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a conclusion with regard to the fate of Hus, they published a declaration enumerating forty-five articles taken from the works of Wycliffe which had been condemned as heretical by the council held in Rome in 1412. As it could be proved that similar and in some cases identical statements were contained in the works of Hus, this in the opinion of all signified the condemnation of Hus. Hus had indeed, as has been frequently mentioned, declared that he did not identify himself with Wycliffe, that he did not accept all his views, and that he might have understood some of them in a sense different from that accepted by the council. Any one who has even a slight acquaintance with the writings of Wycliffe, his voluminous writings in scholastic Latin, crabbed, harsh, and intricate to the last degree," as Dr. Bigg writes, will consider this very probable. Hus may have wished to state this before the council, but was never given a fair hearing there. Any remark made by him that appeared inconvenient was always interrupted.
I must now refer to the last attempts, previous to the trial, made by the Bohemians to save their countryman. The nobles of Moravia met at Brno (Brünn) on May 8, 1415, and sent a spirited remonstrance to Sigismund. They stated 1 that they must again complain of the treatment of “John Hus, a just man and preacher, a faithful and praiseworthy furtherer of the Holy Gospel, of whom no evil is known in these lands. Yet,” they continued, “this dear master and Christian preacher has been imprisoned because of false and foul calunnies spread by evil men, slanderers and enemies of God's word. Through the dishonourable calumnies against this man, all the lands of the Bohemian crown and the Slavic nation 2 have been guiltlessly defamed. He (Hus) went freely without any compulsion to the universal council at Constance, and wished as a good and faithful Christian to free himself and his country from unjust accusations before a general council of the whole Christian world. He received from your Majesty a letter of safe-conduct, though so good a man did not require one." After further remarks
1 Palacky, Documenta.
concerning the safe-conduct, the letter continues thus: “But also we hear that when the pope fled, as well as those who guarded him (Hus), he was taken from his prison-it is best known to God by whose order--and transferred to a more cruel prison belonging to the Bishop of Constance, where he has been cruelly and in an unchristian fashion fettered by the hands and feet and denied even that amount of justice which it would be seemly to grant to a heathen." The letter ends with the words: We trust that your Majesty will grant your full attention to this matter, as is fitting for the kind and gracious heir and successor to our land. A similar letter was sent from Prague four days later by the assembled nobles of Bohemia. Both letters bear the signatures of almost all the men then prominent in Bohemia and Moravia-if we except the dignitaries of the church. The letters, written in Bohemian, were translated into Latin by Palacky as long ago as 1869, but they have not been much noticed by historians. The Bohemian nobles at Constance
besides those who had accompanied Hus, a few others had arrived, wishing to be near him in the hour of danger--resolved also to make a last attempt to save the life of their countryman. Their step was not without danger; they had no power to act as representatives of King Venceslas, who declined all relations with the council. Other Bohemians, noted members of the university, had been driven out of Constance by the emissaries of Michael de causis, and some had with difficulty escaped with their lives. The nobles were but too well aware of the treachery innate in Sigismund, though they may have thought that he would at least during the lifetime of Hus endeavour to avoid a general uprising in Bohemia. Associated with the Bohemians were a few Polish noblemen. They were in distinction from the Bohemians present as representatives of the King of Poland, therefore shielded by diplomatic immunity and restricted by the customary reserve of diplomatists. Yet they did not hesitate to intervene in favour of a member of the kindred Bohemian nation who in Poland also was by many already considered as a saint.
Mladenovic gives a detailed account of the intervention of the
nobles of Poland and Bohemia in favour of Hus.1 While he (Hus),” Mladenovic writes, “was lying in fetters in the fort (Gottlieben), the noble lords, knights, and squires of the Bohemian and Polish nations were moved by their love of truth, and of the honour and fame of the illustrious kingdom of Bohemia, which had now become a laughing-stock, and an infamous object of shame to its enemies, even to strangers of the meanest birth. They therefore resolved to recover and restore its ancient glory, of which they were heirs, and they determined to insist that John Hus, once their preacher and instructor, now deprived of all human aid, should at least have the opportunity of publicly expressing his opinions.” On May 13, the nobles drew up a statement which was to be brought before the council. They complained that Hus, “who had never been convicted or condemned or even heard,” should have been imprisoned. They demanded that he should be publicly heard that he might render account of his faith. A passage near the end of the document caused some sensation. It stated that enemies of the illustrious kingdom of Bohemia had said that the sacrament of the most holy blood of the Lord had been carried about there in flasks, that cobblers had confessed the faithful and had administered the sacrament. The nobles begged that these calumnies should not be believed, and that the delators should be named, that they might receive condign punishment from the King of Bohemia. The last words contained a direct accusation against Michael de causis and the other Bohemian informers, as well as against their leader, the Bishop of Litomysl.
This statement was by Peter of Mladenovic read to the assembled council, that is to say, to the members of the four “nations into which the council had some time previously been divided to limit the influence of the Italian partisans of Baldassare Cossa. It was received in silence, except when the passage concerning the calumniators of Bohemia was read out. Bishop John of
1 Relatio, pp. 256–272. Only a brief account of the prolonged negotiations, in consequence of which at least the semblance of a public trial was granted to Hus, can be given here.
Litomysl, rising up immediately, exclaimed in his own language: “Ha! ha! tot’se mne dotyce a mych."1 In a letter addressed to the council on May 16, the iron bishop protested against the accusation tha he was a calumniator of his country, and declared that the communion of laymen in the two kinds had led or at least would lead to many abuses a statement with which we meet constantly during the utraquist controversy in Bohemia, which only ended in 1620.
The council sent an evasive answer written by the Bishop of Carcassone, and the nobles of Bohemia protested against the statements of John of Litomysl in a letter that was probably also from the clever though prolix pen of Mladenovic. They maintained that none of the outrages mentioned by Bishop John had actually occurred. It is a fact that, though matters changed after the treacherous murder of Hus, no act of sacrilege had at that time been committed in Bohemia. The Bohemians also again appealed to the Emperor Sigismund, an act that does more credit to their ingenuousness than to their sagacity. Sigismund, who, by a decree of April 8, had revoked all letters of safe-conduct previously granted by him, now shielded himself entirely under the authority of the council and did not reply to the appeal of the Bohemians.
None the less the Bohemians, encouraged by the news that their countrymen at Prague and Brno had protested against the imprisonment of Hus, attempted to appeal again to the council. Mladenovic, again acting as spokesman, delivered a lengthy speech before the members of the council assembled in the refectory of the minorite monastery. After again referring to Sigismund's letter of safe-conduct, he made the important suggestion that Hus, who had been neither convicted nor condemned, should be delivered from the fetters and chains in which he was now cruelly imprisoned, and should be placed in the custody of some bishops, or worthy men appointed by the council, who would examine him and confer with him, when he had recovered his health. The nobles of Bohemia were meanwhile prepared to provide sureties—men who would not
1“Ha! ha! This regards me and my friends."
break their faith for anything in the world, and who would guarantee that Hus would make no attempt whatever to escape from Constance before his case was judged.
To this new proposal the council returned an immediate answer. On the very day of the speech of Mladenovic-May 31—the patriarch of Antioch, in the name of the delegates of the council, declared that with regard to the alleged misrepresentation of Hus's statements, those acquainted with his language would decide. As the men thus referred to were the Bishop of Litomysl, Palec, and Michael de causis, his bitterest enemies and most venomous calumniators, the injustice was flagrant. The patriarch further stated that the members of the council would not liberate Hus if a thousand sureties were brought forward, for it would be against their conscience to place such a man, whom they could not trust, in the hands of sureties. The delegates of the council were, however, willing to accede to the petition of the lords and to grant Hus a fair and public hearing. What and how constituted the hearing was, and how far it was kindly”-the good Mladenovic adds—" will be seen when I describe the doings of the tribunal.”
The Bohemian lords had undoubtedly obtained a success --the only one they achieved during their arduous, dangerous, and from the first hopeless, campaign in favour of Hus. Hus was, at least, to appear before his judges. Though the proceedings at his trial were a mere parody of justice, and he was scarcely ever allowed to speak, his appearance was in itself a mute protest against the tyranny of a corrupt hierarchy.
1 Of the many writers on the trial of Hus none has better understood this than the late Mr. Wratislaw. He writes (John Hus, p. 261): “ Instead of a secret inquisition and secret murder, we have the record of a public trial and a judicial homicide, in which we are at a loss to discover any valid or reasonable ground of condemnation.” The book of Mr. Wratislaw, written nearly thirty years ago, is still valuable though it has become somewhat antiquated.