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 9 of 64)
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 9 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

remains and the stake to ashes. The heart they stuck on a
spear and held it in the flames until it was consumed. Every
article of the martyr's dress and the paper cap, which the
wind had blown away, were burned ;^^ and, at last, the ashes
were gathered and, together with the ground into which the
stake had been driven, cast into the Rhine. There remained
not the smallest memento of the Bohemian Reformer ; but his
countrymen came, dug out, on the place where the stake had
stood, a quantity of earth and carried it as a sacred relic to
their native land.^''

Nearly a year later, on the thirtieth of May, 1416, Jerome
of Prague suffered martyrdom on the same spot.^® It is
marked by a boulder on which are graven simply the names
of the two friends and the dates of their death. Ivy and
flowering creepers twine about the stone. Near by stands a
Protestant church.'^

^* There is a discrepancy in the chronicles with regard to the clothing,
some saying that Hus was burned in his clothes, others that they were
stripped off before the execution and afterward burned.

" Aen. Syl., Cap. xxxvi, p. 33.

'* True to the chivalry of his nature and the loyalty of his friendship
Jerome came to Constance to aid Hus and plead his cause before the
Council, but was advised, by his friends, to return to Bohemia as quickly
as possible. On the way he was arrested, delivered to the Council, and
cruelly imprisoned. Weakened by sickness and the protracted sufferings
of his dungeon he was induced to recant, but soon retracted his recantation
and died with the same fortitude as Hus.

^^ The incident given by Croeger, I. p. 35, of an old peasant woman
dragging a faggot to the stake and eliciting from Hus the exclamation,
"Sancta simplicitas !" — as also his reputed prophecy respecting the coming
of Luther, are legends without historic foundation.

An important source for the history of Hus while at Constance is " Ulrich
Eichtental's Bericht iiber J. Hus," a manuscript diary written in quaint old
German. The substance of this diary was twice printed, in 1536 and 1575;
recently the oldest manuscript, that of Aulendorf, profuselv illustrated with
pen and ink sketches by the author, has been photographed. The Malin
Library at Bethlehem contains a copy of this work.


Thus perished John Hus, in the prime of manhood, in the
midst of his work, a noble man, a valiant confessor, the illus-
trious forerunner of the Unitas Fratrum. The full account
which we have given of his life and labors belongs to its
history. This Church would never have arisen if he had
not promulgated principles which led to its birth. What he
taught, the Brethren reproduced in their confessions and
catechisms. What he preached, served their preachers as a
model or was communicated to their congregations by lay-
readers. The hymns which he composed, they sang with deep
devotion. Even the new forms in which he clothed his
native tongue became chiefly their heritage. The Reformation
which he began, they, and not the Hussites, developed to its
legitimate end. The martyr spirit which he manifested, they
upheld. His weapons were theirs — not carnal, but the two-
edged sword of the Word and the whole armor of God.
Well, therefore, may the Brethren's Church still commemorate
the day of his death and sing, in the course of its memorial
office, with special reference to Hus and those of its fathers
who, like him, sealed their testimony w^ith their blood :

" For all Thy saints, O Lord,
Who strove in Thee to live,
Who followed Thee, obeyed, adored,
Our grateful hymn receive.

For all Thy saints, Lord,

Accept our thankful cry.
Who counted Thee their great reward,

And strove in Thee to die."



A. D. 1415-1457.

The Hussite Wars and Factions. A. D. 1415-1434.

Disturbances in Bohemia. — Letter of the Diet to the Council. — The Hussite
League. — Adjournment of the Council. — Gathering of Hussites on
Mt. Tabor. — Councilors killed at Prague. — Death of Wen zel.— First
Crusade against the Hussites. — Zizka. — Victory at the Witkowberg. —
The Articles of Prague. — The Diet renounces allegiance to Sigismund.
— The Utraquists. — The Taborites. — The Orphans. — Further Crusades
against the Hussites and Victory at Tauss. — The Council of Basle opens
Negotiations with them. — The Compactata of Basle.— Defeat of the
Taborites at Lipan.

The fire of the stake at which John Hus suffered, kindled
a conflagration that raged for years with insatiable fury.^ As
soon as the news that he had been executed reached Bohemia,
all classes were profoundly moved. Many who had been
undecided in their views, or timid in expressing them, openly
jained his followers ; the Roman Catholic priests were quickly
expelled from their parishes which were given to Hussites ;
the houses of his personal enemies among the clergy at
Prague were plundered, and siege was laid to the palace of

^ Sources for this and the next chapters are : Palacky, Vols. IV. V. and
VI.; Krummel's Ut. u. Tab.; Bezold Husitentum ; Czerwenka, I.; Hofler's
three Vols.; Palacky's Hofler; Lechler, II, Chap. VI. We present, in
outlines, the history of the Hussites merely in so far as it is preparatory to
the history of the Unitas Fratrum.


the Archbishop, who fled in dismay. The efforts of the
Council to restore order increased the commotion. Letters
which it issued justifying the execution of Hus, warning
against his doctrines, and threatening his adherents with the
severest discipline of the Church, called forth a defiant answer
from the Diet (September the second, 1415,) signed by four
hundred and twenty five barons and knights, full of reproaches
and counter-menaces. Three days later, a Hussite League was
formed, whose members pledged themselves to act in unison,
to allow free preaching of the Gospel on their estates, to obey
episcopal mandates in so far only as they were in harmony
with the Holy Scriptures, to resist all unjust bans, and to
uphold the decisions of the University of Prague.^ Although
the Fathers were encouraged, by the speedy organization of a
Catholic League, to persevere in their denunciations and to
enforce them with the ban, the Hussites were not overawed.
Nearly three years passed by without effecting a change ; so
that when the Council finally adjourned, on the twenty-second
of April, 1418, Bohemia and Moravia were still fired with
excitement which was ready, at any moment, to burst into
flames. Nor had anything been accomplished at Constance in
the way of reform. The new Pope, Martin the Fifth, elected
on the eleventh of November, 1417, disregarding the hopes
of all Christendom, postponed this work to the next Council.
Impotent end of the august convocation that had, for nearly
four years, deliberated on ways and means to purify the
Church !

A peculiar feature of the Hussite movement was the
preaching of itinerant evangelists, in private houses or open
fields. They attracted large congregations; and when
Wenzel, in 1419, ordered the restoration of the catholic
priests to the parishes from which they had been expelled,
such congregations began to undertake pilgrimages to neigh-
boring or more distant churches, where they could enjoy the
Holy Communion under both kinds. A hill, in the vicinity

2 Krummel's Ut. u. Tab., p. 8; Palacky, IV, p. 376.


of Austi, constituted a favorite gathering place and received
the name of Mt. Tabor .^ It was dotted with the tents of the
Hussite clergy who had been driven from Austi, but continued
to minister to the people that came to them in crowds.

On that hill, at the instance of Nicholas von Pistna/ an
extraordinary meeting was held on the twenty-second of July.
In the early hours of the morning there began to arrive, from
all parts of Bohemia and Moravia, solemn processions carrying
banners and the emblems of the Holy Sacrament, until a
multitude of not less than forty-two thousand people was
assembled. They gave each other a jubilant welcome as
brethren and sisters in the Lord. To worship Him, under
the open canopy of His own heaven, was their common
object. Accordingly they divided, each sex. by itself, into
numerous congregations of which the priests took charge.
Some preached, while others heard confessions, or adminis-
tered the Lord's Supper under both kinds. At noon the
entire assembly partook of a simple meal ; the rest of the day
was spent in religious conversation and social fellowship.
The utmost decorum prevailed ; no levity or worldly amuse-
ments were allowed. It was a primitive camp-meeting on
a grand scale. Toward evening the pilgrims bade each other
farewell, with mutual pledges to uphold the holy cause of the
Cup and of free preaching; then each company, again in

^ According to the latest researches of Palacky, Mt. Tabor was not that
hill which subsequently constituted the site of the town of Tabor, but was
situated somewhere in the region between this town and Bechin and
Bernartic (Benarditz). Palacky, V. p. 85, and Note 64.

* Nicholas von Pistna, also called von Hus, or von Husinec, in view of
his appointment as royal burggrave of the Castle of Hus, was attached to
the court of Wenzel, who employed him in various afiairs of state. In
1419 he fell under the displeasure of the King, because he asked that more
churches might be granted to the Hussites, and was banished from Prague.
Thereupon he became one of their leaders and an agitator among the
peasantry in particular, working in unison with Zizka. He took part in
the first Hussite campaign against the imperial crusaders, and died at
Prague, on the twenty-fourth of December, 1420. He was not the heredi-
tary lord of the Castle of Hus, and John Hus was not his vassal, as some
writers maintain. Palacky, IV. p. 416, Note 525.


procession, took its way homeward and made the long
summer-twilight vocal with sacred song. The owners of the
fields, where the gathering had taken place, were liberally
indemnified for the losses which it had occasioned. Similar
meetings were subsequently held at the same place.^

An event of a different and most alarming character
occurred at Prague. On Sunday, the thirtieth of July, a
Hussite procession, led by John of Selau,^ the priest of the
church of Maria-Schnee, while passing the Council House of
the Neustadt, was insulted by some of the councilors and their
servants. A fearful tumult ensued ; men rushed together
from all sides with arms in their hands ; the Council House
was stormed and whoever attempted to oppose the mob was
cut down without mercy ; eleven councilors escaped, but seven
others were hurled from an upper window and impaled on the
spears and lances of the multitude below. Amidst peals of
alarm the riot spread throughout the Neustadt, which was
seized by the populace. Wenzel, who was at the castle of
Wenzelstein, when informed of what had happened gave
way to so terrible a burst of anger that a slight attack of
apoplexy ensued ; on the sixteenth of August he had a
second and severe attack, in consequence of which he died in
a few hours.

According to the compact of 1411, Sigismund was to be
his successor. Blind to his own interests and obstinate in
his resolution to crush the disturbances in Bohemia by force,
lie did not come to claim the kingdom, but appointed Queen

* There are two original and very valuable sources giving an account of
the meeting on Mt. Tabor and of many other events in the history of the
Hussites. The one is Brezowa's Diarium Belli Hussitici, and the other the
Chronica of Pilgram, the Taborite Bishop. Both are frequently quoted
by Palacky.

® John was a monk who had escaped from the Premonstrant Monastery
of Selau. He became prominent during the hegemony of Prague, and for
two years, 1420 to 1422, practically ruled Bohemia. In the latter year a
party was formed against him, and he was secretly executed. Although
originally a demagogue and fanatic, he showed, when in power, great
moderation both in his measures and theology, and labored hard to unite
the two great parties among the Hussites.


Sophia his regent and persuaded the Pope to inaugurate a
crusade against the Hussites. Thus began one of the most
remarkable, and at the same time terrific, wars the world has
seen. For sixteen years Bohemia single handed defied all

The truth which history sets forth, more or less clearly, in
every age, that when a nation is passing through a crisis it
produces the man for the crisis, was anew established at the
opening of this war. A greater general, a mightier man of
valor, a more invincible leader than John Zizka von Troconow,
never drew sword. He created armies. He originated the
most novel and successful tactics. He never lost a battle.
Through his indomitable energy, peasants and mechanics,
armed with lances and slings, iron-pointed flails and clubs,
were trained to beat down the mail-clad knights of Europe
like straw and to scatter them like chaif. His barricades of
wagons, now motionless as a rampart, and again circling over
the field of battle in bewildering evolutions, were a notable
instance of his military genius ; and the battle hymn, " Ye
who the Lord God's warriors are," etc., which he is said to
have composed and which his men were accustomed to sing
when advancing to the fight, shows that he made religion the
source of their irresistible courage. Intolerant, fanatical and
cruel, he was nevertheless a true patriot, disinterested and
humble, striving to lead a godly and righteous life. Deeming
himself an avenger of the divine law, he mercilessly destroyed
all whom he believed to be its foes, and in the spirit of
Israel's stern leader, " hewed in pieces before the Lord."^

' 1 Sam. XV, 33. Zizka was born, probably about 1354, at Trocnow, now
included in Forbes, about ten miles South East of Budweis, and was the
owner of several small estates. He belonged to the lower order of nobility,
is supposed to have, at one time, served under the king of Poland, and
subsequently found a place at the court of Wenzel with whom he stood in
high favor. He left the court and espoused the cause of the Hussites. At
an earlier time he lost one of his eyes, in what way is not known ; at the
siege of Raby, in 1422, the other was destroyed by an arrow. Totally
blind though he now was, he continued in command of the army ; in time
of battle he mounted a wagon and stood under the folds of his banner


The first crusade against the Hussites laid the foundation
of his fame. On the fourteenth of July, 1420, at the
Witkoivberg, now known as the Zizka Hill, half a mile to
the East of Prague, he totally defeated, with a far less
numerous force, the imperialist army of more than one
hundred thousand men. Sigismund fled in dismay from
Bohemia, while the Archbishop of Prague went over to the

About the same time they issued the celebrated Four
Articles which set forth the principles for which they were
contending. These articles were the following :

I. The Word of God is to be preached, in a proper way,
by priests of the Lord, without let or hinderance, throughout
the Kino-dom of Bohemia.

II. The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is to be admin-
istered, under each kind, of bread and wine, according to the
institution of the Saviour, to all believers not disqualified to
receive it by reason of mortal sin.

III. The secular dominion exercised by the clergy over
worldly goods and possessions, to the prejudice of their
spiritual office and the damage of civil authority, is to be
taken away from them, and the clergy are to be brought back
to the evangelical rule and apostolic practice of Christ and
His disciples.

TV. All mortal sins, especially such as are public, as also
all other irregularities contrary to the divine law, in whatever
estate they may appear, are to be punished by those to whom
it pertains.^

These four Articles of Prague, as they are commonly called,
supported by many citations from Scripture and references to

whose device was the cup. He died, October the eleventh, 1424, while
besieging the Castle of Pribislaii, and was buried first at Koniggriitz and
then at Caslau. Malin's Zizka, pp. 133-134; Millauer's Diplomatisch-
hist. Aufsiitze uber J. Z, Prag, 1S24; Palacky, IV. pp. 414-415, and V.
pp. 358-371 ; Krummel's Ut. u. Tab., pp. 11, 69 and 70.

* Hofler, I. pp. 380-384, in Brezina de Gestis et variis accidentibus regni
B., and II. p. 480, etc., in Pelhrizimow's Chronicon ; Palacky, V. pp. 136-
138 ; Krummel, Ut. u. Tab , pp. 34-38 ; Gillett, II. pp. 442-444.


the early Fathers of the Church, were drawn up in Latin,
Bohemian and German, and sent to all parts of Europe. In
June, of 1421, they were formally ado23ted by the Diet of
Caslau, which body at the same time renounced allegiance to
Sigismund and appointed twenty Regents to administer the

But there was no harmony among the Hussites. At an
early day two principal parties arose, the Calixtines, or Utra-
quists, and the Taborites.^

The former received their tendency from the University of
Prague. They were conservative and aristocratic, and as they
continued to hold to the Romish doctrines and usages, except
in so far as these were at variance with the Four Articles of
Prague, they hoped for an eventual reconciliation with the
Church, after it would have been purified and reformed.
There resulted a policy which was both unstable and crooked.

The leaders of this party, to which the higher order of the
nobility mostly belonged, were John of Jesenic, Jacobellus of
Mies, Christian of Prachtic, John Kardinalis of Reinstein,
Simon of Tisnovic, John of Rokycana, John of Pribram,
Prokop of Pilsen, and Peter Payne, an English man, kuovvn
as Master English.'"

The germs of the Taborite party were planted in 1415, at
Austi, where a rich weaver, one Pytel, opened his house to
several Hussite leaders whose extreme views had given offence
at Prague and who began to exercise an influence in opposi-

» Palacky, V. pp. 191-193 ; Krummel's Ut. u. Tab., pp. 87-96; Lechler,
II. pp. 472-474. The name Calixtines was derived from Calix, the cup in
the Lord's Supper, which cup became the symbol of all the Hussites, and
the name Utraquists from the words sub utraque, that is, the Communion
under both kinds.

'" He was expelled, as a follower of Wycliffe, from the University of
Oxford and received by the University of Prague in 1417. Next to
Jacobellus he was the leading theologian of the Hussites, but remained
true to WyclifFe's doctrines, never fully joining any of the Bohemian fac-
tions, although he was reckoned first as a Utraquist, then as an Orphan,
and finally as a Taborite. His name occurs for the last time in 1452.
Palacky, VII. p. 453, &c.


tion to its University, drawing together a large number of
adherents. In 1420 Tabor was founded, by order of Zizka,
which town gave to the entire faction its name and became
its chief and formidable seat.^^

The tendency of this party was progressive, radical and
democratic, leaning, in its political aspect, toward a republican
form of government with an abolition of all differences of
rank, and taking a theological position which was far in
advance of the Articles of Prague and, in almost every point,
at variance with the Romish Church. The Taborites accepted
the Bible as the only source of faith and rule of practice,
recognizing in Christ the only Lawgiver of His people. They
acknowledged Baptism and the Lord's Supper as the only
sacraments, and taught that the latter may be celebrated in
any place and not merely in a consecrated church or chapel,
but that the ministration of a priest guilty of mortal sin is
not valid ; they rejected transubstantiation, purgatory, prayers
and alms for the dead and the invocation of the saints ; they
denounced fasting as a penance, the idolatry practiced with
relics, images and pictures, the use of priestly vestments, the
singing of the hymns of the Roman Catholic Church, and the
distinction which it made between bishops and jjriests, claim-
ing that priests have the right to elect and ordain bishops.

The leaders of this party, which embraced nobles of low
rank, burghers and the great mass of small land-holders and
peasants, were Nicholas Pelhrimow or Pilgram, the only
Bishop whom the Taborites appointed, Wenzel Koranda of

" Tabor, which was not far from Austi, was situated on a broad hill
crowned with the Castle of Hradist and bounded, on one side, by the
Luznic and, on the other, by a tributary stream. Steep rocks surrounded
the place, and the only passage to it was a narrow neck of land but a few
paces in width. This natural position which rendered the town almost
impregnable was strengthened by massive fortifications. Within these
walls war and religion maintained a strange fellowship and gave to Tabor
a character wholly its own. The inhabitants were divided into a " Field
and a House Community," the former carrying on war, the latter engaging
in the pursuits of peace. At regular intervals the members of these Com-
munities, each of which had its commanders, inspectors and captains, inter-
changed places.


Pilsen, Markold, John Capek, John Nemez of Saaz, John of
Jicin, Ambrose of Koniggratz and Prokop the Great.

AVhile the system of the Taborites, in not a few particulars,
bore a scriptural character that has re-appeared in Protest-
antism, it was marred by extreme views and, at times, by
gross fanaticism. As instances of the former we may mention
their opposition to the Latin language and a collegiate course
of education, although they carefully trained their children in
the common branches and in a thorough knowledge of the
Bible; their tenet, that to give or receive an academical
degree constituted a mortal sin; the loose notions, which
occasionally showed themselves, with regard to the adminis-
tration of the Lord's Supper by unordained men and even by
women ;^^ and the tendency to emancipate women, in other
respects also, from the rule laid down by the apostle in
connection with public worship.^^ Examples of fanaticism
were the chiliastic errors into which they fell, under the
leadership of Martin Hauska, and the gross excesses which
followed ;^^ the community of goods established at Tabor
during a period of nearly two years, when the possession of
private property was pronounced to be a mortal sin ; and the
wanton destruction of churches, chapels and altars, with all
their beautiful works of art. For the blasphemy and shameful
immoralities of the Adamites, who grew out of the scum of
the chiliasts, the Taborites must not be held responsible.

A third faction, occupying a middle position between the
Utraquists and Taborites, became prominent after Zizka's
death. This faction consisted of his immediate followers, who
assumed the name of Orphans. There were several other
parties of minor note,

'2 Palacky, V. 193 ; Bezold, p. 39 ; Hofler, T. p. 482.

" Bezold, pp. 38-44.

'* Martin Hauska, a learned and eloquent man, surnamed Loquis on
account of his eloquence, but the boldest of radicals, was expelled from
Tabor in consequence of his offensive views on the Lord's Supper. About
300 adherents followed him, with whom he wandered about Bohemia until
Zizka attacked and dispersed them. Hauska was taken prisoner and cruelly
executed in 1421. The chiliastic errors continued for only about two years.


Efforts were not wanting, although they proved unsuc-
cessful, to put an end to these divisions and unite the Hussites.
The only common ground they occupied was their acceptance
of the Articles of Prague. When engaged in war, however,
they forgot their differences. It continued in all its fury and
was disgraced by horrible cruelties on both sides, but especially
on the part of the Catholics. Four more crusades were under-
taken by the imperialists, in all of which they were ignobly
defeated. In 1427, led by Procop the Great,^^ who took the
place of Zizka, the Hussites began offensive campaigns and
invaded Austria, Silesia, Bavaria, Hungary, Franconia and
Saxony, filling these countries with the terror of their name.
Their most wonderful victory was gained at Tauss, where they
routed one hundred and thirty thousand crusaders, led by the
Margrave of Brandenburg and the Cardinal Legate Julian
(August the fourteenth, 1431). All Europe stood aghast.
It seemed as though God Himself had sent confusion into the

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 9 of 64)