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HUS AS LEADER OF HIS NATION
As soon as the German students had left Prague, the Bohemians, together with the Polish students who had remained in the city, hastened to obey King Venceslas's command. They elected a new rector and though Hus had already held that office a few years previously, their choice naturally fell on him who had played so great a part in the recent events. Hus was now at the height of his political position. Venceslas was undoubtedly grateful to the man to whose action it was principally due that the University of Prague had discarded Pope Gregory. The queen and the Bohemian nobles treated him with greater favour than ever. He was the recognised leader of the university, and his popularity among the citizens of Prague was very great. His position with respect to the ecclesiastical authorities continued to be an undefined one, and indeed became constantly more difficult. An archiepiscopal decree had prohibited Hus from exercising ecclesiastical functions, but he continued to preach in the Bethlehem chapel. The congregation was very numerous, and the queen and many of the courtiers were frequently present. Present also were some less desirable visitors. Some of the parish priests of Prague, men who regarded Hus's preaching as a reproach to their own unedifying lives and were therefore his bitterest enemies, were often present at the sermons in the Bethlehem chapel. They thus hoped to gather materials for new accusations against him. We are told that the parish priest of St. Clements, one Protiva, was in the habit of assisting at Hus's sermons and taking notes which were to be used against the preacher. This was one day brought to his notice by one of his friends. Hus had that day been
preaching on the difference between the law of God and the command of men, comparing them to corn and chaff. What, he said, is corn but the law of God, what chaff but the command of men ? Therefore will we cling firmly to the laws of God, but spurn the unlawful commands of men. Hus, who was here defending his conduct in continuing to preach contrary to the injunction of the archbishop, addressed Protiva, who was sitting immediately under the pulpit, in these words: “Note that down, cowled monk (Kukliku), and carry it to the other side," pointing to the Mala Strana, the part of Prague situated on the opposite bank of the river Vltava, where stood the archbishop's palace. Hus well knew that fresh attacks awaited him on the part of the parish priests, offended not only by his denunciations of vice and dishonesty, but perhaps yet more by the absolute purity of his life, which lent itself to comparisons unfavourable to their own way of living. Hus, however, was safe for the moment; not only because he enjoyed the favour of the king, but also because Archbishop Zbynek had, by continuing to support Pope Gregory, incurred the displeasure of the cardinals assembled at Pisa. As the archbishop and a large part of the Bohemian clergy continued to oppose their king's wishes in this matter, troubles broke out in Prague, and some priests known as supporters of Pope Gregory were attacked by the people. Popular demonstrations also took place before the palace of the archbishop. Zbynek, irritated both against the king and the national reform-party, placed the city of Prague and the surrounding country under interdict. Declaring that he was no longer safe at Prague, he left the city and retired to his castle of Roudnice, where he was followed by a large number of priests. The king was very indignant at the attitude of Zbynek, and also at the fact that he had taken away with him to Roudnice the treasures belonging to the tomb of St. Venceslas in the cathedral of St. Vitus. The citizens were animated by feelings similar to those of their sovereign. Numerous attacks were made on the dwellingplaces of the parish priests, many of whom were obliged to fly, generally (the chronicler states) followed by female companions.
We have here again evidence of the almost universal immorality of the parochial clergy of Prague.
Alexander V. had meanwhile been elected pope (June 26, 1409) by the cardinals assembled at Pisa. Archbishop Zbynek still hesitated for some time, but he finally altered his views, and on September 2 recognised Alexander V. as legitimate pope. Zbynek's position in Bohemia had become untenable. It was hopeless for him to oppose at the same time the will of his sovereign, the wishes of the Bohemian people, and the decision of what had now become the dominant party in the Roman Church. Zbynek did not gain in popular esteem by this sudden transfer of his allegiance. Yet for the moment this step, which it was believed would put a stop to all internal strife in Bohemia, was received with great enthusiasm. Te Deum and mass were celebrated in all the churches of the capital. On the following day (September 3) the citizens were summoned by the big bell of the town hall to assemble near it under the clocktower three times in the course of the day for the purpose of rejoicing. The whole city was illuminated in the evening, and the burgomaster, Peter Habartovic of the White Lion, with the town councillors, preceded by trumpeters, rode through the streets amid general rejoicings.
This change of attitude on the part of the archbishop necessarily greatly affected the fate of Hus. From the moment of their rupture the archbishop, undoubtedly a good hater, had endeavoured to harm Hus in every manner. His principal weapon was of course that Hus was a “Wycliffite ”-now, particularly in Bohemia and Moravia, a general term of opprobrium, which was applied to all whom it was desired to accuse of heresy. The partisans of Rome, little acquainted with the works of Wycliffe, which, indeed they were forbidden to read, had transformed the English divine into a monster of the infernal regions. Thus the Carthusian monk, Stephen of Dolein, tells us in his Medulla Tritici that when some one known to Stephen was one night reading Wycliffe's Trialogus, it appeared to him as if Wycliffe had rushed into the room,
i Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii.
gnashing his teeth, reproaching him for not believing his statements and striking him heavily, while many spectators appeared to be present. He retired before the enraged fiend, but fortunately found on the floor a dungfork. He seized it, and with it struck his adversary so severe a blow that he fell to the ground. He then battered in his brains and killed him. The spectators praised God, and the victor, somewhat distressed by the manslaughter he had committed, was comforted by the spectators with the words: Fear not! the murder of this man involves no guilt. Hus, it is almost needless to repeat, always admitted that he had deeply studied the works of Wycliffe and felt in sympathy with many of the views expressed in them, but he also always disclaimed the complete and exclusive dependence on Wycliffe which his detractors have attributed to him both during his lifetime and in more recent days.
The attempts of Archbishop Zbynek to enforce severer measures against Hus were not at first successful. As long as the archbishop opposed the cardinals assembled at Pisa, and the newly-elected pope Alexander V., he could expect no aid from the church. The
1 This strange tale should be given in Stephen's own Latin words. He writes: Andiant itaque Jesu Christi fideles quod referam. Factum est hoc tempore ante triduum ut certissime didici quod, dum quidam vir catholicus nomine et condicione haec scribenti cognitus scriptā nefaria legeret, et relegeret in suo (Wycliffe's) Trialogo maxime de venerabili Sacramento Dominici corporis et etiam per insomnes plurimas noctes pluribus suspiriis et lachrymis molestissime ferret, et Divinam et Ecclesiae Sanctae tantam injuriam deplangeret: Accidit sibi ut intempeste matutinae Vigiliae agens idipsum paululum reclinato capite discretionis intuitu quievisset. Et ecce Magister ille diversorium illius fremens et iratus nimium ingrediens, non solum verbis durioribus perstrepens, sed et verberibus horribilibus circumcirca consedentibus plurimis, irruit in eum quae praediximus. Qui dum quasi infirmior non haberet unde vel quo sibi resisteret, irato cedens et retro, et retro se aspiciens, quasi a Domino sibi praeparatam vidit tridentem, jacentem furcam id est instrumentum quo fimus de stabulis et domibus solet purgari et ejici. Conversusque hanc arreptam illi in faciem valido ictu et in caput suum impegit, et dejecto eo usque ad cerebri effusionem concussit, manus confregit et penitus interfecit. Ad cujus spectaculum facto multorum fidelium laetabundo concursu, dicentibus et acclamantibus singulis, Benedictus Deus qui tradidit impium: dictum est victori singularis certaminis perterrite de homicidio ne timueris; ex nece enim hujus hominis irregularitatem non incurres." (Stephanus Dolanensis, Medulla Tritici, Pez Thesaurus Anecdotorum, vol. iv. 2, pp. 246–247.)
adherents of Hus even brought complaints against Zbynek before Pope Alexander, who had indeed summoned Zbynek before his tribunal when the news of the submission of the Archbishop of Prague arrived. An immediate change took place. As Dr. Flajshans writes, the pope preferred as an ally the mighty archbishop to the humble preacher. The archbishop's officials now attacked Hus not only as a defamer of the clergy of Prague, but also as an adherent of Wycliffe. Wycliffe, as noted above, was to serve as an arm against Hus; he and his friends were to be stigmatised as favourers of the heretical views of the English reformer, as restless and dangerous men; thus would a stain cling to all their attempts to reform the church-attempts which the archbishop himself had formerly favoured and forwarded.1
Zbynek opened his new campaign by again referring to the accusations against Hus which the parish priest of Prague had already brought forward in the preceding year (1408). He demanded an explanation of the conduct of Hus, and stated that new complaints against him had been brought to his knowledge. The very curious document 2 which contains these accusations throws a strong light on the vast system of espionage which surrounded Hus long before he had been declared an enemy of the church. The parochial clergy of Prague were bent on the ruin of Hus at a time when he was still in high favour with the archbishop. No one who has taken the trouble to read this document will hesitate to attribute mainly to the jealousy and animosity of the parish priests of Prague the persecution from which Hus suffered from the beginning of his preaching to the moment when he perished at the stake. The document printed by Palacky contains marginal notes by Hus answering some of the accusations. They are very valuable, as the proceedings at the archbishop's court at which Hus appeared were secret, and they, therefore, are the only clue we have to Hus's defence. He himself no doubt attached great importance to them, and it is probable that the notes were written out by him from
Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. iii. p. 475. • Palacky, Documenta, pp. 164-169.