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A CONTEMPORARY BOHEMIAN ACCOUNT OF THE
DEATH OF HUS
That indefatigable searcher of documents appertaining to ancient Bohemian history, Mr. Adolphus Patera, formerly head-librarian of the Bohemian museum, about the year 1888 discovered in the library of Prince Lobkowitz at Roudnice a contemporary Bohemian account of the death of Hus that was previously entirely unknown. I had intended merely to refer to this account briefly, while telling the story of the death of the master according to the well-known account of his disciple, Peter Mladenovic, which will never be superseded. I found, however, that such references retarded and impeded the narrative, and I have therefore translated for the benefit of those interested in the matter the Bohemian paper which Mr. Patera read at the general meeting of the Bohemian Society of Sciences on April 9, 1888. Mr. Patera stated: In a paper manuscript contained in the library of Prince Lobkowitz at Roudnice (vi. Fg. 60) which begins with the " Dispute of Intellect and Conscience on the worthy manner of receiving the Body of God," 1 I found among other matter also an “ Account of the Trial and Burning of Master John Hus.” In the present-nineteenthcentury some one wrote on the cover: The following little work is known under the name of Peter Mladenovic's Life of John Hus, and J. Jungmann 2 in his History of Bohemian Literature, 1849, p. 71, n. 159, maintains that this notice is derived mainly from the writings of Hus about himself." Both these conjectures are, however, not founded on truth. We also can give no credit to the view that the writer was an eye-witness of the events which he describes, though he himself affirms this, writing of himself, “I have briefly noted down everything concerning the events that befell in the Suabian country and its capital called Constance, for
1 An ancient Bohemian religious pamphlet.
* Joseph Jungmann (b. 1773-1847) author of a large work on Bohemian literature. (See my History of Bohemian Literature, pp. 362–371.)
some have taken away and some added. But I have noted down all that I saw, and at which I was present.” It appears more likely that he noted down what he heard among the people from the mouths of some persons. The manuscript of Roudnice preserves to us rather the traditions concerning the judgment and burning of Hus which was current in Bohemia in the fifteenth century, and which was written down by some admirer of Hus. The manuscript of Roudnice dates from about the second third 1 of the fifteenth century. In the same manuscript is preserved on page 100b-103b a short Bohemian catechism which differs slightly from the catechism printed by Palacky, Documenta ? magistri Joannis Hus, Prague, 1869, pp. 703-708, and which Dr. J. Müller translated into German in his work, Die Deutschen Katechismen der bohmischen Bruder, pp. 90-95 (Monumenta Germaniae paedagogica, vol. vi.).
The contents of the account are given with the greatest faithfulness in accordance with the original. The necessary interpunctuation has been added, and the prepositions and other particles have been separated from the following word. The account runs as follows:
In the year since the birth of the son of God fourteen hundred and fifteen, I have briefly noted down the events that befell in the Suabian country and in its capital, which is called Constance, for some have taken away (i.e. omitted facts) and some (have) added. But I have noted down what I saw, and at which I was present. When the servitor of Venceslas, King of Bohemia : arrived, he wrote in the evening a letter to the famed and celebrated master Jakubek, surnamed “of Stribro." 4 Seeing this, Master John Kardinal 5 said: What dost thou write, master of the blood of God and of communion with the chalice? With difficulty will the Christianity of the present age accept this. Knowest thou not that we must stand to-morrow before the masters of all Christianity, who will greatly oppose, declaring us guilty because of this (i.e. the introduction of communion in the two kinds). On the next morning the legates, cardinals, the bishops of all Christianity, the King of Hungary as emperor of the (Roman) empire questioned him (Hus)
1 That is to say, between 1433 and 1466.
* The well-known collection of documents, which has been frequently quoted in this work. *Hus.
Magister Jacobellus, the famed theologian. • The great friend of Hus, and one of his companions on his last journey.
saying: This assembly is very grateful to thee for coming to us; hadst thou failed to do so, much good would have been destroyed. And Master John Hus answered saying: Often have I wished to see you in person and converse with you, but I had not such an opportunity (as now). I have appealed to you and sent my magisters (to represent me), Master John of Jesenic, Master Marcus and other magisters, but to them you did not grant a hearing before you. Rather did you oppose them with cries and insults, imprisonment and frowns, but I, commending myself to the Lord God, preached the word of God, wishing only that I could with my own hands lift up all men to heaven, were it but possible. The Bishop of Riga arose among the council, and spoke saying: Master John, this assembly convened by the Holy Ghost says: Wilt thou of thy own account do this (namely), not be sophistical, obey, and accept instruction? He answered and spoke saying: Give me the lowest of your assembly, I am ready to accept with thanks all that will be good. They answered saying: Fifty-two masters have insisted on this, that thou shalt declare thy preaching, councils, and confessions to be heretical, and teach the contrary. Master John Hus answered and said: That was fine teaching of this learned assembly. Did not that young weak girl St. Catherine 1 act thus, that she led fifty magisters to the Lord and I, poor and insufficient man, cannot even convince one. Then the Bishop of Lodi arose and spoke saying: If thou wilt not yield and obey, the spiritual arm will submit you to its discipline, place you in prison, and endeavour to mitigate your errors and heresy. Then they placed him with the barefooted monks under the Rhine where he was put in a prison-chamber which was so narrow that he could hardly stretch himself, and which had but a small window, so that he could obtain a small quantity ? of water or wine, for in those countries there is no beer; and while in prison he wrote of his imprisonment to the faithful Bohemians who loved God, to the men of Prague, Zatec, Loun, and also Plzen saying: Pray fervently for me to God begging him to grant me constancy, for I am not better than St. Peter who three times disowned the Lord Jesus. If I
1 A reference to the well-known legend of St. Catherine. It is said that fifty pagan philosophers visited her to expound the erroneousness of Christianity, but that her eloquence was so great that she converted them all to the Christian creed.
: In the original “ zajdlyk," a measure of liquor. The word, in German, “ seidel,” continued in use up to recent times.
3 In German, Saaz.
(also) disown (him) do not use me ill (blame me), dear Bohemians who are without blame before God and men. But if we are companions in affliction with Christ, we will also rejoice together with Christ. We (will not be) as murderers and robbers, who suffer for their deeds, but we will with Christ suffer guiltlessly that we may obtain eternal life. For Solomon says that God behaves to men as a father to his little sons, punishing them, though he loves them, as a father loves his sons and wishes not to behold their perdition. Graciously hast Thou (Jesus) deigned to look down upon us, giving strange gifts, a narrow prison, an evil couch, vile food, cruel fetters, toothache, dysentery and fever, that, as the whole body sinned, offending its God, thus also the whole body should receive the punishment given it by God. Then came Master Stephen surnamed Palicz ? the parish priest of Kourim, and said to him (Hus): Lend briefly thy ear to what I will say. Master John Hus answered and said: Say, dear brother, something good to comfort me. Master Stephen answered and said: I wonder at that which I have read according to Scripture; since the day of the birth of the son of God, there has not been so hardened a heretic as thou art. Master John Hus answered and said: May God not account this to thee as a sin, for thou hast preached the gospel from the same pulpit as I, and thou hast preached the true faith. But already at the time of my judgment hast thou declared me to be a heretic, may God forgive thee thy sins. Then came the Bohemian nobles, knights of the Hungarian king, Lord Venceslas of Duba, otherwise of Lestno, and Lord John of Chlum, and they spoke saying: Listen but for a short time to that which we will say to thee. We are laymen and know not scripture (sufficiently) that we could counsel thee in accordance with it; but according to common sense we counsel thee: if thou art guilty of these errors and heresies, recant them and save thy life. But if thou art not guilty—and that thy conscience knoweth well—then entrust thyself in great confidence to God. Then Master John Hus answering said: I would not stand before God with even the slightest stain on my conscience. You have given me better advice than could a master, who had studied in the schools.
In the month of June, in the octave of St. Peter and Paul,2 they at last decided to deprive him of his life, if he did not yield. In the church of St. Paul, the principal one of that city, they placed
Stephen Palec, the famous-or rather infamous-informer. • Old style. The martyrdom of Hus took place on the 6th of July new style.
in a spot in the middle of the church which was surrounded by planks some chairs and a table on which were laid his vestments, that he might be despoiled of the dignity of priesthood. Then the Hungarian king, having on his head the golden imperial crown, sat down on his splendid throne between two princes; Prince Hanus, the younger 1 sat at his right holding in his hand the golden apple with a cross as emblem of his dignity. Another prince was at his left holding aloft a bare sword. When they led Master John Hus out of prison, he was so weak that his bones clang to his skin, because of the many illnesses from which he had suffered in prison. Master John Hus bowed down before the body of God on the altar) and prayed, but to the people he only showed his respect by (bowing) his head. For it is written thus: Before God humble your heart, but before the great and the prince bend your head; and he (Hus) stood before them, folding his hands, and from his right foot the fetters had not yet been struck off. One of the assembly arose and spoke saying: This assembly which has met by order of the Holy Ghost bids thee to allow thyself to be instructed. Master John answered: I still beg for instruction, but up to the present time I have received none. I am ready to die for that which I have preached in accordance with the holy prophets, the holy scriptures, the words of the holy apostles, the fathers of the church and the holy martyrs, for better doctrine have I none. Oh, you have summoned me (before your tribunal) and oppress me unrighteously with your might; but I summon you all in a century before the Lord God. Then immediately the Cardinal of Cambray sprang up and said: John Hus, obdurate heretic, this will not avail thee: thou wilt not escape from our hands. Master John Hus answered and spoke: It is indeed a fine holy council; three hundred harlots have followed it (come with it). Your earthly God you once called John the Pope, Balthasar XXIII., saying that he was an earthly God (God upon earth) and could not sin. But when by divine permission the secular power seized him you confessed that he was an evil sinner and simonist, the worst of heretics, and you hold him in the Castle of Gottlieben; and what this council did in summer, that will be known when winter comes; they will fly away like storks, and their enactments will be vain. He then looked at the King of Hungary, and spoke saying: King, that for which thou strivest thou shalt not obtain, for through thy miserable
1 The person thus described is Louis Count Palatine, who carried the imperial globe here designated as the “ golden apple.”