Jan Hus vs. Sigismond of Luxembourg or myths and roots of Czech history

“If it works, it works”, Wenceslas IV could ironically sigh. in the early hours of 1400, which indicated that in the years of ecclesiastical and secular crisis no improvement could be expected even in the new century. Conflicts with Brother Sigismund, exacerbated by armed conflict, and Václav’s brief internment also did not contribute to a better mood. The Imperial opposition, especially voters in the Rhine region, blamed Wenceslas IV for the state of affairs. and after a series of complaints, she expressed it in August 1400 by her removal from the Roman throne. However, Václav did not acknowledge his withdrawal and continued to use the title. The impasse was to be resolved in 1409 by the church council of Pisa, which recognized Wenceslas IV. again under the Roman king, but without actually taking power. Moreover, the confidential file of the king’s personal doctor reveals that the king is impotent at fifty-one and that his dream of heir has collapsed. Bottom line – it paves the way for Brother Sigismund to the throne. When he received the crown from the Roman king in Aachen in 1414, the Luxembourgers seemed to be back on horseback!

Jan Hus has been the administrator and preacher of the Bethlehem Chapel in the Old Town of Prague since 1402. In his sermons, in accordance with the views of the English thinker John Wyclif, he advocated the rectification of the church according to the law of God, as the highest standard of Christian life, contained in the Holy Scriptures. In Prague at this time, tensions had long been building and the gap between supporters and opponents of Jan Hus’s reform ideas was widening. Hus was supported by most of his Czech colleagues at the University of Prague, and his view that the reform of the Church should be carried out by the monarch was, of course, also welcomed by King Wenceslas IV. Jan Hus thus enjoyed the favors of the royal court, Queen Žofie and a large number of Prague residents, mainly Czechs, listened to his sermons. On the other hand, the German masters and students of the University of Prague, as well as most of the German citizens of Prague, rejected Hus’s views.

John HusVideohub VIDEO

But the apparent mystery has a simple explanation. At first, the problem of church reform did not interest a large part of the population of Prague at all! Jeroným Pražský was the first to understand that the reform current should be given an additional “marketing” charge. It was he who advised Hus to emphasize in sermons how the Czechs suffered under the rule of German immigrants. This gave the impression that reforming the church would automatically lead to a change in this situation as well, and vice versa, that without changes in the composition of the city council it would not be possible to rectify the church.

The German-speaking inhabitants of the towns of Prague pinned their hopes on close ties with the empire and were unhappy with the changed political conditions. The shifting balance of power in favor of the Czech element was also felt at the king’s court, and they were frightened by the threat that the church would declare Wyclif’s articles heretical. Prague, whose reputation continues to deteriorate, would only plunge it into even greater economic chaos, at a time when rising taxes and the devaluation of the penny were already rightly worrying. As the Council of Pisa approached, German representatives from the University of Prague threatened not to defend the king’s position on this matter. Wenceslas IV. therefore, he intervened in a very intransigent manner.

In January 1409 he issued the Kutná Hora decree, which changed the ratio of votes to Prague education in favor of Czech teachers and students, and thus brought the university completely under the control of Hus’s group. Most German teachers and students left Prague in protest and helped found the University of Leipzig. Everyone in Europe spread reports that King Wenceslas supported the Wyclific-Hussite heresy, which was not in line with official Christian teaching.

Vladimir Mertlik July 7, 2020 • 2:34 p.m.

Wenceslas IV. he had nicer worries back then. In 1410, his competitor, Ruprecht III, died. The Palatinate and Luxembourg are offered the possibility of regaining control of the German regions. But their unity was a washout, and instead of an alliance, they began to compete with each other. Everyone and no one won! In the election, a minority of voters initially elected Sigismund as head of the empire. Then the election was repeated and five electors elected the old acquaintance, the Moravian margrave Jošt, as Roman king. To this we must add that Wenceslas IV. never yielded to Roman royal dignity. Europe has not experienced this! He not only had three rival popes, but also three Roman kings, all from one family. Jošt simplified the situation a bit when he died in Brno in January 1411 and his remains remained in the church of St. Tomas. It was the first time he didn’t complicate things, as was always his habit. Too bad he didn’t live to see it!

The second to understand the situation was Wenceslas IV, who was losing his physical strength. He no longer went to Žebrák, Točník or Křivoklát and was the last in Karlštejn in 1412. He preferred to build the New Castle in what is now Krč Forest, near the walls of Prague.

Sigismund did not want to repeat the mistakes of Wenceslas, and he considered the present task of solving the problems that plagued Western Christianity – the reform of the Church and the abolition of the Three Popes. It was thanks to him that a reformed church council was convened in the city of Konstanz – known in Bohemia as Konstanz – to eliminate the current problems. It met from November 1414 to spring 1418 and assessed, among other things, the legitimacy of the views of Jan Hus, who volunteered for Constance. He lived in town in a house that today bears his name – like the streets of the town centre. Although Hus had been arrested and imprisoned before Sigismund’s arrival, the Roman king still demanded three public hearings, an unprecedented opportunity for a heresy suspect. The council was even prepared to accept the need for church reform, but insisted that no change could be brought about by anyone other than the church. When Hus refused to recall his radical views, he was sentenced to death by burning.

This happened in front of the city walls on July 6, 1415, his ashes were poured into Lake Constance, and eleven months later the master Jeroným Pražský, the most faithful of Hus’s companions, was burned there. Today, the site of their fire is reminiscent of a large monument called Hus’s Stone in the middle of a quiet neighborhood of apartments. In the eyes of many generations of Czech children, the Council of Constance is perceived as something terrible. But that only applies if we perceive it with Hus or Czech optics. From the point of view of history, the Council was a great success thanks to the diplomacy of Sigismund. He forced the three anti-popes to abdicate and elected a new sole Holy Father, Martin V. Ultimately he also decided that the Church would be reformed, albeit under the supervision of his appointed institutions. The completion of the Council of Constance became the absolute triumph of Sigismund, and all Europe saw in him the new Solomon or Justinian and the successor to the work of his father, Charles IV. Sigismond thus fulfilled his objective and returned the lost power and glory to the Luxembourgs! Only for the Czechs did he remain a German and a treacherous red fox…

And that’s all I saw in the rear view mirror today, your Vladimír Mertlík

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