From Prague with Borjomi

Jan Hus

I’ve written about the Czech holidays and while writing I thought: What do we actually know about the main national hero of the Czech Republic — Jan Gus?

It’s clear that in mind course of history of the Middle Ages comes up. Jan Hus- a scientist and a preacher — was burned at the stake — national liberation movement of the Czech Republic — Hussite Wars. In principle, information is more than enough. But this information doesn’t give us the complete answer to the question: “What place did Sir Gus take in history? What special was in the medieval sermons of this medieval Che Guevara?”

And now let’s take the laptop and Borjomi and absorb in the history of the Czech Republic.

Imagine the situation. Europe, XV century. Classical feudalism is quietly rotting. Recently on the east Poles and Lithuanians (with a help of the Tatars, Russian and Czech) smashed the Teutonic Knights in Grunwald. Hundred Years War is going on in the west and the British lion is trampling down the French lily. In the middle of all this the Holy Roman Empire stretches as a hippo on the lawn. It is only named Roman, but in its essence it is German, because it is controlled is by the Electors and Emperors of German dynasties, which declare the supreme authority the Catholic Church and the Pope.

 

 

Well, but probably you haven’t estimated the scale of this state. I’ll explain more clearly. Take a look on the map. Do you see the black lines from the northern to the Mediterranean Sea? Between these two lines the Holy Roman Empire spreads, crossing the whole of Europe. It also includes the Czech kingdom. According to the map, it is on the left half of a large purple spot. Notice. Throughout this enormous state only Catholicism dominates. Church in the Holy Roman Empire takes the steering position and defines the general line. Pope approves nominations of the Emperors, declares war and the Crusades. So, he has unlimited power.

 

And here within this unshakable bastion of one faith appears someone who criticizes the most influential institution – the church.

 

 

Dangerous critic

 

It would be O.K. if he only talked about shortcomings of some church officials by urging them to piety. Medieval chronicles and literature are full of such speeches and appeals. But Hus called for modernizing the institution of the church.

 

And here smelled a big scandal, because Hus is almost exactly repeated the ideas of 30 years’ prescription of English professor John Wycliff, whose thoughts were considered to be a dangerous heresy.

 

Here are some of the requirements put forward by Hus from the pulpit of Bethlehem Chapel, where he served as rector and preacher.

 

• Do not levy pay for the sacraments and sell church positions.

• A priest is enough to levy small pay from the rich in order to satisfy life’s needs.

• Do not blindly obey the church, but you need to think for yourself, using the words of Scripture: «If the blind leads the blind, both shall fall into the pit.»

• The power that violates God’s commandments cannot be declared by Him.

• The property must belong to the fair. Unfair rich man is a thief.

• Every Christian should seek truth, even risking his\her well-being, calmness and life.

But the most dangerous at that time was proclaiming the ideas of Wycliff by Hus that Christ is the head of the church, not the Pope. It was a frank mutiny, which undermines the rule of Rome and put the Pope on one level with ordinary people. So this idea formed the basis of popularity of Hus in Bohemia. It also served as the basis for the accusations against him.

 

Outcome

Unfortunately, the story of Jan Hus is one of the examples, when the world tried to kindle the fire too early. This idea was too radical for that time. Very radical. Power in the Empire was too centralized; importance of the church was too great; secular power and the middle class were too weak. Only a hundred years after Hus’s tragic death, his ideas sounded in the writings of Luther and they began the reformation of the church.

 

Sermons of Jan Hus, as well as Hussite Wars didn’t cause the beginning of the Reformation in Europe, but they provoked a rallying of the Czech nation and largely determined the identity of the modern Czech nation.

 

Postscript.

I do not want to end the story at such a sad and pretentious note, however, in order to relieve the tension I will tell you some interesting facts about Jan Hus, the characters, which surrounded him, and mores of that time.

 

1.     Portrait 

The most popular legend about Jan Hus concerned with his appearance. In the era of romanticism in the 19th century reformer was often portrayed in the style of Jesus Christ. In fact, Jan Hus wrote that he had been fat. According to the images taken during his lifetime, it is clear that he was fat, bald and beardless.

 

2. Companions

So-called Hussite Wars began after the martyrdom of Jan Hus. But the main hero of Hussite troops Jan Zizka was not acquainted with Jan Hus. Artists and writers almost made them friends. Of course, it was not true. There is a possibility that Jan Zizka once visited the Bethlehem Chapel, where he listened to sermons of Jan Hus, but historically it has not been confirmed.

 

3. Enemies

While being in detention, Hus survived the fall of his main opponent — Pope John XXIII, according to the order of which he was arrested and accused of heresy. Constance Cathedral, which indicted Hus, also forced the pope to abdicate from his post. As a result, by the end of the Cathedral, Hus and Pope were sitting in the same prison.

Pope John XXIII had an amazing personality. Neapolitan Baltazar Cossa pirated all his youth on the Mediterranean Sea robbing both Muslim and Christian ships. It is noteworthy that the name Cossa takes pride of place in the pantheon of Mediterranean pirates along with Khair-ed-Din and Barbarussa. It’s like to be in the list of Caribbean pirates right behind Drake and Morgan.

 

4. Mores

Quote from the Chronicle:

— Prague canon, the first rank after the archbishop, has lost all his money in the pub and returned home naked. In order to get into the house, he had to knock the door and shout loudly outside. Such situation happened 3 times.

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