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by the primitive church. Then King Venceslas was greatly disturbed, fearing that they would put in his place Nicholas of Hus, whom he had exiled from Prague because he had, accompanied by a large crowd of men, who, however, were unarmed, addressed him near the Church of St. Apollinaris, begging him to grant freely communion in both kinds to adults and children."
The Nicholas of Hus here mentioned by Brezova had been one of King Venceslas's courtiers, but had been banished from the court because he had at the head of a large band of men appealed to the king requesting him to grant a general permission to receive communion in the two kinds. By a decree of Venceslas religious services according to the utraquist rites had been limited to three churches in Prague. It is uncertain whether Nicholas of Hus, as stated by Brezova, intended to seize the crown of Bohemia, but it is certain that in the last months of his life Venceslas lost all his previous popularity with the Bohemian people. A weak, though well-meaning man, he had now definitely to decide whether he would throw in his lot with his people and resolutely face Sigismund and his numerous allies, or whether he would aid his treacherous younger brother in crushing the national movement and reconquering Bohemia. Finally Venceslas, intimidated by the constant threats of his brother, frightened also by the democratic character of the Taborite movement, determined to apply to Sigismund for aid, and to invite him to Bohemia.
Before the Taborites had taken any further steps, and only a week after their great meeting, events at Prague brought matters to a crisis. The Premonstratensian monk, John of Zelivo, an enthusiastic Hussite and a man of great eloquence and ambition, had acquired great popularity among the citizens of Prague. When preaching on July 30 in the Church St. Mary of the snow-one of those that had been given over to the utraquists—he spoke strongly of the oppression of the faithful, referring to the fact that several Hussites had been imprisoned by order of the German
Contrary to what has often been written he was no relation of Master John Hus.
councillors of the new town, and complaining also that the utraquists were excluded from almost all the churches of the city. The faithful then proceeded to the town hall led by Zelivo. On their way they passed the church of St. Stephen and attempted to enter it. The priests had closed it on the approach of the heretics, and a struggle took place in which some were wounded on both sides and the church was considerably damaged. Matters became more serious when the procession reached the town hall of the new town, and demanded the liberation of the Hussites who were imprisoned there. In answer stones were thrown at them from the windows of the town hall by the German councillors who were strong opponents of the national movement. One of the stones struck John of Zelivo, who, as had become customary, carried the sacrament in a monstrance before the procession. The people, infuriated by this act of sacrilege, as they considered it, attacked and stormed the town hall. They found a leader in John Zizka of Trocnov, who, like Nicholas of Hus, had been a courtier of King Venceslas. The town-councillors were thrown from the windows, and those who survived the fall were killed by the people who were assembled in the market-place below. When the news reached King Venceslas he was seized with an apoplectic fit, and on August 16 a second fit ended his life.
The death of the king left Bohemia in a state of complete uncertainty. Sigismund was undoubtedly the legitimate heir to the throne, and even among the utraquists, particularly among the nobles belonging to that party, some were at first ready to recognise him as their sovereign, should he conform to the teaching of what had already become the national church. Treacherous as he always was, Sigismund had hitherto generally concealed his blind adherence to Rome and his hatred of the Bohemian people. He had even, on several occasions, expressed his regret that Hus had been executed, and stated that this would not have occurred had Hus arrived at Constance with the king, and after having received the letter of safe-conduct. The great mass of the Bohemian people,
1 In the present Karlovo Namesti (Charles Square).
with that instinctive intuition that sometimes characterises the masses, always distrusted Sigismund, to whom they rightly attributed the responsibility for the death of the revered master Hus. The eloquent priest John of Zelivo, who had at that time great influence over the people of Prague, denounced Sigismund in apocalyptic language, calling him the fiery seven-headed dragon of the revelation. Immediately after the death of Venceslas rioting broke out in Prague, many churches were destroyed, and all priests who refused to accept the utraquist rites were expelled from the city. With them most of the German inhabitants left the town. They were almost all adherents of the Roman Church, and bitter enemies of the national party, which they believed to be opposed to the undue predominance which they had obtained in Bohemia.
Sigismund was unable to proceed to Bohemia immediately after his brother's death, as urgent affairs required his presence in Hungary. He determined to adopt a temporising policy, as long as he was unable to enter Bohemia with an overwhelming armed force. He therefore appointed as regent Queen Sophia, whom her known sympathy with the Hussite cause rendered very popular. As her coadjutor he named the Supreme Burgrave Cenek of Wartenberg, an ambitious nobleman who was in matters of religion entirely guided by what he believed to be his personal interest. Tranquillity returned to Prague for a short time, but the action of the Taborites soon led to new and graver disturbances. At a great meeting on the Tabor hill on the day of St. Venceslas (September 28, 1419) the Taborites resolved to march on Prague. Queen Sophia, informed of their intention, hurriedly summoned a large force of German mercenaries to her aid. Infuriated by the presence of these enemies of their country and their race, the whole city of Prague rose in arms. Fierce fighting began in all parts of the city.” Aided by the Taborite forces which, led by Nicholas of Hus and Zizka
Zelivo referred to the seven crowns which Sigismund wore and also to the new order of knighthood named " the dragon " which he had just instituted.
2 It is beyond the purpose of this work to give an account of the many battles and sieges of the Hussite wars. I have given some account of them in my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch. Some notice of the battles in and around Prague will also be found in my Prague (Mediæval Town series).
of Trocnov, had meanwhile arrived at Prague, the citizens obtained possession of the Vysehrad, where the defenders, King Venceslas's former bodyguard, composed of friends of the national party, offered little resistance. An attack on the Hradcany castle, however, was unsuccessful. In the course of this prolonged street-fighting, of which the contemporary chroniclers give a vivid account, a large part of the city was destroyed. The citizens began to desire peace, and through the mediation of Cenek of Wartenberg a truce was concluded. The citizens of Prague again surrendered to the royal troops the Vysehrad castle; the utraquist nobles, as whose spokesman Wartenberg acted, promised to support their countrymen in their demand of independence for the Bohemian church. The Taborites, who disapproved of this compromise, left Prague and proceeded to Plzen and then to the Tabor hill, where their first meetings had been held. They here built the city of Tabor, which became their stronghold up to the time of their final downfall.
The not very favourable terms of this armistice, the retreat of the Taborites, and the expectation of Sigismund's arrival caused a short-lived Romanist reaction in Bohemia. The miners of Kutna Hora, strong adherents of the Roman Church, seized many utraquist priests and other Hussites and threw them into the shaft of one of their mines, to which they had in derision given the name of Tabor. Many Romanists and Germans returned to Prague and several utraquist priests were expelled from their churches. The Germans greatly rejoiced, and as a contemporary chronicler 1 tells us, smiled and clapped their hands, saying now these heretical Hussites and Wycliffites will perish and there will be an end of them.”
Sigismund had meanwhile arrived in the lands of the Bohemian crown, and at Brno 2 received the envoys of the cities of Prague. They protested of their thorough loyalty to their new sovereign, and begged only to be allowed to continue to follow the rites of the utraquist church. The king returned an evasive answer. He merely stated that he intended to rule according to the example of his 1 Lawrence of Brezova, p. 354.
* In German, Brünn.
father, Charles IV., whose memory was still revered in Bohemia. He demanded that all chains and barricades that had been erected in Prague during the recent street-fighting should be removed, and that the Romanist priest and monks should no longer be molested. Sigismund did not, as had probably been expected, proceed immediately to Prague. Disliking and distrusting all compromises, he was determined to appear in Bohemia only at the head of so large a military force that the country would be absolutely at his mercy. Sigismund believed that such a force could most easily be raised by recurring to the time-honoured expedient of proclaiming a crusade. The term crusade, originally employed to designate warlike expeditions undertaken to free Palestine from Mahomedan rule, had long been misused to describe wars undertaken from worldly and often base motives. The last crusade had been the one undertaken by the subsequently deposed Pope John XXIII., against his enemy the King of Naples. On the advice of Sigismund, Pope Martin V., whom the council of Constance had in 1418 chosen as pope, proclaimed a crusade against Bohemia on March 1, 1420. In this document ? the new pope declared that Sigismund, his beloved son in Christ, wishing to deserve the high dignity conferred on him by providence, had determined to extirpate the deadly poison of the heresy of Wycliffites and Hussites, and that he (the pope) greatly extolled this plan of the king and prayed for its success with eyes uplifted to heaven, for whose advantage this matter was undertaken. The pope therefore entreated and exhorted all kings, dukes, marquises, princes, counts and barons, potentates,3 captains, magistrates and other officials and their representatives, also all communities of cities, castles, fortresses, villages and other localities, and all who were zealous for the name and fame of Christianity, strongly and manfully to undertake the extermination of the Wycliffites, Hussites, other heretics and all who favoured, abetted and defended them. The document ended with a promise
* See Chapter V.
2 Printed by Palacky, Urkundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der Hussitenkriege, PP. 17–30. I give above only a short extract from this strange document.
3 The Italian “podesta " is probably meant.