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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* Lissaer Gymnasium, p. XXVI.

' Criegern's Comenius, p. 30.

8 Mailer's MS. Notes. Krokocinsky had had charge of the Kralitz press
in Moravia ; he was present at the marriage of Comenius at Brandeis, and
came to Lissa in 1627. His press was the one which had been in use in the
Polish Province since 1605. It was supplied with Greek and Hebrew type,
and was the first in Poland to print in antique letters.


worship of God in the language of the exiles. This memorable
occasion is described by Comeuiiis as follows :

" Our chief place of refuge was Lissa, a city pointed out to
us by the finger of God himself It constituted a Segor, whither
all godly Lots took their way ; a Pella, whither the Lord brought
us out of Jerusalem, when His judgments burst upon that city.
At Lissa we enjoyed a public and peaceful worship, rejoicing like
Jonah beneath his gourd, when it sheltered him from the great
heat of the sun, and like Paul, when he was saved from shipwreck
and hospitably entertained by the inhabitants of Malta. We
opened our worship at Lissa with souls famishing for the want of
God's Word and with voices that rang out for joy. Many gentry
and common people and nearly fifty of our ministers were

Count Leszcynski had done his part to make Lissa an
ecclesiastical centre. In 1624 he had changed its school into
a gymnasium or college, and by a patent, dated September the
twenty-eighth, 1626, had given it a handsome endowment,
constituting John Rybinski its first Rector and appointing
three other teachers.^" After Ostrorog, which had so long
been the chief seat of the Polish Province, fell into the hands
of the Catholics (1637), Lissa became the centre of the entire
Unitas Fratrum. The Polish archives were united with
the Bohemian ; the library was presented to the gymna-
sium ; and the Theological Seminary transferred to Lissa.
The town grew so rapidly that, in 1631, it was constituted a

Wlodawa, one of Leszcynski's estates, on the Bug, in
Lithuania, and Shocken, a domain of Count Andrew Rej,
who was a member of the Unity, formed other important
rallying-places. These two noblemen alone received on their
possessions several thousand exiles.^^ The rest settled in the

^ Comenius' Manualnjk, Amsterdam, 1658 (A Hand-Book of the Marrow
of the Holy Bible).

^° Lissaer Gymnasium, pp. VI and XXX, etc.

'^ It numbered two thousand male heads of families and had a population
of over ten thousand.

^^ Lukaszewicz, p. 148.


parishes of their Polish brethren. But they did not amal-
gamate with them. In every instance they began a separate

Such an influx of heretics alarmed the Catholic clergy.
They prevented the Brethren from gaining access to the royal
cities ; and in the spring of 1627 held a synod at Petrikau in
order to devise repressive measures. One of these was a peti-
tion to the King, to be presented at the next Diet, beseeching
him " not to permit heretical ungodliness and blasphemies to
bring the wrath of God upon the fatherland." ^^ Inspite of
such eftbrts new churches were built, in course of time, at Lissa,
Orzeszkowa, Sieroslaw, and other places.

The chief seats in Hungary were at Skalic, a frontier town
fifty-four miles north-west of Neitra, where a church was
erected in 1650 ; at Lednic, to the north-east of Skalic ; and
at Pucho, on the Waag. In Transylvania the most important
centre was at Saros-Patak, the residence of Prince Rakoczy ;
in Silesia there were parishes at Karolath, Kuttlau, Militsch,
and Freistadt.

It thus appears that there existed two Provinces : the one,
the Polish, with perhaps seventy parishes ; the other, the Pro-
vince of Bohemian-Moravian exiles, with about one hundred
parishes scattered through Poland, Hungary, Transylvania,
Silesia, and Prussia.^* All these parishes kept up the ancient
order, ritual and discipline ; established parsonages as in Bohe-
mia and Moravia ; and in every other way maintained intact
the system of the Unity.^^

Besides the two Bishops more than one hundred ministers
came to Poland.^^ The names of a few of them have been
preserved. At Lissa labored Paul Fabricius, John Felin,
John Joram, Matthias Theodore Krokocinsky, Matthias Pro-
kop, and Daniel Vetter,^^ together with Martin Krusius, a

^^ Lukaszewicz, p. 148.

" Gindely's Comenius, p. 483.

^* Regenvolscius, p. 67.

^® Lukaszewicz, p. 148.

" Daniel Vetter, or Strejc, was the fourth son of George Strejc and spent


Bohemian teacher, who was subsequently ordained to the
priesthood ; at Thorn, Adam Hartmann ; and in a parish near
Sendomir, John Prokopius. Of the clergymen who went to
Hungary the following are known : Fabin Mezricky, at Fren-
cin ; John Ephraim Hradicky, John Sapor, and Lauriu, at
Puchow ; John Soliu and the notorious Nicholas Drabik, at
Lednic ; John Efronius and Paul Vetter, at Skalic.^^

Synods were held, as of old, at which the affairs of the
Unity and its schools were discussed, measures adopted to
counteract the persecutions of the Jesuits, and steps taken to
relieve the temporal necessities of the exiles/^ The episcopal
succession was carefully kept up. On the seventh of March,
1629, Bishop Gertich, the President of the Council, died at
Lissa, aged sixty -one years. His successor was Bishop Tur-
novius. But he too was called to his eternal rest, a few weeks
later, on the eighth of April, soon after his return to Thorn
from the funeral of his colleague. In the following July the
Synod convened at Lissa and elected Paul Paliurus ; on the
sixth, the anniversary of John Has, he was consecrated by
Erastus, Cyrill and Mikolajewski.^

his youth at Namiest and Kralitz, where he learned the art of printing.
In 1620 he was appointed instructor in the Bohemian language to King
Frederick's son. Subsequently he accompanied him to Holland, where he
left his service and took up his abode at Leyden. Thence, in company of
John Salmon, he undertook a voyage to Iceland. On his return to Hol-
land he published several Bohemian books, and subsequently went to Lissa
where he was ordained to the priesthood and took charge of the publication
office in 1632.

^* Miiller's MS. Notes. John Felin was transferred from Lissa to Puchow
in 1650, and died in 1662; Hradicky died at Puchow in 1658 and was buried
on the second of June, Mezricky preaching his funeral sermon ; Krokocin-
sky died at Lissa in 1632 ; Sapor in 1649.

" The proceedings of the Synod, from 1632 to 1636 are given in the

^° Paliurus, who in conjunction with Mikolajewski presided over the
Polish Province, was born in Moravia and educated at German and Swiss
universities. His first appointment was as Hector of the school at Lob-
senia ; subsequently he labored, for twenty years, with great faithfulness in
the parish at Grebocin. The translation of the Polish Bible, published at


The cause of Protestantism seemed to have succumbed to
Ferdinand's power and helplessly awaited the execution of his
Edict of Restoration; but in 1630 it suddenly revived. Like
an eagle from his northern eyrie Gustavus Adolphus came
swooping down upon Germany. The battle of Leipzig (Sep-
tember the seventh, 1631) changed the whole current of the
war. Crushing was the defeat of the imperialists. The Elec-
tor of Saxony, who had formed an alliance with the Swedish
King, sent an army into Bohemia ; Prague was taken ; the
Regent, the Archbishop, the Catholic nobles, fled in dismay ;
the Jesuits were banished ; the Consistory was restored ; once
more the true faith spread its benign influences throughout
the capital.

On the twenty-first of November, the day after the arrival
of the Elector, a thanksgiving service took place in the
Thein church. To the same sanctuary were reverently con-
veyed, in a common coffin, the twelve skulls which, for ten
years, had made the Bridge Tow-er a ghastly spectacle;
and after a memorial oration by Martini, removed for secret
burial. ^^

Samuel Martini, of Drazovin, a bigoted Lutheran and im-
placable enemy of the Brethren, was appointed Administrator
of the new Consistory-, in which body, through his influence,
they were not represented. Nor was the Bethlehem Chapel
restored to them. Nevertheless the news of what had trans-
pired at Prague, filled their hearts with joyful praise and
awakened the hope of a speedy return to their native

Such expectations were not fulfilled. For six months only
did Protestantism maintain itself at Prague. On the twenty-
fifth of May, 1632, Wallenstein, whom the Emperor by the
most humiliating concessions had induced to re-enter his ser-
vice from which the suspicions of the Catholic princes had

Dantzic in 1632, has been incorrectly ascribed to him. That Bible was a
mere revision undertaken by Mikolajewski and John Turnovius, of an
older version. Fischer, II. p. 184.

2' The skulls were interred in the St. Salvator church.


driven him, entered the city in triumph. Again were the
Evangelical clergymen banished ; once more did the Arch-
bishop and the Jesuits return.

Prior to these unfortunate changes, on the thirtieth of April^
of the same year, Sigismund the Third, the Jesuit King, died
at Warsaw, after a reign of forty-five years. Although the
policy which he followed during this long period, constituted
the real origin of the decline and fall of Poland, the prospect
immediately after his death began to brighten. He was suc-
ceeded by his oldest son, Vladislaus the Fourth, a conscientious
and tolerant monarch who tried to prevent the evils which he
had recognized and mourned over in his father's time. When
swearing to observe the Pacta Conventa and while repeating
the words, " I will maintain peace with the Dissenters,"
Albert Radziwill, the Chancellor of Lithuania, interrupted
him and said : " Your Majesty surely has no such intention ! "
Vladislaus replied : " What I swear with my lips, I swear
with the full intention of carrying out."^^ It is true that he
could not prevent the machinations of the Jesuits and that the
Protestants continued to suffer oppression ; but as far as his
power went he faithfully promoted the best interests of his
subjects whatever their faith.

In the same month in which he ascended the throne of
Poland, Gustavus Adolphus, the hero of Sweden, fell at Liit-
zen (November the sixteenth, 1 632). This was a severe blow
to the Protestant cause. In as much, however, as his Chan-
cellor, Axel Oxenstierna, continued the war, the Brethren still
hoped that it would eventually bring about their restoration
to the seats of their fathers. Of such hopes the frequent
Synods which they held and at which they prepared their
Church for a return from its exile, were an evidence.

One of the most important convened at Lissa in the autumn
of 1632. The first subject of deliberation was the episcopacy.
While in the act of preaching, Cyrill, on the thirtieth of May,
1632, had been stricken with paralysis and gathered to his

^ Lukaszewicz, p. 157.


fathers.^ Three Bishops survived : Erastus, Mikolajewski,
and Paliurus. To this number the Synod resolved to add
four more ; three for the Bohemian-Moravian Province, and
one for the Polish. For the former were consecrated, on the
sixth of October, by Erastus and his two colleagues : Lauren-
tius Justinus ; Matthias Prokop, a man of singular rectitude
and simplicity; and Amos Comenius, whose fame was spread-
ing far and wide : for the latter, Paul Fabricius, the ex-asses-
sor of the Prague Consistory.^* The duties of President, since
the death of Turnovius, had been discharged by Erastus;
now he was formally appointed to this office. Comenius was
constituted archivist, or notarius, and superintendent of
schools. As new members of the Council, and therefore as
Assistant Bishops, were set apart Hartmann, Stadius and
Sapor. Hartmann, who had charge of the church and school
at Thorn, and Stadius, who lived at Lissa, were commissioned
to prepare young men for a theological course at foreign uni-

Publications formed another subject which engaged the at-
tention of the Synod. Comenius was intrusted with the edit-
ing of the Ratio Disciplince; Stadius with the preparation of
a Bohemian Concordance; Hartmann and Joram with the
further translation of the Loci Communes Theologici, begun
by Bishop Koneczny. To Hartmann was also assigned the
collection of additional materials for the History of Persecu-
tions. The original Bohemian manuscript of this work was

^^ He died at the age of sixty-three years. His brethren mourned for him
with deep sorrow and published a volume containing memorial poems in
Polish, Greek, German, Bohemian and Latin : Lachrymae super insperato
ex hac mortalitate obitu, etc. Lukaszewicz p. 148.

^* Justinus was born in 1570 and became a minister of the Bohemian Pro-
vince ; in the Anti-Reformation he found a refuge in Hungary, where he
took charge of a parish. Paul Fabricius was born in 1590 at Straznic, in
Moravia; when driven from Bohemia he settled at Meissen, in Saxony,
whence he came to Lissa.

^^ In 1635 Hartmann, at the particular request of Prince Radziwil), who
was charmed with a sermon which he heard him preach, accepted, with
permission of the Council, a position in Lithuania ; but as it did not prove
to be what he had expected, he relinquished it in the following year.


in the hands of the Synod which resolved to publish a Latin

Another important Synod took place at Ostrorog in 1633.
The episcopacy again claimed attention. Two Bishops had
passed away since the last meeting : Paliurus, on the twenty-
seventh of November, 1632, at Ostrorog, aged sixty -three
years; and Mikolajewski, on the fourth of April, 1633, at
Dembritz, aged seventy-three years. Both of them belonged
to the Polish Province, and in their stead were consecrated,
by Erastus and his colleagues, on the seventeenth of April,
Martin Orrainius and John Rybinski.

Previous to his consecration Orminius, a native of Wier-
uszewo, had labored with great faithfulness and success in
various parishes of Cujavia, Prussia, Great Poland and
Lithuania. Rybinski, a son of Bishop Matthias Rybinski,
received his preparatory training at Lissa and Thorn, and
completed his studies at Heidelberg and other German univer-
sities. After spending some time in Belgium, where, in 1618,
he was present at the famous Synod of Dort, he visited France
and England, and returned to Poland in 1623. He became
the first Rector of the College at Lissa ; and after his ordina-
tion to the priesthood, in 1625, filled besides the office of
Polish preacher. His scholarship was of a high order ; his
proficiency in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and several modern lan-
guages extraordinary. In 1629 he left Lissa and labored as
a pastor at Kwilcz, Grembocin, and Ostrorog.^^

The temporal condition of the exiles caused anxious deliber-
ations. It was growing worse. Many of them had been
obliged to sacrifice all their property and could find no means
of support. A legacy of four thousand Schock Groschen left, in
1630, by the Baroness Esther Sadowsky for distribution among
them, proved timely but had been exhausted.^ To the aid

^^ Dekrete d. B. U., cited by Czerwenka, II. p. 651 ; Regenvolscius, pp.
232 and 237 ; MuUer's MS. Notes ; Plitt's Bischofthum.

'" Fischer, II. pp. 343 and 344. Lissaer Gymnasium, pp. VI. and VII.

^^ Gindely's Comenius, p. 532. Four thousand Schock Groschen were
equivalent to about |36,000.


which the Polish Brethren had been giving, there must neces-
sarily be a limit. The Synod therefore fell upon the idea of
soliciting the Reformed churches of Switzerland for help. An
appeal was prepared by the Bishops in the course of which
they said :

" The offerings which you will give, will be distributed with
such care that each recipient will consider himself obligated to
thank you through us. There are more than one hundred min-
isters engaged in the work of God and about four thousand others,
who need assistance. Among them may be found widows and
orphans ; also families of rank and formerly of such wealth as
renders it almost incredible that their state should suddenly have
become so distressing, or that they should be left in it by their
relations, unless upon the supposition that hatred of their religion
and the spirit of Antichrist can extinguish even natural affec-

With this letter John Abdon, a clergyman, and Paul Stra-
kowski, a layman, were sent to Switzerland. They brought
back an insignificant amount, equivalent to but a few hundred
Polish florins. Hence a number of the exiles were constrained
to leave Great Poland and seek work in Little Poland and
Lithuania. In the following year (1634) the plague broke
out and carried off not a few of them. At a later time the
necessities of the survivors and of the Unity in general were
again relieved through a legacy, left by Baron Nicholas Ko-
courovsky, formerly of Kuttenberg. His entire estate fell to
the Church.=^»

Meantime a body of Lutherans, whom persecutions had
driven from Silesia, arrived at Lissa. The Brethren gave
them a warm welcome. But they failed to reciprocate; de-
clined the use of the church generously offered them ; and
insisted upon having one of their own. Count Leszcynski
yielded to their importunities and instructed Comenius to draw
up a concession, which defined their relation to the Brethren
on the broad and liberal basis of the Consensus Sendomiriensis.
But even now the Lutherans stood coldly aloof.

''^ Lukaszewicz, p. 149 and Note 1, where the entire letter is given.
^ Gindely's Comenius, p. 532.


Martini, who had found a refuge in Saxony, adopted a still
more reprehensible course. The afflictions weighing upon
him and all the exiles in common, did not soften his bigoted
heart. In quick succession he published three polemical
works against the Unity (1635, 1G36 and 1638); and not
satisfied with this, induced the Elector to banish all those of
its members settled in his dominions who would refuse to
accept the Lutheran liturgy. Some yielded ; others forsook
their new homes and joined their brethren at Lissa.^^

In bright contrast with such outrages practiced by Prot-
estants upon Protestants, was the tendency of the Synod
which met in that town, on the twenty-fifth of November,

A Scotchman, John Dury, deeply impressed with the injury
done to the cause of religion by the dissensions and divisions
prevailing among its followers, conceived the idea of bringing
about a union of all Evangelical Churches. To this purpose
he devoted more than fifty years of his life, traveling over the
Continent of Europe and consulting both with princes and
theologians. Of these latter many favored his undertaking,
which was warmly sustained by several bishops of the Angli-
can Church also.^^

That the project enlisted the ardent sympathy of Comenius,
may well be supposed. It was brought before the Synod,
which body, in view of its great importance, appointed a day
of prayer and fasting throughout the Unity; resolved to ad-
vocate it, especially among men of influence ; and determined,
in case a general congress of Protestants should convene, to
send accredited deputies.^

^^ Benham's Comenius, pp, 45 and 46 ; Eegenvolscius, p. 203. About this
time the Polish and the German congregations of the Brethren worshiped
in the church built in 1555 ; the congregation of Bohemian exiles in the
chapel of the College ; the Lutherans in their new church. Thirty clergy-
men in all were living at Lissa.

^'^ John Dury, often called Duraeus, was born at Edinburgh either in
1595, or 1596 : began his work in 1628 ; and died at Cassel, September the
twenty-eighth, 1680.

^^ Gindely's Comenius, p. 493.


In the same year in which this Synod convened the Unity
lost two of its most illustrious nobles. The one was Count
Raphael the Fifth Leszcynski, who died at Lissa, in the full
assurance of eternal life. Coraenius delivered the funeral
sermon, in the course of which he said :

" The Count was a pious and godly man, who held to that pure
Evangelical faith which is firmly founded on God's Word and set
forth in our Bohemian Confession, whereof he was a mighty patron.
He faithfully promoted the glory of God, protected, supported
and in every way furthered the interests of the Church and the
School. The public worship of God he never neglected without
cause, much less a participation in the holy Supper of the Lord ;
to the servants of Christ he listened with pleasure, loved and
honored them. In short, whatever his hand found to do in propa-
gating the cause of God and extending the Evangelical faith,
he did with a joyful and willing mind ; and received a rich
reward. I will not multiply words. But this may truthfully be
said of our beloved Count and Lord, that he was an upright
Eliakim, God's faithful servant, a father among his subjects, a
strong pillar of his own noble House, of his country, and of the
Church of God.'"**

On leaving Moravia, Baron Charles von Zerotin had taken
up his abode at Breslau, in Silesia. There he spent the re-
maining years of his illustrious life, occasionally visiting his
estate of Prerau. In the autumn of 1636 he felt that his end
was drawing near. Not in a strange land, but on his native
soil, he wished to die. For the last time he journeyed to
Prerau. From the top of its castle a large part of Moravia can
be seen. Zerotin ascended the tower and once more looked
upon the country which he loved so well. The valley of the
March stretching far away to the Hungarian frontier, the
fruitful plain of the Hanna, with Briinn in the distance, the
Sudetic mountains, the Carpathian range, Olmiitz, Prossnitz,
Fulneck, and many other towns where his brethren had lived
and labored, lay before him. As he stood and gazed upon this
familiar landscape his heart went out in prayer to God, invok-
ing upon Moravia the richest blessings for all time to come.
Soon after he died, on the ninth of October.^^ His remains

^* Lissaer Gymnasium, p. XXVI.
*^ Chlumecky's Zerotin, p. 864.

^cantt^ C\i


were conveyed to Braudeis on the Adler and entombed in the
family vault.^*^

^® In view of the fact that the remains of so many distinguished men of
the Unitas Fratum are resting in neglected graves, or scattered and even
destroyed, it is a blessed thing to know, that they are in God's keeping and
Avill, through His power, be brought to light on His great day.

Zerotin's body was encased in a copper casket on which was engraved a
lengthy Bohemian inscription. After the casket had been deposited, the
vault was sealed ; and for eighty-eight years the remains slept there undis-
turbed. In 1724, when his name and career had been almost forgotten at
Brandeis, one of its inhabitants, allured by dark sayings of solid silver coffins
hidden in the vault, broke it open and found a zinc casket. When this be-
came known, the vault was officially explored, at the bidding of the magis-
trates and the Catholic priest. Eleven zinc and two copper coffins appeared,
containing eleven bodies, among them those of the parents of Charles Zero-
tin, as also a large number of jewels and other valuables. The question as
to who should own these coffins and jewels — that they should be left in the
vault was an idea which no one seems to have entertained — brought on a
law suit between the Catholic priest at Brandeis and a descendant of the
Zerotin family, that dragged through twenty-three years and at last resulted
in the following decision : Count Lewis von Zerotin was to receive the
jewels and other valuables upon paying 500 florins to the church at Brandeis ;
this church was to receive the zinc and copper coffins. On the twelfth of
May, 1747, this decision was carried out. The bones, stripped of every-
thing, were placed in one common coffin made of oak and remained in the
vault. About 1767 this coffin fell to pieces, the bones dropped out, and lay
scattered through the vault. It was open and accessible to all. At a later
time the stones of Avhich it was constructed attracted attention; it was torn
away; with its stones four small houses were built ; and what was left of the
bones of the Zerotin family — many bones were stolen, others lost — was
buried in a private garden. Chronik von Bohmen, II. pp. 483-486.

On our visit to Brandeis in 1879, we found no traces whatever of the
vault, but in an orchard, the property of a peasant, on the other side of the