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probably in consequence of his violence that Jerome thought it advisable again to leave Prague in 1410. He resumed his wandering life, and appears first to have visited at Ofen the court of Sigismund, King of Hungary, and afterwards German emperor. Jerome, whose self-confidence—to put it mildly—was very great, appears in Hungary to have exercised the ecclesiastical functions, though he had never been ordained as a priest. It is certain that he preached before King Sigismund in the royal chapel at Ofen and violently denounced the rapacity of the clergy. He was not able, however, to remain long safely in Hungary. The Archbishop of Prague wrote to Sigismund denouncing Jerome as a heretic and adherent of Wycliffe. Jerome was imprisoned for a short time, but soon allowed to leave Hungary. After having perhaps again spent a short time at Prague_authentic evidence concerning Jerome's many travels and adventures is very scant-he appeared in Vienna. He began lecturing at the university, and here also his eloquence attracted large audiences. His praise of Wycliffe, however, very soon brought him into conflict with the ecclesiastical authorities. Representatives of the Bishop of Passau, to whose diocese Vienna then belonged, summoned Jerome before them and cautioned him. Jerome protested against the accusation of having spread heretical opinions, and declared himself ready to clear himself before an ecclesiastical tribunal that was to meet for the purpose of hearing his defence. Meanwhile, he promised on his oath not to leave Vienna without the permission of the ecclesiastical authorities.? Jerome, however, succeeded in escaping secretly from Vienna, and sought safety in the castle of Vöttau in Moravia, which belonged to Lord John of Lichtenburg, an adherent of the cause of church-reform. From here he addressed to one of the priests at Vienna, to whom he had pledged his word that he would not leave that city, a letter that was certainly audacious, and that some writers have not hesitated to describe as impudent. He declared that he was sure that the
1" De non recedendo de Vienna sine nostra licentia speciali praestitit juramentum ” (Letter of Andrew of Grillenberg, Canon of Passau, to Archbishop Zbynek of Prague. Palacky, Documenta).
2 Printed by Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 683.
priest—whose name is not given--and his colleagues would excuse him for not heeding a promise which had been extorted, if they rightly considered the circumstances. He then proceeded to inform the priest, who was rector of the town of Laa in Austria, that he had on his journey visited his (the rector's) church, accompanied by the schoolmaster and the town secretary, and ended by assuring him and his colleagues that he was ready to render them any service in his power. In consequence of his flight from Vienna, the representatives of the Bishop of Passau in that city pronounced the penalty of excommunication against Jerome. 1
The seclusion of the castle of Vöttau soon became distasteful to the restless mind of Jerome, and we soon again find him in Prague. In the discussion that arose there in 1412 concerning the sale of indulgences,a Jerome took a prominent part. His speeches at the university obtained great success, particularly among the younger students. Shortly afterwards Jerome again thought it advisable to leave Prague in consequence of his participation in the foolish buffoonery organised by Lord Vok of Valdstyn. He now proceeded to Poland—it is said on the invitation of King Vladislav. His courtly manners, his striking appearance, and his great eloquence here also won him many friends, but he here also incurred the hostility of the Roman Church. He was particularly blamed for associating with Ruthenians, who were members of the Eastern Church. When the Bishop of Vilna expressed his disapproval Jerome declared that the schismatics and Ruthenians were good Christians, and he continued to assist at the services of the Greek Church.3 During his stay in Northern Europe, Jerome received the news that Hus had been summoned to appear before
This document is printed in an abridged form by Palacky, Documenta. 2 See Chapter V.
* Great stress was laid on this accusation at Jerome's trial at Constance. In the act of accusation-printed by Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 679—it is stated: (Jerome) dixit expresse quod praedicti schismatici et Rutheni essent boni Christiani. Quodque idem Dominus Episcopus eidem Hieronymo in faciem suam tunc restitit dicens: Quod non diceret eos esse bonos Christianos. Ipse vero Hieronymus in eisdem suis erroribus permansit eosdem Ruthenos et fidem ipsorum perversam approbando.”
the council at Constance. He wrote to him advising him to do so, and added that he would himself proceed to Constance to assist Hus. A man of a vain and rather theatrical nature such as was Jerome felt tempted to appear before the council, where he would meet all the highest ecclesiastical dignitaries, and representatives of all the temporal sovereigns and universities of Europe. Hus vainly endeavoured to dissuade Jerome from coming to Constance; he none the less arrived there on April 14, 1415. Hus was at that time imprisoned at Gottlieben, but the Bohemian nobles who had accompanied him warned Jerome of the great danger which he encountered by remaining in the city. Jerome immediately decided to escape secretly from Constance, and to return to Bohemia. He had already arrived at Hirschau, only twenty-five miles from the Bohemian frontier, when he was arrested by the Count Palatine John, who, acting under the orders of the Emperor Sigismund, conveyed him in fetters to Constance. He arrived there on May 23, and was immediately imprisoned. Hus appears to have been informed of these events, and though, speaking generally, he did not often allude to Jerome, he mentioned him several times in his last letters from prison. In a Bohemian letter, dated June 27, Hus writes with touching humility: “ I will tell you that the Lord God knows why He defers my death and that of my dear brother, master Jerome; with regard to him, I hope that he will die holily and guiltlessly, and that he will bear himself and suffer more bravely than I, faint-hearted sinner that I am.” 2
Hus was too holy and too saintly a man to be a good judge of character. Jerome at first indeed displayed great fortitude, but after the martyrdom of Hus his courage entirely failed him. Hoping to save his life and regain his liberty, he solemnly recanted all his former so-called heretical views. He did not even hesitate to blame severely his master Hus. He expressed his altered views in a memorable letter addressed to the Bohemian nobleman, Lacko of
1 It is this secret escape of Jerome from Constance which undoubtedly supplied Richenthal with a foundation for his totally untrue tale that Hus had attempted to escape from Constance in disguise.
2 Printed by Mares, Listy Husovy (Letters of Hus), p. 228.
Kravar. The letter, little known except in Bohemia, deserves translation here, as it throws a strong and strange light on the character of Jerome of Prague. The letter, dated September 12, 1415, runs thus: My services to you, first of all, dear noble lord, and my particular benefactor. I bring to the knowledge of your lordship that I am alive and in good health at Constance. I hear that there is much excitement in Bohemia and Moravia because of the death of Master Hus, as if he had been unjustly condemned and brutally burnt. Therefore I write this of my own free will to you as to my lord, that you may know what you should do. Therefore I beg you through this letter, maintain nowise that wrong was done to him (Hus). According to my belief, that was done to him which had to be done. Do not believe, my lord, that I write this forced by necessity, nor that I deserted him through fear. I was long kept in prison and many great scholars endeavoured to lead me to other views, but they did not induce me to change my opinions. I also believed that injury had been done to him (Hus). But when the articles, because of which he was condemned, were shown to me, I examined them very carefully and discussed them repeatedly with more than one scholar. I then clearly understood that of these articles some were heretical, some false, others liable to cause scandal and harm. But I still continued doubtful, not thinking that these articles were by the deceased; for I believed that they contained only fragments and segments taken from the context of his speeches, and that his meaning had thus been altered.2 And I began to wish for his books, and the council gave me some manuscripts written by his own hand that I might examine them. Then I, together with reverent masters of the holy scriptures, again examined the articles because of which he had been burnt, and compared them with the books written in his own handwriting; and I found in his books all the contents of the articles, fully and
1 This letter, written in Bohemian, was first printed by Dobrovsky in his Geschichte der böhmischen Sprache und Literatur. It was subsequently reprinted in the collection entitled Vybor 2 Literatury ceske (Selections from Bohemian Literature), and in Palacky, Documenta.
? It has been previously shown that the council did actually proceed in this manner for the purpose of convicting Hus of heresy.
almost in the same words. Therefore I cannot do otherwise than justly declare that the deceased wrote many false and hurtful things. And I, who was his friend, and with my lips defended his honour against all, having found this, must decline to be the defender of such errors; this I have in lengthy speech declared before the whole council. Now having much work to do, I cannot write more extensively, but I think that with God's help I shall write extensively about the events concerning me, and (these writings) I will send to your grace. And now I commend myself to your favour. Written by my own hand at Constance on the Thursday after the nativity of the mother of God."
Dobrovsky, who discovered this important document in the Carthusian monastery of Dolein in Moravia, had at first some doubts as to its authenticity. Further research tends, however, to prove that Jerome certainly was the author of this mean and Judas-like letter. Dr. Flajshans, the most recent Bohemian writer on the life of Hus, admits the authenticity of Jerome's letter, but suggests that he may have been forced to write it. There can at any rate only have been moral persuasion, for there is no evidence whatever to prove that torture was applied to Jerome. That the true nature of Jerome should formerly have been so little known is undoubtedly a consequence of the tradition—which arose at a time when little was known of Bohemia--placing Jerome on the same, or nearly the same level as Hus. Even this short note on Jerome is, I think, sufficient to denote the world-wide difference that existed between the two men. Jerome, a man not exempt from the scepticism innate in the humanist, recanted for the purpose of saving his life and regaining his liberty.
As mentioned in his letter, Jerome shortly after Hus's martyrdom, recanted the so-called heresies of which he had been accused. This was done by means of a statement which Jerome himself drew up and forwarded to the council. That assembly, however, distrusting his motives, decided to demand a formal and solemn
1 See the statement in Von der Hardt, T. iv. p. 497: Pellectus per concilium ad recantandum non ex animo sed metu supplicii ac spe evadendi consensit tandem, formula a se conscripta et in congregatione solemni praelecta."