would stop at nothing. The Regents were
warned, but took no notice of the warning. Paul Michna,
however, one of their secretaries, who had made himself par-
ticularly unpopular, became alarmed and fled to Vienna.

Such was the state, of feeling when the twenty-third of
May, 1618, dawned — a day never to be forgotten, " the begin-
ning and the cause of all the woe that followed." ^^

Rash and fool-hardy, he undertook things upon which a man of cool judg-
ment, whose blood flows calmly, would not venture ; unconscientious, when
the question was whether his xiassions should be gratified, he played with
the fate of thousands, and yet was subtile enough to entangle an entire
nation in liis leading-strings."

'» That such a conspiracy was formed, Gindely, in his 30-jahr. Krieg,
shows on the authority of Skala, a Protestant, and of the reports of the
judicial examinations to which the Defenders and other noblemen were,
at a later time, subjected. It is strange that Czerwenka, who had the same
sources at command, passes over the conspiracy in absolute silence and
rather lets the assault upon the Eegents appear as an unpremeditated act,
caused by the excitement of the moment. Gindely says, that Budowa
knew of and approved the plot.

^^ These are the words witli which the Protestant exiles bewailed their fate
in the time of the Anti-Reformation. Gindely 30-ja.hr. Krieg, I. p. 235.


Soon after eight o'clock, the members of the convention,
accompanied by their servants and followed by a great multi-
tude, proceeded to the Hradschin, some on foot, others on
horseback, and still others in splendid coaches. Having
assembled in the Diet-chamber, the paper drawn up by the
Defenders was read and adopted. It protested against any
attempt to hinder the calling of Protestant conventions;
condemned the course of the Regents ; and closed with
the categorical question, whether they had been concerned
in the composition of the imperial letter dated the twenty-
first of March. An ominous threat was added. Over
al^ainst the injustice from which they had so long suffered,
the states would themselves take measures to secure their
rights. The tone of the paper throughout was bold and
fearless; and the nobles who were privy to the conspiracy,
no longer attempted to conceal its purpose. Count Schlick
said to the representatives of Schlan : " To-day you will see
and hear things strange and terrible, which will not be pleas-
ing to the Catholics ; to-day the states will sweep aside every-
thing that stands in the way of the Charter." ''' Just as the
sitting was about to close a messenger burst into the chamber
with the report, that the Protestant njembers of the council
of the Altstadt had been imprisoned in order to prevent them
from sending deputies to the convention.^^ This report was
false, but it produced intense excitement. The whole body
rose and hurried to the office of the Regents.

This office was situated in the oldest part of the Castle ; it
had three windows, one looking toward the east, the other two
toward the south. Its appointments were simple : a few arm-
chairs, a tile stove and several tables, the largest of which,
used as the council-table, stood in the centre.

Into this apartment pressed the members of the convention.
In order to make room for them, the council-table was

" On the authority of Skala, as cited by Czerwenka.

'* The two city-councils of Prague had convened very early in the morn-
ing ; that of the Neustadt resolved to send deputies to the convention, that
of the Altstadt declined.


pushed against the wall ; but in spite of this a large number
were obliged to remain in the corridor. Only four Regents,
Adam von Sternberg, Martinic, Slawata, and Diepold von
Lobkowitz, and one secretary, Philip Fabricius Platter, were
present. On account of the press these officials gathered in a
corner near the stove.^^

The men who thrust themselves forward as ring-leaders
were Thurn, Schlick, Ruppa, Paul von Rican, William von
Lobkowitz, Kaplir, and Ulrich Kinsky. Rican opened the
interview by asking, on whose authority the councilors of the
Altstadt had been imprisoned. The Regents disavowed all
knowledge of such an occurrence. Thereupon he read the
paper adopted by the convention and urged them to answer
the question with which it closed. Others did the same.
But the Regents declined giving the desired information.
This refusal roused the states. The interview became heated.
Voices were raised in loud anger. Slawata and Martinic had
to bear its brunt. Upon them were heaped charges, crimina-
tions and invectives. They were responsible for the wrongs
of the Protestants ; to their influence could be traced every
violation of the Charter; Sternberg and Lobkowitz were
innocent. Thus vociferated the states in great excitement. At
last there was a lull in the tumult. Slawata seized the oppor-
tunity and began a defense of his course. But no sooner had
he ceased speaking than the storm began afresh, bursting into
the terrific cry, that by their crimes both he and Martinic had
forfeited their lives. Pale with fright these two Regents
begged that no violence might be committed and earnestly
appealed for protection to some of their own kinsmen, M-ho
were standing among the throng. But their supplications fell
upon deaf ears. Rican drew forth and read a second paper,
which pronounced them guilty of violating the Charter and
declared them to be the enemies of the commonwealth. In
response to his question, as to whether the states concurred in