Jan Hus, also written Huss, was born in 1370 in Bohemia (the current Czech Republic). He derived his surname from Husinec, his hometown. He studied at the University of Prague at a time when Europe was in transition from the Middle Ages to the Reformation. The Bohemian authorities, including Hus, have adhered to the realist philosophy, being strongly influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe, a proud supporter of the reform. The Catholic clergy possessed half of the land in Bohemia; the poor peasants resented the great wealth of the upper clergy, earning themselves largely by selling ecclesiastical offices, privileges and high taxes. The national reform movement, founded by Jan Milic in 1374, was supported by none other than the King of Bohemia, Charles V.
After finishing his master’s degree in 1394, Hus began his teaching career at the University and became dean of philosophical studies in 1401. The followers of Milic had founded the Bethlehem chapel in Prague, where, contrary to tradition, sermons publics were delivered in Czech rather than Latin. After Hus was ordained a priest, he took over the Chapel, which had become the focus of the national reform movement. His sermons became popular until Hus emerged as one of the most prominent leaders of the reform movement. He became councilor of Zbynek Zajic, the new archbishop of Prague. The movement has gained a stronger foundation.
1n 1403, Johann Hubner, a German church teacher, listed articles 45, presumably written by Wycliffe and proposed to condemn them as heretics. The German masters had three votes for the Czech one and the indicted articles became a proof of orthodoxy. The main opposition to Wycliffe’s teachings was his principle of remnant, which held that the bread and wine of the Eucharist had material substance. Although Hus did not subscribe to this particular point of view, many pro-reformers included his teacher, Stanislav and Stepan Palec, his fellow student.
Within five years of becoming archbishop, Zbynek changed his views towards the “evangelical party” and allied himself with opponents of the reform. In 1407, Stanislav and Palec were accused of heresy and were subjected to examination by the Roman Curia. Both men returned with a drastic change in their theological views and became fierce opponents of the reform. Just when Hus came to lead the reform movement, he had to deal with his former colleagues.
Since 1378, the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church had been divided between two popes, one in Rome and the other in Avignon, France. When the Pisa Council was called in 1409 to oust the popes and put an end to what was called the Western schism, Hus often quarreled with Archbishop Zbynek for his opposition to the council. The German masters again managed to hunt the Czechs because of their innate majority. This prompted the new King Wenceslas to dissolve the constitution of the University and to establish a new one with three votes for the Czech masters and a solitary vow for the Germans. Hus was elected rector of the new university.
- More contributions
Hus supported the doctrine of predestination and supported the supremacy of the Bible over the Roman Catholic Church. Hus was a realist who criticized the “commercialization” of the church and worked tirelessly to restore his moral authority through reform. During his subsequent exile in southern Bohemia between 1412 and 1414, Hus could no longer preach as he usually did in the Bethlehem chapel. Then he filled the void by putting his opinions on paper. Now began a period of frantic writing of retaliatory articles against the treaties of Stanislav and Palec, who compiled a great deal of dissertations against him.
The most important work of Hus was De Ecclesia (The Church). Another significant compilation is a collection of his sermons called the Postilla , apart from numerous treatises in the Czech language. Hus’s most popular work in Czech is a trait called Vyklad viery, desatera a patere , which translates into the “Exposition of faith, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s prayer”. When he switched from Latin to Czech, he developed a new spelling as the simplest spelling rules, capital letters, hyphenation and punctuation, etc. These works are considered classical in Czech literature and remain important in the evolution of the Czech language.
- The challenges
The Pisa Council was subsequently detained, which deposed both popes and elected Alexander V. However, both deposed popes continued to be recognized in various parts of Western Europe; now instead of two there were three popes. Archbishop Zbynek and the Bohemian superior clergy remained faithful to Pope Gregory XII while Hus and his reformers recognized Pope Alexander. When the king forced the Zbynek to recognize the new pope, the archbishop bribed Alexander to prohibit preaching from private chapels, of which the Bethlehem chapel was the most important. Hus refused to obey and continued to preach from the Chapel, which prompted Zbynek to excommunicate Hus, which proved futile. The king forced Zbynek to support Hus before the Roman curia, but the archbishop died before the court hearing. Although his case of heresy was tacitly abandoned, the Curia became Hus’s main enemy.
In 1412, the successor of Alexander John XXIII, began a sale of indulgences to finance his campaign against Gregory XII, the proceeds of which were shared by King Wenceslas, who had approved the sale. Hus publicly denounced these indulgences, which had aroused widespread indignation in Bohemia. This proved fatal. This proved fatal to Hus, who now lost the king’s support. The Curia restored the trial for heresy, but Hus refused to appear and was put under “great excommunication”. The Curia also declared an indictment that some church sacraments could be denied to the people of Prague or any other city in which Hus could reside. To save his fellow citizens.
- Death and inheritance
The Western schism continued over the years and King Sigismund of Germany sought to capitalize on the matter to be considered the restorer of the unity of the Church. He forced John XXIII to convene the Council of Constance to find a solution to the Schism and put an end to all heresies. Sigismund sent an emissary to Hus and invited him to explain his views to the council. Hus was naturally reluctant to accept. Sigismund then threatened the action against Wenceslas if he tried to prevent Hus from participating. Hus gave up after the German king secured him safe passage to Constance and back.
However, shortly after arriving in Constance, Hus was arrested and confined with the implicit approval of Sigismund. His enemies used the Council of Constance to prove it as a Wycliffe heretic. The Bohemian nobles interceded firmly on behalf of Hus, but the concessions they could obtain were three public hearings, in which Hus could defend himself. He defended Hus and managed to refute some charges against him. Although the majority of the council members considered Hus as a dangerous heretic incapable of living, he was offered the opportunity to retract it to save his life. Hus refused to retract and was later condemned to be burned at the stake.
Jan Hus is called the most important Czech religious reformer of the 15th century. The reform movement accelerated by Jan Hus conquered many followers in Bohemia who called themselves the hussites. The movement has continued to gain momentum over the course of a century. Martin Luther himself was strongly influenced by the Czech theologian.