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wishing to benefit the commonwealth and laudably to exalt his Bohemian kingdom," obtained from the apostolic see the permission to establish a university (studium) at Prague. Charles, always a great admirer of France, where he had been educated and where, according to an ancient tradition, he had studied at the University of Paris, largely modelled the regulations of his new university on those that were then in force in Paris. As in Paris, the new university formed an independent community which enjoyed complete autonomy both with regard to civil and ecclesiastical matters. At the head of the university was a rector chosen twice annually by the members of the university, scholars as well as masters—a point that deserves notice, as Prague herein differed from Paris. The rector exercised very extensive powers over the members of the university, whom he could sentence to fines, imprisonment, and corporal punishment.
At the foundation of the university Charles had erected no special buildings for the purpose of study. The masters generally lectured in their own dwelling-places or at the monasteries to which they belonged. Gradually, however, colleges sprang up on lines not dissimilar from those of the Sorbonne in Paris. Charles himself founded the Carolinum, and shortly afterwards colleges, some intended only for the masters, others for scholars, also were established. Charles's son and successor, Venceslas, followed in the footsteps of his father and founded a college in the Ovocny trh (fruit-market) which bore his name and for a time counted Hus among its inmates.
When founding the University of Prague Charles had distinctly stated that he had founded the new establishment mainly for the purpose that the Bohemians might be able to pursue higher studies in their own country without undertaking journeys to distant cities such as Paris, Oxford, or Bologna; only as
See Tomek, Deje University Prazské (History of the University of Prague), and the same author's Dejepis Mesta Prahy (History of the Town of Prague), vol. iii., also Dr. S. Winter, o zivote na vysokych skolach Prazskych (Life at the High Schools of Prague), and the same author's Deje vysokych skol Prazskych (History of the High Schools of Prague).
a secondary motive was the hope expressed that in consequence of the new foundation many foreign students would be attracted to Prague, which Charles had just greatly enlarged by building the "new town.” It was, therefore, undoubtedly in accordance with the wishes of the king that the new university had at first a national character. Thus, among the earliest teachers there, we find the names of John Moravec, Albert Bluduv, John of Dambach, Bohemians by birth, who had been educated at foreign universities. We do not find a single German name among these earliest teachers. It can therefore be said that the University of Prague was originally Bohemian, though Latin was the language in which instruction was given. During the reign of Venceslas matters changed, and at the time of the arrival of Hus at Prague the Germans had obtained almost complete control over the university.
The University of Prague was, almost from its beginning, divided into “nations," as was customary in Paris and Bologna. The Bohemian nation included besides the students from Bohemia and the country of Glatz—then part of the country—those who belonged to Moravia, Hungary, and the southern Slavic countries. The Bavarian nation comprised the students from the Bavarian principalities as well as those from Austria, Suabia, Franconia, and the Rhinelands. The students from Saxony, Meissen, and Thuringia, with those from Sweden and Denmark, formed the Saxon nation. The Polish nation was composed of Poles, Russians, Lithuanians, and Silesians. Since the foundation of the University of Cracow in 1364, the majority of the members of this nation was German. The division into nations contrary to the practice of Paris-at Prague extended to the masters also. This, according to the views of a recent learned writer, largely contributed to envenom the national dissensions at the university.
The new university—the first one founded in central Europe
Tadra, Kulturni Styky Cechs cizinou (Cultural Connection of Bohemia with Foreign Countries), passim, particularly pp. 288–289.
2 Denifle, quoted by Winter, Deje vysokych skol Prazskych.
--immediately attracted large crowds of students from all parts of Europe. The contemporary chronicler, Benes of Weitmil, writes: “The university became so great that nothing equal to it existed in Germany, and students came there from all parts of the worldfrom England, France, Lombardy, and Poland, and all the surrounding countries, sons of nobles and princes, and prelates of the church from all parts of the world.” The students were not all, as at the present day, men in early youth. The “faculty" of the jurists in particular, which for a time formed a separate body, contained many men of maturer age. Many wealthy men, often accompanied by numerous servants, also came to Prague, more for the purpose of enjoying the pleasures of the capital than for the purpose of study. This vast crowd of students added greatly to the population of Prague, and contributed greatly to enrich the citizens. The latter were not, however, always pleased with this great immigration. Among the students were many turbulent and riotous men, street brawls and even fights were frequent. Prague had somewhat the appearance of Paris at the time of Villon. The rector and beadles often proved unable to maintain order, and in 1374 the authorities of the university came to an agreement with those of the city, according to which the cityguards were empowered to arrest and hand over to the custody of the rector turbulent and riotous students. Other complaints also were made against the members of the new university. It was stated that they were followed everywhere by numerous undesirable female companions. It must, however, be stated in defence of the students that the example given them by the clergy of Prague was not a very edifying one.
It was for this turbulent and sensuous capital that the youthful south Bohemian peasant John left the quiet of his native Husinec. Of his early student-days we possess somewhat touching reminis
1 The parishioners of St. Nicholas in the old town declared: Quod multae domus sunt in parochia ipsorum et aliis, ubi studentes morantur, et rara domus est in quibus morantur in qua non foverent meretrices publicas, de quo multi homines scandalizantur," Quoted by Tomek, Dejepis Mesta Prahy, vol. iii. p. 284, n.
cences, which are scattered throughout his writings. It is a peculiarity of Hus that he always writes of his actions with a truly saintly humility, exaggerating in an almost childlike fashion every little misdeed, or what he considered as such. He, on the other hand, always takes much trouble to conceal the strenuous work and bitter self-renunciation which were the principal features of his studentlife at Prague. In a spirit that almost appears inspired by personal animosity, recent German writers have laid great stress on Hus's very innocent confessions. The son of poor parents, Hus endured the sufferings of poverty and even of hunger, and was often obliged to sleep on the bare ground and even reduced to begging in the streets-not, it must be remembered, a very exceptional occurrence for a mediæval student at a time when the fame of the mendicant orders was at its height. Hus also endeavoured, as he tells us, to add to his scanty means by acting as singing boy and ministrant at religious services. He appears to have taken part in the rough games of his fellow-students, though at the university he always bore an excellent character. Always a severe judge himself, he confessed at a later period that he had been very fond of playing chess, and had even won money at that game. The life of Hus became somewhat less hard when he obtained admission to the college which King Venceslas had recently founded in the fruitmarket. Hus had come to Prague to study theology, then almost the only career for an impecunious, but intelligent and studious young man.
In his usual quaintly humorous manner he tells that he rejoiced in the thought of becoming a priest, as he would then have a good dwelling-place and clothing and be esteemed by the people. It would be unnecessary to state—had not the detractors of Hus expressed a contrary opinion—that this casual remark by no means proves that Hus had not from his youth a
1 Hus refers in his quaint manner to this time when his only food consisted of a scant pittance of bread and peas. As I," he writes," when I was a hungry little student, made a spoon out of bread till I had eaten the peas, and then I ate the spoon also.” Vyklad desatera bozieho prikazanie (Exposition of the Ten Commandments), chap. lxxvii. p. 278, of Erben's edition.
strong religious vocation and a strong inclination to theological studies. That he soon became famed for his piety in Prague is proved by a legend that is told of his student-days. It was related that Hus had, when reading the legend of St. Lawrence, asked himself whether he also would be able to suffer such pain for the sake of Christ. He immediately placed his hand on the fire in the coal-pan, and firmly held it there till one of his companions drew it away. Hus, we are told, then said: “Why dost thou fear so small a matter? I only wished to test whether I should have sufficient courage to bear but a small part of that pain which St. Lawrence endured."
That Hus pursued his theological studies with energy and perseverance is proved by his rapid progress at the university. He would, there is little doubt, have become a theologian of the highest rank had his life been longer and less troubled. In his early university days Hus was not only a firm adherent of the Catholic Church -he indeed always continued to consider himself as such--but he even followed superstitious practices of the Roman Church which he afterwards condemned. When, in 1393, a year of jubilee was announced at Prague, and letters of indulgence remitting sins were publicly sold at the Vysehrad, Hus was among those who availed themselves of this privilege and, as he himself tells us, spent his few remaining coins in purchasing these supposed celestial favours. Other men, however, who were older than Hus at this period, already viewed with great displeasure this traffic in holy things, and when, in 1412, indulgences were again sold at Prague to defray the expenses of the war which Pope John XXIII. was waging against the King of Naples, many were mindful of the scandals caused by the sale of indulgences in 1393.
The University of Prague was at that time at the height of its fame, and Hus had the privilege of hearing the sermons and lectures of many eminent men. Among them was Adalbert Ranco, who has already been mentioned, and whose strongly anti-papal views may not have been without influence on the young student. One of Hus's teachers also was the famed preacher, John of Stekna,