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was questioned as to the cause of the refusal, he plunged boldly into the Wycliffe controversy. He publicly declared that whoever should read the works of Master John Wycliffe, or should study them, even if he had the best intentions and the firmest faith, must in course of time become involved in heresy. Hus, always zealous for what he believed to be truth, traversed Stokes’s foolish statement and challenged him to a public disputation at the university in the manner then customary. This challenge Stokes declined; alleging that he had come to Bohemia 0n diplomatic business, being on his way to the court of King Sigismund. Characteristically, Stokes, who was either very little versed in the ways of diplomacy, or irritated by the “ Lollard ” movement which, he thought, he had discovered in Prague, described in his letter King Sigismund as “ Dei gratia regem Ungariae, nec non ad regem Romanorum electum um'cum.” Venceslas still claimed to be King of the Romans, and the words of Stokes were bound to give grave offence to the King of Bohemia and his court. Though declining the challenge for the moment, Stokes, however, made the somewhat suspicious suggestion that a disputation should take place later either in Paris or at the papal court. It was probable in the former, and certain in the latter case that a Bohemian who attempted to uphold Wycliffe’s views there would never have returned to his own country. Stokes, belonging to the period of reaction against Lollardism in England, appears to have been a thorough ultramontane, if we can apply the word to so remote a period. At Constance he attacked Hus and wished to produce as evidence against him a book that he had found at Prague, which, he said, contained the views of the Lollards and which, he had been told, might have been written by Hus. The book, as was proved, had not been written by Hus, nor had he had any part in it. Though Hus was not able to enter into a disputation with Stokes, he yet thought it his duty to reply to the statement which Stokes had made. In a speech, which had been preserved, he justly stigmatised the absurdity of those who wished to declare heretics all who had read Wyclifle’s books. He acutely pointed out that Wycliffe had
been hated by many, and particularly by the higher clergy, because he had blamed their vices and admonished them to lead honest and blameless lives.
Hus’s dispute with Stokes was no doubt soon forgotten in view of the weighty events that followed at a short interval. Through the death of Zbynek the important and valuable archiepiscopal see of Prague had become vacant. Candidates were numerous, and at a period when simony was almost universal in the Roman Church, bribery was rampant. The election at first proceeded slowly, and fears were expressed that Baldassare Cossa might appoint a new archbishop. The king therefore requested the canons to come to a decision, and of the twenty-four candidates Albert of Unicov, physician to the king, was on October 29, 1411, unanimously chosen as archbishop. A contemporary chronicler writes: I “ After him (Zbynek), Albik (Albert) a great master of the medical sciences became archbishop. He was a German by birth, born at Unicov. The people said that he had bought the archbishopric, for he had much money. He was, however, a very niggardly and miserly German, and would not have any knights or pages around him, that he might not be obliged to give them money.” The wellmeaning king, to whose influence the election of his former courtphysician was largely due, no doubt sincerely believed that Albert of Unicov would be able to establish a quieter condition in Bohemia. The new archbishop shared the king’s desire for tranquillity, and perhaps under more favourable conditions their efforts might have been successful. Albik or Albert of Unicov, then about fifty-four years of age, could already look back on a long career. He had begun life as a law-student at Prague, and had obtained academic honours. As was often the custom of scholars at that period, he afterwards travelled for a considerable period. He spent some time at the University of Padua, where he obtained the degree of doctor of law. Somewhat later he applied himself to the study of medicine and acquired the reputation of being one of the greatest physicians of his time. He had recently become a widower, was the father of several children, and had taken vows shortly after the death of his wife. He had through his medical practice acquired a very large fortune, and he accepted the dignity of archbishop mainly by wish of the king, with whom he was on terms of intimacy. The reference in the chronicle quoted above to the large sum Albik had spent to become archbishop refers to a very large gift which he made to Pope John XXIII. That pontiff, as Dr. Tomek writes, would without large payment never have renounced his claim to appoint a successor to Archbishop Zbynek. That the claim of Albik prevailed over even that of the rich and unscrupulous Bishop of Litomysl, who was also a candidate, is probably not due to his greater munificence. It is an appalling proof of the universal prevalence of simony at this period that the contemporary chroniclers always allude to bribery as having decided elections among the clergy, and hardly seem to take other motives into account. In the present case it is, however, very probable that King Venceslas may have used his great influence to prevent the election of his bitter enemy, John “ the iron,” to the archbishopric of Prague.
1 Ancient Bohemian Chronicle's, vol. p. 14.
It was natural to hope that the election of Albik, an elderly, conciliatory, opulent, well-intentioned man, whose home life was irreproachable, would at least cause a respite in the theological strife which was absorbing all interest in Bohemia. Events in distant Italy brought on a crisis which was more serious than any of the former disturbances in Bohemia. It has already been mentioned 1 that, immediately after his election to the papal throne, John XXIII. strove with his entire indomitable energy to carve out for the papacy, or rather, perhaps, for himself, a temporal dominion in Italy. Here, however, the diavolo cardinale found a dangerous antagonist in Ladislas, King of Naples, an adventurer of a type somewhat similar to his own. Claiming to uphold the cause of Pope Gregory XII., Ladislas invaded the papal states and menaced Rome, where Pope John had then established his residence. The pope therefore decided to proclaim a crusade against his Italian rival. The name of crusade, so venerable at its origin, had long been perverted to give a false impression of sancity to very unholy and worldly warfare waged by ambitious popes against temporal rulers. It was only the complete and ignominious failure of the so-called crusades against Bohemia which caused the name to fall into oblivion.
1 See p. 92,
Bohemia had in earlier days, because of its geographical position, not greatly attracted the papal tax-gatherers. There was, however, no hope that such an exemption would continue at a time when the papal crown was claimed by three rival pontiffs, each of whom could only rely on the financial support of a comparatively limited extent of country. On December 2, 1411, a decree of John XXIII. declared Pope Gregory XII. and his ally Ladislas, King of Naples, to be heretics, and granted a plenary indulgence to all who took part in the war against Ladislas or contributed to the expenses of the campaign. It has often been stated that this was at that period a very usual occurrence, and that it is surprising that Hus should have raised objections to such a decree. Whatever may have been the case in other countries, in Bohemia such proceedings were exceptional. This fact, unnoticed by foreign writers, is duly recorded by the Bohemian historians. The only precedent for the public sale of indulgences had occurred in the year I393. “ In Bohemia,” Professor Tomek writes, “ the unhappy recollection of the sale of indulgences in the year of grace 1393 was still vivid, and the archiepiscopal consistory thought it necessary to publish special regulations to prevent the repetition of the more crying abuses that had then occurred." Archbishop Albik also strictly prohibited the taxing of the people in the confessional, that is to say, their being told during confession how much they would, according to their rank and fortune, have to pay for an indulgence—a custom that had been general in I 393.
The orders given by Archbishop Albik and the consistory certainly tended to avoid all scandal as far as possible. This was naturally to be feared in a city where the teaching of Hus and his forerunners had developed a somewhat puritanic spirit. The papal representative, however, who now arrived at Prague, Venceslas Tiem, Dean of Passau, was utterly unfit for the difficult task which he had undertaken. His behaviour, like that of Texel a century later, was bound to cause trouble. Tiem took little notice of the restrictions that had been imposed on him. He carried on his trafiic in divine indulgences in the manner which he believed would give him the largest profit and enable him to send the largest sums to Italy. To simplify matters, he began to farm out archdeaconries, deaconries, and even single churches to priests who, acting as contractors, had to'consign to him a fixed sum, while they were at liberty to obtain as great a profit as they could by the sale of the indulgences. “ Naturally, worthy priests were not suitable for such an unholy trade, and the business thus fell into the hands of priests who were misers or gamblers, lived in concubinage, or practised other vices of the period. These men bargained shamelessly with the faithful in the confessionals and committed infamous actions of every description.” 1 The principal places of sale in Prague, the profits of which Tiem had reserved for himself, were the three most important churches of the city, the church on the Vysehrad, the Tyn church in the old town, and St. Vitus’s cathedral on the Hradcany. In the last-named church the box in which the offerings were to be deposited was placed near the altar of St. Vitus, where the people mostly congregated.
It was impossible that this public simony should not arouse discontent and indignation among the citizens of Prague. One of the principal subjects of the sermons of the priests who upheld church-reform had for some time been the abuse of indulgences. ' Tiem had arrived at Prague in May, I412, and early in June Hus invited all members of the university to take part in a disputation that was to be held in the large hall of the Carolinum college on June I7. 7 The question to be discussed was: Whether is was permissible and expedient according to the law of Jesus Christ, (whether it was) to the glory of God, the salvation of the Christian people, that the bulls of the pope concerning the raising the cross
' Tomek, History of the Town of Prague, vol. pp. 508-509.