Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jan Hus, Part 2 (of 2)

[The first part to this is here.]

Jan Hus (c.1369-6 July 1415) was enamored of the ideas of John Wycliffe, creating controversy for Bohemia when the church hierarchy decided that Wycliffe's ideas were heretical. King Wenceslaus IV—perhaps alarmed that Prague was becoming the center of church controversy—tried to reconcile the opposition with a synod in 1412. The synod was a failure: arguments persisted, and Hus and his followers refused to accept the absolute authority of the pope.

Hus, never one to lie low, wrote De Ecclesia (On the Church, much of which was lifted from Wycliffe's writings) in 1413, in which (among other things) he challenged the authority of the pope. (Somewhere, Wenceslaus IV was sighing; but he had worse ahead for him.)

Ultimately, the Council of Constance (1 November 1414) was assembled to deal with the ongoing papal schism and other issues. It was called by Wenceslaus' brother, Sigismund of Hungary. The debates began. After several weeks the rumor was spread that Hus intended to flee; in December he was imprisoned by the church. Sigismund was angry because he had promised Hus he would be safe, but the church officials convinced Sigismund that a promise to a heretic wasn't binding.

Hus was passed around, finally spending two and a half months in chains. His trials for heresy took place in June 1415, during which (as was customary) he was not allowed to have any defense. He offered to recant if he could be proven to be in error. Of the several points on which they demanded he recant, he asked that they not expect him to recant things he had never espoused; also, as a matter of conscience, he refused to recant points they said—but could not convince him—were errors.

On 6 July, 1415, Hus was led into the cathedral where, after a High Mass and a sermon on the need to eradicate heresy, he was condemned publicly and led outside, where he was clothed in his priestly vestments so that they could strip them from him. Still refusing to recant, he was burned at the stake and his ashes were thrown into the river.

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