James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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declared on April 6th that their official
authority was derived immediately from
Christ, and that even the Pope was obliged
to submit to it. By these decrees the
council took upon itself great duties,
especially since it had been expressly
declared that the assembly could not break
up before the schism in the Church was
healed and the reform of the Church com-
pleted. Frederic of Austria, owing to
his action, fell under the ban of the
empire, and Sigismund intended to crush
him completely. However, as Benedict's
claims were too great,
Sigismund broke off com-
munications with him and
arranged with his former
supporters, the kings of
Aragon, Castile, and
Navarre, that they should
attend the council and
there agree to his deposi-
tion. This was duly
carried out on July 26th,

Meanwhile, at Con-
stance, other questions
had come forward for
discussion, at the express
wish of Sigismund.
Measures were taken
against heresies which
were disturbing the land,
and especially against
Wycliffe and his Bohe-
mian followers, at whose
head stood John Huss.
He and his sect had
caused much discontent
in Bohemia.

At Prague, ever since
1403, it had been clearly
seen what dangers lay
hidden in the doctrines of Wycliffe, and
the University resolved to forbid forty-five
articles out of his writings to be taught . The
examination of his writings in 1410 showed
distinct heresy in the doctrine of the
Lord's Supper. Hitherto no stronger
measures had been taken against Huss
than against any other follower of Wycliffe.
Not until 1409 was he summoned to answer
for some alleged utterances. The occasion
for further steps was given by the appeal
of some students, certainly at the insti-
gation of Huss, to Gregory XII. against
the decrees of the Archbishop of Prague, by



which every supporter of Wy cliff e's teaching
on the Lord's Supper was threatened
with penalties as a heretic. Gregory
summoned the parties before him, but the
archbishop had Alexander V. on his side,
and he authorised him, at the end of
1409, to act in the spirit of his former
decrees, and expressly charged him not to
countenance an appeal of the parties
concerned. When
Huss and his
nevertheless, ap-
pealed to John
XXIII. against
the archbishop's
measures, John
him for disobe-
dience on J uly
i8th, 1410. But
the question
came before the
papal court, and
an inquiry was
made into the
breach of church
discipline by
Huss, without
entering into the
charge of heresy
which was raised
at Prague. Wy-
cliffe himself had
not yet been de-
clared a heretic.
Huss was now
summoned be-
fore the Curia ;
but in the sum-
mer of 1411
efforts were still
being made to
end the pro-
ceedings by an
agreement be-

bishop and Huss,
a proof that until

places where Huss might remain. Never-
theless, he preached in Prague as well as in
the country. Up to 1413 neither there nor
at Rome had any official sentence been
issued against him on matters of faith.

The events in Bohemia were probably
well known in the empire. Sigismund,
who hardly had any intimate knowledge
of them, zealously tried to quiet all dis-
turbances in his
pwn, country. He
hoped that he
would attain this
result - if he
summoned Huss
before the council
at Constance, in
order to put him
on his defence.
Sigismund, in so
doing, did not
propose an ordi-
nary trial for
heresy, in which
the punishment
in event of con-
demnation al-
ways amounted
to death at the
stake, but a de-
claration of faith
before the whole
council, when
anyone might put
questions, and
Huss might
answer them.
With this under-
standing he
promised the
defendant his
support, and al-
though Huss had
already started
from Prague on



John Huss, the Bohemian reformer, summoned to attend the great j

Church councU at Constance [see page 3167], travelled thither under drew Up for him,

the security of a free imperial pass. In spite of this, however, he on Ortnbpr rSt ri
was arrested, and, on refusing to recant doctrines which the council "*'

pronounced heretical, he was burned at the stake on July 6th, 1415. 1414, a Safe-COn-

the Charge From a sixteenth century MS. in the Boh

of heresy had not been raised against Huss.
On the complaint of the opponents of Huss
at Prague his trial was put into other hands,
and the judgment of the archbishop which
declared Wycliffe a heretic and Huss his
follower was confirmed. Nothing was
actually done, but the ban for disobedience
was strictly enforced, and in October,
1412, an interdict was suspended over all

at Prague


duct that is

say, a simple passport allowing him an
undisturbed and fair journey there, as
well as a safe return journey.

Huss imprudently entered Constance
long before Sigismund on November 3rd.
The Pope remitted the ban under which he
lay, and also removed the interdict and
granted him complete^ liberty until the
cardinals, at the instigation of Michael de



Causis, the old opponent of Huss, treacher-
ously arrested him without the Pope's
knowledge. This took place contrary to
the express command of Sigismund and the
pledge of the Pope ; but the cardinals had
gained their point. Then for the first
time Huss was charged as a heretic, though
the council of John had condemned the
writings of Wycliffe in January,
68 1413, and had even proposed to

""' " 5 institute proceedings against
r his dead person. Sigismund,
mindful of his pledge, took instant steps
for the liberation of Huss. But he failed,
as the council was jealous of his inter-
meddling, which threatened to bring the
members under the emperor's control.

So, at the beginning of 1415, the council,
entirely convinced that it had to deal with
a heretic, tried to represent the earlier
trial of Huss as a consequence of his heresy.
All that Sigismund could effect was to
insist that the proceedings should be con-
ducted publicly. He gained his point by
the end of May, and on June 5th, yth.
and 8th the hearings of Huss did take
place in public before the whole council,
which gave him the opportunity to declare
his beliefs, but otherwise the publicity
was wholly unavailing.

Sigismund, however, declared that his
promise had thus been kept. He took
no further steps for the liberation of
Huss, and, without interfering, allowed
him to be burnt as a heretic on July 6th,
1415. It had certainly become clear
to him, on closer examination, that
Huss from the first had been a heretic,
and implied a permanent danger to
Bohemia. But the rising, in which
Czech national feeling was combined with
religious fanaticism, when once it broke
out, was not suppressed so soon as Sigis-
mund might have hoped. After Jerome
had followed his friend to the stake on
May 30th, 1416, the Bohemians, sword in
hand, began to advocate the heretical

_ 4 doctrines of Wycliffe. For
The Hussite , ./ ,, TT

Wars in twenty years the Hussite
Germany wars " raged through Germany.
In the summer of 1415 war
between England and France had once more
been kindled. These events threatened
to be momentous for the council, and the
representatives of both countries ought
indeed to have been working in common at
thesolution of the great problems. Sigis-
mund had the best intentions of establish-
ing peace, and, with this object went in

person to Paris, and then to England to
the court of Henry V. Since he did not
succeed there in effecting a union between
the two hostile powers, he concluded, in
August, 1416, a defensive and offensive
alliance against France. The French mem-
bers of the council now went over to the
Romance nations, and Sigismund was
compelled on his part to declare war
against France in the spring of 1417. But
the realm was not in a position to lend
weight to his words by any armed force.

The proceedings of the council in the
important question of reform had come
to a standstill during Sigismund's absence ;
its time was taken up with trifles. The
opposition between Germanic and Ro-
mance nations made itself more and more
felt, and the latter had certainly the pre-
dominance. They yielded so far to the
Germans as to agree to the resolution that
at least the reform of the papacy and curia
should be taken in hand before the election
of a new Pope. Sigismund and the Ger-
mans generally wished for a decision on
the whole question of church reform before
a Pope was elected ; but this was imprac-
ticable. Resolutions were

" hastily adopted in October as

Deserted by , , , J ,

_, ,. ' to the procedure at a papal
the ILnglish i A- i ,-L A

election, and some other points.

The English, at the command of their king,
deserted the Germans, and Sigismund saw
his work lost, and left Constance.

On November nth, 1417, an Italian, a
member of the family of the Colonnas,
and of anti-French sympathies, was chosen
by twenty-three cardinals and six prelates
of each of the five nations to be Pope under
the title of Martin V. (1417-1431). He
was a man well trained in the science of
the time, and he had been a loyal follower
of John XXIII. His personality was
hardly welcome to the cardinals, but the
members of the council were the more
pleased to see him. Sigismund was again
in Constance on the day when the election
was announced. The existence of a Pope
whom he escorted to enthronement and
coronation meant much to Sigismund,
since such a Pope could not refuse to give
his approbation, and place the imperial
crown on his head.

The unity of the Church was now restored
once more. But there was no Church
reform. Martin, indeed, set about dis-
cussing with a committee of reform in
January, 1418, the programme proposed
shortly before his election. But it was


here seen how divergent the wishes and
demands of the nations were, and the dis-
cussions resulted in concordats which the
Pope concluded with each separate nation
only for a definite time. The important
resolution as to the regular summoning
of councils was, however , confirmed. The
final sitting was on April 22nd, 1418.
The members left Constance, but the
world did not see fulfilled the great hopes
with which the opening of the proceedings
had been regarded. Sigismund's ideal
wishes in particular were far from realised.
He had wished to obtain peace for the
whole of Christendom, and then to lead
its united strength into the field against
the Turks, but all such plans had to be

Sigismund appeared to his contem-
poraries as the lawful ruler, and great
things were expected of him. It is for
this reason that the programme of social
reform which was formulated in the last
days of his reign was called the " Reforma-
tion of Emperor Sigismund." He was him-
self fully conscious of his great duties. He
knew only too well how powerless the em-
pire was, but he endeavoured
1 to create imperial cities, and

not merely to strengthen the
and Failures . J , ,, & u

possessions of the house of

Luxemburg. He did, perhaps, too little
for his own dynasty. He gave away
Brandenburg, and granted Lausitz, by
way of mortgage, as a prefecture to a
knight in 1429. Moravia came into the
power of Albert of Austria, the subse-
quent king, who married Sigismund's
only daughter, Elizabeth, in 1422, and so
brought the whole inheritance of Luxem-
burg to the House of Hapsburg.

In Bohemia, where Wenzel was still
lord, the Hussite insurrection, of which
we have seen the beginnings, spread
widely and caused the greatest distress
in the country. The burning of the
teacher roused bitter passions in his
home, and the fury of the people was
directed mainly against the clergy. The
nobility united to protect the liberty of
preaching, the university was declared
the highest authority in the Church, and
all Catholics formed themselves into a
counter-league. The religious teaching
of Huss had met with response even in the
royal family, from the wife of Wenzel ;
and when social distress as well as fanat-
icism drove the peasants to war, it was
too late to suppress the disorders. In

the summer of 1419, a few days before
Wenzel's death, public disturbances and
street fighting occurred for the first time
at Prague.

Sigismund was, indeed, the natural
heir to the Bohemian crown, but never-
theless he appointed the widow of
Wenzel regent. Under her regency
renewed uproar and bloodshed

" . ' ' prevailed, clearly in connection
with the question of the succes-
sion, for the multitude loathed
Sigismund, who seemed to be the murderer
of Huss. The king ordered a large
number of Hussites to be executed at
Breslau, and thus gave a new proof of his
sympathies in matters of faith. Martin
V., at the king's desire, issued a Bull
ordering a crusade against the heretics,
and Sigismund was prepared to conduct
a merciless war against the Hussites.

Within the movement itself there were
two opposite parties the moderate Utra-
quists also called Calixtins, who differed
from the universal Church only in
the observance of the Lord's Supper,
demanding the Cup for the laity, " Com-
munion in both kinds," in utraque specie,
whence their name of Utraquists and
the radical Taborites, who repudiated
every cult, and were also the champions
of communistic ideas. The latter had
the upper hand by 1420, committed great
excesses in the country, and intimidated
the Utraquists, who were represented
chiefly in Prague.

Towards the end of July, Sigismund
appeared with an army reputed eighty
thousand strong, and began the siege of
Prague. But the fight was attended
by little good fortune. After a reverse
received on July i4th, the army was
broken up without effecting any results.
Sigismund, however, was crowned King
of Bohemia by the Archbishop of Prague.

When the new king left Bohemia in
the spring of 1421, the Hussites soon

gained the whole country and
Bohemia s > . . ,

Re'c tio f overran Moravia. The Arch-
n . bishop of Prague himself recog-

Stgismund . ,^ ,, tir^ A . i

nised the tour Articles of
Prague," which comprised the Hussite
doctrine, but the cathedral chapter re-
mained loyal to the Church. A Bohemian
diet thereupon deposed Sigismund, and
there was an idea of appointing Wladislaus,
King of Poland, in his stead. Sigismund
could not submit to this, and in a diet
at Nuremberg demanded help from the





empire, in 1421. Since Bohemia possessed
an electoral vote, the empire, as such,
was interested in these events. The four
Fhenish electors shared the same view.
They appeared in Nuremberg on the right
day, but were compelled to begin the
debates without the king. They were
afraid chiefly lest the heretical teaching

should spread to the rest of Ger-
y^ and they tried to guard

against this eventuality by a

careful search for all heretics.
Further measures were settled in May in
a diet at Wesel, where a papal legate held
out the prospect of a remission of sins to
all who took part in the crusade. The
king was not present. But the electors
for their part announced an imperial
campaign, and actually collected a splendid
army, which marched into Bohemia from
Eger, and lay in September before the
town of Saaz.

In October, John Zisca of Trocnow ad-
vanced with his forces. The army of the
crusaders turned to flight, and Sigismund,
who now marched forward from Moravia,
was completely defeated on January 8th,
1422, at Deutsch-Brod. This misfortune
was increased by the suggestions of his
contemporaries that he favoured heretics,
while Bohemia was completely lost to him,
and the Polish prince, Sigismund Corybut,
was chosen regent of that kingdom.

The position of the king was one of
extraordinary difficulty. His presence was
clamoured for in the empire, and yet it was
necessary in Hungary and Moravia. He
made an unwilling appearance in a diet at
Nuremberg in 1422, when it was decided to
support the Teutonic Order against Poland,
and to continue the war in Bohemia. It was
intended to equip two armies one for the
relief of Carlstein, the other to be stationed
for a year in Bohemia. Frederic, mar-
grave of Brandenburg, was to be com-
mander-in-chief. To cover the cost the
Jews were compelled to pay a tax which
The Jews amoun ted to a third of their
Under Hvy pr P ert y- Before Sigismund
Taxation again left the empire, he nomi-

nated Archbishop Conrad of
Mainz to the vicariate of the empire
with unusually full authority, but the
palsgrave, Lewis, disputed this position
with him. Conrad thereupon resigned
the office, but the want of a supreme head
was much felt, as neither money nor men
were collected. The Margrave Frederic
advanced into Bohemia in October with

an inadequate force, since he still hoped
to be joined by Frederic of Meissen.
The war was again temporarily interrupted,
as the Poles made peace with the Teutonic
Order as well as with Sigismund, and
recalled Prince Corybut from Bohemia.
The heresy, however, in Bohemia, grew
worse and worse, and the different parties
began to fight fiercely among themselves.

Since the palsgrave, Lewis, would not
tolerate an actual viceregent of the
empire, for he thought the office belonged
to him alone, the four Rhenish electors,
together with Brandenburg and Saxony,
began to govern the empire as an electoral
corporation, and formed at Bingen, on
January I7th, 1424, an " Electoral
Union," in order to restore order in the
empire, but, above all, to suppress heresy.
The " Electoral Union " was undeniably
a measure directed against the king, and
some provisions of the agreement showed
this more clearly, so that Sigismund was
justly incensed when the message of the
electors reached him. According to the
position of things, he could not fail to
see in it a conspiracy organised by the
. Margrave Frederic of Branden-
oMhe" kurg. anc * therefore invited the
c electors to come to Vienna
>r and to effect a reconciliation
between him and the margrave. Although
they at first assented, they did not come,
and professed only readiness to treat with
Sigismund's envoys at Nuremberg.

When the king appeared in Vienna at
the beginning of 1425, there were only
the deputies of a few towns present. A
rupture between king and electors
seemed inevitable, but the Rhenish princes
were not disposed to let matters go so far.
Frederic of Saxony, who had just been
invested with this electoral dominion, was
on the best terms with Sigismund. The
margrave of Brandenburg, whose relations
to Poland, the origin of the quarrel, had
altered, was obliged to come to terms with
the king. A diet at Nuremberg in May,
1426, effected a complete reconciliation.

In the interval Prince Corybut had
again entered Bohemia. But his prospects
did not seem favourable. The elector of
Saxony and margrave of Meissen, the
powerful neighbour of Bohemia, had
already promised to help Albert of Austria,
the king's son-in-law, to the Bohemian
crown, and to give him his electoral vote.
After the death of th^e leader of the
Taborites, Zisca, on October nth, 1424,



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the struggle continued between the
Radicals and the Utraquists in Prague, at
whose head Corybut placed himself. But,
at the end of 1425, both parties came to an
understanding. It was not, indeed, com-
pletely successful, although the new leader
of the Taborites, Procop (the Great), was
ready to negotiate with the Catholics, the
Kni hts k m g> an d the Utraquists, if only
. . the substance of faith was not

at War with ,, , j TTM -i

Heretics thereby injured. While new
war preparations were being
discussed in the diet of Nuremberg, an
army of Frederic the Warlike was com-
pletely defeated at Aussig on June i6th,
1426. Sigismund, now fully occupied with
his other duties, entrusted the Bohemian
war to his son-in-law. At the beginning of
1427 the Franconian knights dedicated
themselves to the war against the heretics,
and the electors renewed at Frankfort the
Electoral Union of Bingen, while they
attempted once more to take the conduct
of the empire into their hands, though
without any opposition to the king.
Archbishop Otto of Treves was appointed
commander-in-chief for the Bohemian war,
and the troops assembled in sufficient num-
bers ; but the campaign once more ended
with a defeat on August 2nd, at Tachau.
The year 1427, after the defeat of

Corybut, saw the invasion of the neigh-
bouring countries by the Hussites. They
were impelled by the ravaging of their
homes, and above all by love of plunder.
The universal dislike of the clergy felt by
the people, which then showed itself in
every rising of the urban and country
proletariat, had been much intensified by
the appearance of the Hussites.

A terrible war of annihilation now began
to devastate the countries adjacent to
Bohemia for miles around. The Utraquists
were not quieted until the Council of Basle
in 1433, in the " Compacts of Prague," con-
ceded to the laity the chalice at the Lord's
Supper, and the sermon in the vulgar
tongue. The Taborites, after the death of
the two Procops, on May 30th, 1434, at
Lapan, from the effects of this defeat,
surrendered on the same terms, and finally,
in 1436, recognised Sigismund as king.

The war difficulty was not relieved by
imperial armies. But under stress of
circumstances a resolution of great signifi-
cance was passed, through the efforts of
Cardinal Beaufort, half-brother of Henry
IV. of England, on the occasion of the diet
at Frankfort summoned by him in 1427.
It had been seen that the constitution of
the army, hitherto customary, no longer
corresponded to the demands of the time.



The Hussite wars were followed by an attempt on the part of council, emperor and Pope to reform the Church, and the
Hussite leader, Procop, accepted the invitation of the council to discuss the question. The illustration represents the
arrival of the Hussite deputation at Basle, in October, 1433. Although no distinct result attended this conference, a
deputation of the council subsequently went with the Bohemians to Prague, and there terms of peace were arranged.

and that nothing could be effected without
a paid army which remained permanently
in the field. But to obtain soldiers for the
empire, money was essential, and this was
to be raised according to a dexterous
scheme of the cardinal's, by a universal
imperial tax, called " common or general
pence." Although the whole notions of
the age were thus turned upside down, the
tax, which was at once income tax, pro-
perty tax, poll tax, and class tax, was
nevertheless decreed. A commission was
apointed to administer the funds, and the
electors, with three representatives of the
towns, were to decide on their application.
Hardly anything, indeed, was realised,
and the idea was not carried, out. Never-
theless the proposal and the shrewdly
designed system were of great importance
as a suggestion for imperial financial
reform in later times.

Sigismund allowed the electors full scope
in the empire, for the Turks and the Poles
occupied him sufficiently. But for the
complete execution of his plans against the
Hussites, of whom he never lost sight, he
required the help of a greater power, and
hoped for the support of Pope Martin V.
The latter, according to the resolutions of

Constance, had convoked a council in 1423
at Pavia, whence on account of the plague
it was transferred to Siena. But the
assembly, which was very thinly attended,
was dissolved in the spring of 1424, before
any results had been achieved, and Basle
was fixed as the place for the next meeting
in seven years' time. Martin had not
realised the hopes placed on him ; on the
contrary, he tried to develop the papal omni-
potence once more, and was
personally by no means friendly
the to the council. Sigismund,
notwithstanding, looked for a
solution of the Hussite question in the first

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 20 of 55)