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

. (page 46 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

* This Church had probably been given to the Brethren after the expul-
sion of the Jesuits ; the Bethlehem Chapel was taken away from the former
immediately after the battle of the White Mountain.

^ Count John Tzesklas von Tilly was born, in Brabant, in 1559. Having
served in the Netherlands under Alva and others, he entered the Bavarian
army, and soon after the battle of the White Moimtain, took chief command
of the forces of the Catholic League. He was made a field-marshal and, in
1630, succeeded Wallenstein as commander-in-chief of the Imperial troops.
His taking of Magdeburg in the following year is notorious. He died in
consequence of a wound received at the battle of Lech, in 1632.


leaders who had fled with Frederick to appear for trial within
six weeks. At the same time active measures were iuaugur-
ated to capture such fugitives. Count Schlick was the only
one taken. The rest escaped. On the twenty-fifth of April,
by order of the Emperor, their names were affixed to gallows
in the Altstadt, the Neustadt, and the Kleimeite of Prague.

And now was appointed a court of eleven judges, with
Liechtenstein as its president. Before this court the prosecu-
tion began on the twenty-ninth of March, the prisoners
being arraigned separately. Charges were brought against
them involving; a thousand things of w4iich no one had ever
thought." The accused bore themselves with courage and
manliness. Budowa, Kaplir, and Otto von Los, in particular,
exhibited a heroic spirit. Schlick, exasperated by the irrele-
vancy of the questions which were put to him, lost patience
and baring his breast exclaimed : '' Divide my body into a
thousand parts, and search through my bowels, you will find
nothing except what is written in our Apologies. The love
of liberty and of our faith put the sword into our hands.
God has given the victory to the Emjieror. We are in your
power. The will of the Lord be done !"^

* On the authority of Skala, cited by Czerwenka, and of tlie Hist. Per-
secutionum, Cap. LIX. 5.

' This incident is given in Hist. Persecutionum, Cap. LIX. 5. Gindely,
30-jahr. Krieg, IV. p. 62, categorically pronounces it to be false, and says,
that the bearing of the prisoners, with the exception of Budowa, Kaplir
and Los, was not manly, and that Schlick, in particular, tried to move his
judges to mercy. His chief authority is the official protocols. We consider
Gindely's position untenable, and for the following reasons: 1. There were
forty-three prisoners, consequently forty-three hearings and as many pro-
tocols ; but only eleven have been preserved ; from what he finds in these
he draws, as he himself confesses, a conclusion affecting all. 2. We have
no faith whatever in the fairness of the eleven protocols. The spirit mani-
fested by the Catholics, in that whole period of their final triumph, was so
absolutely void of even the faintest element of justice, that neither judges
nor secretaries would hesitate to give such a coloring to the sayings of the
prisoners as suited their own purposes. 3. Granting that some of the
prisoners did try, in an honest way, to save their lives, that is no proof at
all, that, as Gindely maintains, " nur wenige eine wiirdige Haltung einnah-
men." 4. If Count Schlick did not utter the words imputed to him by the


The prisoners were found guilty : twenty-seven to be
executed ; the rest to be punished in other ways ; their
possessions to be confiscated. This sentence was transmitted
to Vienna for approval. Ferdinand consulted the Jesuits,
and especially Lamormain, his subsequent confessor. They
advised him to sign the document. He hesitated and
referred the question to a commission, which recommended
a less cruel mode of execution, and, in some cases, per-
petual imprisonment instead of death, but otherwise ap-
proved of the sentence. On the twenty-sixth of May the
Em])eror attached his signature, adopting the recommendation
of the commissioners. The ostensible crime for which so
many nobles and distinguished citizens were to suffer, was
rebellion ; but the real object which the Court of Vienna and
its Jesuitical instigators had in view, was to inaugurate the
destruction of Protestantism throughout the kingdom. If
the accused had been Catholics they would not have been put
to death.

On the nineteenth of June the sentence was read to the
prisoners in a body, at the Hradschin. This ceremony lasted
from eight o'clock in the morning to two o'clock in the after-
noon. Of the twenty-seven adjudged to death, about one-
half were members of the Brethren's Church : of the remain-
ing sixteen, some were condemned to life-long imprisonment,
among these William von Lobkowitz and Rican ; others to a
limited confinement; others to exile; and still others to
corporeal punishment. In vain did the wives and children
of those set apart for execution importune Liechtenstein to
spare them. The day of grace was irrevocably past, he said.
Among them was one Catholic, Dionys Cernin, who had, on
the memorable twenty-third of May, 1618, admitted, but by

History of Persecutions, who originated those words? It is hard to believe
that the authors of that work would deliberately invent such an incident.
They must have had some ground for it. 5. The heroism manifested by
the prisoners after their condemnation and on the scaffold, a heroism which
even Romish writers do not call in question, is utterly at variance with the
supposition that tliey showed a craven spirit at the trial.


command of his superior officer, the states to the Castle. He
was included in the death-list in order to keep up a show of

The prisoners were informed that the twenty-first of June
was the day fixed for their execution. The time of prepara-
tion was therefore short. At first the Emperor had directed
that no ministrations except those of the Capuchins and
Jesuits should be allowed ; the expostulations of Liechten-
stein, however, induced him to permit the services of
Lutheran clergymen. Priests of the Unity were prohibited
from appearing. Although in the very nature of the case the
prisoners who belonged to that body would have preferred
their own pastors, they nevertheless welcomed the Lutheran
ministers, who performed their painful duties with holy zeal.
From various churches of the city there came John Rosacius,
Victorin Verbenius, Veit Jakesh, Adam Clemens, John
Hertwich, and David Lippach. These men of God ex-
pounded the Scriptures; comforted with all gentleness and
love ; were instant in intercessory prayer ; and dispensed the
sacramental blessings of the Lord's body and blood. The
evening of the nineteenth of June, and the whole of the next
day, which was a Sunday, were devoted to such exercises.
On Sunday Lippach, in the St. Salvator church of which he
was the preacher and which constituted one of those Prot-
estant church-edifices that were erected soon after the granting
of the charter, publicly commended the prisoners to the inter-
cessions of his people ; in the afternoon he delivered to his
congregation a message from three of them — Jessenius,
Riippel, and Hauenschild — asking forgiveness of all whom
they might have offended.

The condemned, without exception, bore themselves as
heroes of faith. Grace was given them to rejoice in the
Lord's promises, to be strong in the power of His might, to
" witness a good confession." Nothing disturbed the peace
of their last hours, except the odious pertinacity of the
Jesuits. These crafty bigots would not be rebuifed. They
came again and again. They circled around their victims


like a shoal of sharks around a vessel from which a dead
body is being cast. To draw Protestants as famous as these
into the maw of Romanism, the day before their execution,
would be one of the most brilliant achievments in their record.
So eager were they that they did not hesitate, although they
knew that they were lying, to hold out the promise of pardon,
or at least of a commutation of the sentence. But their
efforts were unavailing, even when they called heaven and
earth to witness, that they were innocent of the eternal
damnation which must follow upon so obstinate a rejection of
divine grace.

On Sunday evening the prisoners in the Hradschin and the
Town Hall of the Neustadt were brought to the Council
House of the Altsiadt, Avhere the execution was to take place.
From the windows of this edifice their fellow-sufferers wel-
comed them with the inspired words of the forty-fourth
Psalm. The night which followed was a night of song and
prayer and heavenly anticipations. Exhorting one another
to stand fast, to overcome the world, to leave to posterity an
example of unshaken faithfulness, these patriots and con-
fessors awaited the breaking of the fatal mornino-.

Toward dawn they prepared for their execution as though
it were a marriage feast. They bathed and put on their finest
linen ; they ripped off the large ruffs worn around the neck,
and otherwise adjusted their apparel for the death-stroke, so
that nothing of this sort, except the removal of their doublets,
would be necessary at the last moment. When they were
ready they gathered at the windows and looked out.

A spectacle presented itself that might well have sent a
thrill to their hearts. Fronting the Grosse Ring there had
been built a scaffold, covered with black cloth and connected
with the balcony of the Council House by a short flight of
steps.^ The executioner was at his post. Near by lay four

^ The Grosse Ring is a large irregular place, or square, at the end of the
Zeltnergasse, with the Bathhaus, or Council House on the west and the
Thein Church on the east. Of the original Rathhaus nothing is left except
a very quaint tower with a remarkable clock; the present edifice was


two-edged swords. Around the scaffold were drawn up in
closed ranks squadrons of horse and companies of infantry.^
On the Ring itself surged a great multitude of spectators ;
others thronged the windows and even the roofs of the sur-
rounding houses. Beyond, on the eastern side, was seen the
venerable Thein Church, with its two quaint towers ; and on
the peaked fa9ade between them appeared the colossal cup set
up by the Hussites, the symbol of that heroic struggle for
religious liberty which had endured for two centuries, but
was now about to end in blood, oppression and woe. As
the doomed men gazed upon this spectacle the sun rose in all
his glory. When they saw that, and beheld the sombre
scaffold bathed in light, they rejoiced, giving thanks to God.

At five o'clock a gun at the Hradschin was fired. It was
the appointed signal. As its echoes died away, Liechtenstein,
his associate judges, the imperial commissioners, and the
magistrates of the Altstadt, appeared and took seats on the
balcony. Over the chair occupied by Liechtenstein hung a

And now began the work of blood. One by one the
prisoners were summoned to the scaffold. In Avords of hope
they took leave of their associates, were answered with bene-
dictions of faith, and came forth calm, fearless, strong ; their
hearts full of God's promises ; their lips overflowing with
prayer and praise and triumphant assurance. " Never, even
for a moment," says the History of Persecutions, "did they
lose their presence of mind ; and so fervent were the words
which they spoke, that the very judges and soldiers frequently
shed tears." ^° The Lutheran clergymen were with them still.

erected in 1848. The scaffold was tAvelve feet high and twenty-two paces
square. It was reached through a door leading from the Council House,
probably the same that opened on the balcony.

^ In addition to the regiment garrisoning Prague, seven squadrons of
Saxon horse had been ordered to Prague, in order to prevent disturbances,
and had arrived on the seventeenth of June.

'° Hist. Persecutionum, Cap. LX. 13. In our narrative of the execution
we follow this work and Pescheck. There is no lack of cotemporaneous
autliorities, and the last sayings of tlie sufferers are fully authenticated, in


Not one of these dauntless servants of the Lord flinched
throughout the long and terrible ordeal. To the last they
spoke peace, in the name of Christ; and on rejoining those
waiting to be called, told them what their brethren had said
and with what firmness they had died. Rosacius distinguished
himself. His ministrations were performed with marvelous
power from on high. During the entire execution drums
beat and trumpets sounded, so that the people should not
hear the last words of the defenders of their liberties. Such
words were audible only to the occupants of the balcony and
scaffold, and to the nearest soldiers.

The first victim was Count Joachim Andrew Schlick.
During the interregnum he had been a Director, under
Frederick, Chief Judge and Governor of Upper Lusatia."
While preparing for death he said to Rosacius : " I have
ventured to stand up against Antichrist ; I will now venture
to die for Christ." He added, that in all that he had done
the defence of true religion had been his sole object ; that he
would remain steadfast ; and hoped for a different sentence
from God. On Sunday, the twentieth of June, about an
hour after partaking of the Holy Communion, he suddenly
exclaimed : " One thing troubles me ! That they intend to
mutilate our bodies ! If they would only not sever my

as much as these sayings were noted down, at the time, by Eosacius, his
assistant, and other clergymen in attendance. Rosacius publislied his
account at Zittau. It bears the following title : " Unverwelkliche Krone
der sechs Miirtyrer." There exists another narrative of the imprisonment,
preparation for death, and last sayings of the sufferers, written originally in
Bohemian and published anonymously, probably by Rosacius' assistant.
It was subsequently translated into German. Both these invaluable works
were in Pescheck's hands. In addition to his History and the Hist, of
Persecutions, we have consulted, for the details which follow, Gindely's
30-jiihr. Krieg; Pelzel's Bohm. und Mahr. Gelehrte; and Priigerische
Execution, which last work is also cotemporaneous and exceedingly rare.

" Although Schlick had been a friend of the Elector of Saxony and had
urged his choice as king, it was a body of this Elector's horse that took him
prisoner, while seeking refuge with his brother-in-law, Christopher von
Radern, at Friedland ; and it was this Elector himself who, by the advice
of Dr. Hoe, his double-tongued Protestant court-preacher, at one time
stationed in Prague, delivered him up to Liechtenstein.


hands!" "Ah, my lord Count," replied Baron von Bile,
" what does this mean ? Have you not thouojht yourself to
be the most courageous? Prove your heroism ! What though
they cut us iu pieces— we will not feel it! What though
they scatter, or hang up, our members — our Saviour can
gather and glorify them ! " Schlick was comforted. Pres-
ently he said: "Oh how thirsty I am!" Bile remarked:
"Here is wine left from the Holy Communion. Refresh
yourself with that." " No," rejoined Schlick, " what I have
partaken of in the sacrament, shall be my last food. I will
wait for the cup of heavenly joy." On the following morn-
ing, when the clock struck five and the gun from the Castle
was heard, he said : " That is the signal ! I am to be the
first ! Do Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me !"
While he was yet speaking one of the imperial judges entered
and announced : that the hour of execution had arrived and
that the prisoners should come forth singly in the order in
which they would be called. The same announcement was
made in all the other apartments occupied by the condemned.
Immediately afterward the sheriiF summoned Schlick. With
an affectionate farewell to his associates he left the room
attended by four German clergymen. He wore a black satin
doublet ; in his hand was a prayer-book. At the bottom of
the stairs leading to the corridor through which he had to
pass stood Sedetius and another Jesuit. " My lord Count,"
said the former, "there is yet time. Consider well!"
"Leave me in peace!" was Schlick's answer, and waving
him aside he calmly pursued his way. As he stepped upon
the scaifold he lifted up his eyes to the sun, ejaculating with
deep fervency: "Oh Christ, Thou Sun of Righteousness,
grant that I may, through the shadow of death, come to Thy
light ! " Thus saying he began to walk to and fro, pensively,
and yet with such dignity and firmness that several of the
judges could not conceal their emotion. Once more he
prayed, and then having, with the assistance of his servant,
taken off his doublet, kneeled on a black cloth spread out before
the executioner. One swift blow and his head fell. His


right hand was now cut off. Head and hand were thrust
upon a spear and laid aside ; six men, wearing black masks,
carried away the body. The bloody cloth was removed and
a clean one substituted. This was done in the case of each
execution. Schlick was about fifty years of age.'^

The next victim was Budowa. Of his distinguished
abilities and sincere devotion to the Brethren's Unity we
have spoken elsewhere. "He was," says the History of
Persecutions, "a man of splendid talents and illustrious learn-
ing, distinguished as a writer, widely known as a traveler.
An ornament to his country, a shining light in the Church, a
father among his vassals rather than their master, it may well
be said of him that he was a leader beloved by God and
man."^^ "He belonged," adds Pelzel, "to that old cast of
serious, thoughtful, inflexible Bohemians by which the nation
was characterized in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries." '^
During the interregnum he had been a Director and under
Frederick, President of the Court of Appeals and custodian
of the crown. He was seventy-four years of age. After the
battle of the White Mountain he took his wife and children
to a place of safety on one of his domains, and then returned
to Prague. There he found his house despoiled. " So be
it," he said, " the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away."
Paul Aretin, the secretary of one of the courts, with whom
he seems to have been intimate, came to see him and asked,.

^"^ The report given by Klevenhiller, that Schlick was not accompanied
by Protestant clergymen and had practically embraced the Romish faith
is false, as is also the other report that he was intoxicated. At this the
anonymous author of the Bohemian Narrative expresses his indignation.
'"God knows," he writes, "how great the injustice done to the condemned
in this respect ; not one of them tasted a single drop of wine except in the

^^ Hist. Persecutionum, LXII. 1. So anxious was Budowa to further the
spiritual interests of his vassals that he often himself preached to them, in
the churches on his domains.

'* Pelzel's Bohm. Gelehrte, III. p. 84. Gindely says, that in all that
Budowa did he was actuated by religious motives, and must not be classed
with those who, under the pretext of defending Protestantism, followed
political ends. Rudolf II, Vol. I. p. 182.


why he had anew exposed himself to the fury of the storm
after having been safely under shelter ? " My heart impelled
me," answered the Baron. " To forsake my country, and its
good cause, would have been sinning against my conscience.
I do not know the counsels of God. Perhaps the things that
have transpired are now to be sealed with ray blood." Rising
from his seat he continued with intense earnestness : " Here
am I, my God ; do unto Thy servant as seemeth good unto
Thee! I am weary of life: take me that I may not see the
ruin which is coming on my country." At a later time the
same secretary told him that a report had spread that he had
died of grief. With a smile he said : '' I die of grief ! I
have scarcely ever had happier hours than now." Pointing
to his Bible he continued : " Behold my paradise ! Never
has it offered me sweeter food than that which I am at present
enjoying. I still live ; and will live as long as it may please
God. No one, I hope, will see the day on which it can be
said, Budowa died of grief." In the course of his imprison-
ment he was advised to send a petition to the Emperor and
sue for mercy. "ifafo mori," was his illustrious reply,
" quam Patriam videre mori ! " ^^ At the trial he defended his
course with tlie utmost boldness; and when condemned he
said to the judges: "You have long thirsted for our blood;
now you will get it; but be assured that the shedding of it,
innocent as it is, will be followed by God's judgments, for
whose cause we suffer."

He longed for the ministrations of a clergyman of his own
Church ; but his request was refused. When he heard that
Rosacius was at the Castle he sent for him, wishing partic-
ularly, he said, in view of the false report that he had asked
for a Romish priest, to assure him that he held firmly to the
Protestant faith. His recent experiences with the Capuchins
he related as follows : "Last evening (Saturday) two Capu-
chins came to see me. I was amazed at their boldness;

i^Pelzel's Bohm. Gelehrte, III. p. 84. "I will rather die than see my
country die."



nevertheless I received them, and finding that they did not
understand Bohemian addressed them in Latin. They in-
formed me that their visit was one of pity. ' Of pity ? ' I
asked, ' how so ? ' ' We wish to show your lordship the way
to heaven.' I assured them that I knew the way and stood
on firm ground. 'My lord only imagines,' they rejoined,
' that he knows the way of salvation ; he is mistaken ; not
being a member of the holy Church he has no share in the
Church's salvation !' I averred that it was not imagination
on my part, but that my assurance grew out of an unshaken
faith in my dear Saviour, Jesus Christ. ' I have,' I added,
* this excellent promise : whosoever believeth in Him shall
not perish, but have everlasting life. Therefore, until my
last moment wdll I abide by our true Church!' Smiting
upon their breasts they said, that so hardened a heretic they
had never before seen; and crossing themselves repeatedly,
left me."

On the day of execution, early in the morning, two Jesuits,
wdiom his companions had repulsed, drew near to him. " We
see," said one of them speaking Latin and adopting an in-
sinuating tone, " that my lord is learned and well versed in
the sciences. But we desire to save his soul and thus perform
a work of mercy." "Dear Fathers," replied Budowa, "you
desire to help my soul in securing salvation ? Most earnestly
do I wish that you were as certain of your salvation as I'ara
of mine. For I thank my God that His Holy Spirit has
given me the assurance that I will be saved through the
blood of the Lamb." " My lord," rejoined the Jesuits, " had
better not boast of his salvation, lest through vain thoughts
he might deceive himself; for the Scriptures say, 'Man does
not know whether he deserves grace or wrath.' " ^^ " Is this
your work of mercy ?" exclaimed the Baron ; " are you, un-

'® The Jesuit misquoted the passage, which is found in Ecc. 9 : 1, and
reads : " No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before
him." It refers to the uncertainty of the future with regard to experiences
of this life.


happy robbers of souls, trying to fill my soul wi'th despair?
Miserable meu, you do err not knowing the Scriptures!"
Thereupon he expounded the true meaning of the passage,
and cited others which set forth the believer's assurance,
especially St. Paul's words : " I know whom I have be-
lieved ;" " henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall
give me at that day, " ^^ " Hera ! " said the Jesuit, with a
sneer, " Paul there speaks of himself, not of others." " You
lie," cried the Baron, " for does he not expressly add : ' and
not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appear-
ing?'" The Jesuit was silenced. Budowa rose from his
seat and approaching him said : " You have tried to catch
me with a Scripture passage ; come, here is a Bible, show
me where that passage stands." Turning to his companion
the Jesuit said : " Where is it " " I believe," was the
answer, "in the epistle to Timothy." At this Biidowa's pent
up indignation burst forth. "Ass that you are," he cried in
a voice of thunder, "you undertake to show me the way of
salvation and do not even know in what part of the Holy