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Hus of the favour of the archbishop, as will be shown presently when referring to the important mission that was entrusted to him. At court, also, Hus was now in favour. Though we can hardly believe that King Venceslas felt much interest in matters of theology, he undoubtedly, probably through the influence of his pious queen, Sophia, treated the eloquent preacher with kindness. In later days, also, he extended his protection to Hus even when by so doing he incurred the enmity of the Church of Rome and of his treacherous younger brother Sigismund. Queen Sophia had from the first shown favour to the young priest, John of Husinec, and was often present at his sermons in the Bethlehem chapel. Through her influence Hus became court chaplain, and the queen also appointed him her confessor.
In 1405 Archbishop Zbynek entrusted Hus—together with two other priests—with a mission that had considerable importance. At Wilsnack, a small town of Slavic origin, situated in the present Prussian province of Brandenburg, strange miracles were stated to have occurred. In a chapel there three bleeding holy wafers had been found, and it was affirmed that those who invoked these remnants of the body and blood of Christ obtained miraculous results. A knight named Henry, who was to fight a duel with one Frederick, VOWed before doing so that he would dedicate his armour to the Holy Blood of Wilsnack: he killed his adversary. One Peter, a robber and murderer, while confined in prison in fetters, also made a vow to the Holy Blood of Wilsnack. The result was that his fetters were miraculously broken and that he escaped. These and other similar tales were circulated widely all over Europe, and countless pilgrims from all countries—~among them many Bohemians —fiocked to Wilsnack. Hus and his colleagues questioned very diligently at Prague some of those who had visited the new place of pilgrimage. The evidence they collected is very curious as bearing witness not only to the superstition and credulity of the .. Middle Ages, but also to the unscrupulous dishonesty of the clergy of the period. Thus the evidence stated that a citizen of Prague, Peter of Ach, one of whose hands was maimed, had undertaken
a pilgrimage to Wilsnack and dedicated a silver hand as an offering to the Holy Blood. Peter, however, failed to find relief. He remained three days at Wilsnack, wishing to hear what the priests would say of this. He then saw a priest who showed the silver hand from the pulpit, saying: “ Listen, children, to this miracle. The hand of our neighbour from Prague has been healed by the Holy Blood, and he has offered this silver hand as a thanksgiving.” Peter then rose, showed his maimed hand, and exclaimed: “ Priest, thou liest ; here is my hand maimed as it always was! ” The result of the investigation, in the course of which many similar frauds were exposed, was that an archiepiscopal decree enjoined on all preachers in Bohemia the duty of informing the laymen in their sermons that pilgrimages to Wilsnack were prohibited. This prohibition was to be repeated on one Sunday of every month.
The deplorable result of this investigation, in which Hus took a prominent part, and the equally repulsive facts that came to his knowledge in consequence of the supervision of the clergy with which the archbishop had entrusted him, rendered Hus yet more bitter when writing and speaking of the Bohemian priests. He thus drew on himself the undying hatred of many of the priests of Prague, particularly of those whose life was not irreproachable. It was, indeed, mainly on the testimony of such men that Hus was afterwards condemned at Constance.
Meanwhile the university and town of Prague had, partly in consequence of the revelations of Wilsnack, again become a hotbed of theological strife. The fact that the bleeding wafers had been misused in an obviously fraudulent manner led to a truly scholastic controversy on the substance of the blood of Christ. Hus took part in this controversy by means of two of his earliest Latin works, entitled respectively, De Corjhore Christi and De Sanguine Christi. The last-named treatise refers directly to the investigation of the so-called miracles of Wilsnack, and was written by order of the archbishop. The older manuscripts mention that it was approved by the archbishop and the University of Prague, While the later ones, written after Hus had been cast off by the Roman Church, state that the treatise had been rejected by the archbishop and university.1
As has been frequently pointed out, the question of the sacrament was in Bohemia very closely connected with the pretensions of the priests whose privilege it was to administer it. Hus’s attitude with regard to the pseudo—miracles of Wilsnack no doubt irritated yet further the clergy of Prague, already deeply offended by his outspokenness, and jealous of his success as a preacher. The contemporary chroniclers all attribute the troubles of Hus to the imprudence he showed in attacking the powerful priesthood. One of these writers states: 2 “ It was commonly said that as long as he (Hus) preached against the lords, knights, and squires, the citizens and the artisans all praised him and felt kindly towards him. But when he attacked the clergy, the pope, and other of the ecclesiastical estate, then many deserted him.” The Bohemian chroniclers write with a great deal of prejudice, and their state— ments must be received with caution. Yet this passage probably reflects the popular feeling at Prague at the time when the relations between Hus and the Roman Church began to become strained. It is, at any rate, certain that the enemies of Hus laid great stress on the losses that might befall the Bohemian priests in consequence of his teaching. Such arguments would also, it was hoped, detach from the cause of Hus Archbishop Zbynek, who continued to show great distaste for theological controversies. In I408, shortly after the second discussion of the works of Wycliffe at the university which, as already mentioned, had ended by a compromise suggested by Hus, the clergy of Prague brought forward new accusations against him based rather on questions of conduct than of dogma. In a document 3 which they forwarded to the archbishop, they, after briefly referring to the previous discussion on the works of Wycliffe, declared that Hus had preached odious and scandalous sermons which had lacerated the minds of the pious, extinguished charity, and rendered the clergy odious to the people. It was further stated that Hus had in the Bethlehem chapel declared before a large congregation consisting both of men and women, “ contrary to the regulations of the holy church and the teaching of the fathers," that all priests who claimed money from their parishioners as retribution for ecclesiastical functions, confession, communion, baptism, and others, were heretics. It was further . stated that Hus, while ofiiciating at the funeral of Canon Peter Vserub, who had been a great pluralist, had declared that he would not accept as gift the whole world on the condition of dying possessed of so many benefices. Hus was lastly accused of having in his sermons generally strongly attacked the priests and lowered them in the estimation of the laymen. Hus replied in a lengthy and spirited letter to the archbishop, which is, unfortunately, not devoid of the scholastic hair-splitting then fashionable at the universities. Yet there is no doubt that Hus was entirely in the right, particularly when he laid stress on the baseness of extorting money from the poor as a condition of administering the sacraments to them. As Professor Tomek has truly written, such conduct proves to what a low level the clergy of Prague had sunk at this period. The learned professor has also pointed out that the conduct of the priests blamed by Hus was in direct contravention of the article 65 of the statute of Ernest, Archbishop of Prague, who had some time previously endeavoured to reform the Bohemian Church. NeVertheless, Archbishop Zbynek henceforth showed less favour to Hus, and soon after the complaint of the priests he deprived him of his office of preacher to the synod. It must be admitted that the conduct of Hus at this period was not conciliatory. Ever zealous for the reform of the Bohemian Church—this, not a change in the doctrine of the church, he considered the purpose of his life —-Hus addressed to Archbishop Zbynek a letter which, as Dr. Lechler, a Protestant divine, has truly written, reaches the extreme limit of that which is permissible to a priest when writing to his
‘ Flajshans Literarm' Cinnost M istm jana H-usi (Literary Activity of Master John Hus), pp. 67—70. Both these treatises are printed in the Nuremberg edition of the Latin works of Hus.
2 Stan' Letopisove cessti (Ancient Bohemian Chronicles), edited by Palacky, vol. iii. . . >
‘ Thisp iiiiportant document is printed—together with Hus’s reply—in Palacky, Documenta, pp. 154—163.
ecclesiastical superior. In his letter Hus interceded for the priest Nicholas of Velenovic, surnamed Abraham. Abraham had preached at Prague without permission, and had been called to account by Canon John Kbel, one of the most strenuous opponents of churchreform. When questioned, Abraham did not deny the offence, but declared that he believed that not only priests, but laymen also, had the right to preach. Thereupon Kbel called him a heretic, and caused him to be imprisoned, and afterwards exiled. This occurrence deeply affected Hus, particularly as Abraham was a man of blameless character. It has already been noted that— though there were many exceptions—~it was generally among the worthy, zealous, and pious priests that the friends of church-reform were found. In interceding for Abraham, Hus vividly contrasted his life with that of other priests of Prague.1 He ended his letter by admonishing the archbishop\“ to love the good, watch over those who are evil, not let the ostentatious and avaricious flatter him, favour the humble and friends of poverty, oblige the indolent to work and not hinder those who labour steadfastly at the harvest of the Lord.” Relations between the archbishop and Hus became more and more strained, and a letter written at the end of the year I408,2 in which Hus defended his conduct and expressed himself in favour of neutrality between the rival pontiffs, closed the correspondence]
The end of the year 1408 is one of the principal landmarks in the life of Hus. The “academic” period, as Dr. Flajshans has aptly named it, now ends. During this period Hus was mainly occupied with university studies and lectures and, still in
‘ The language of Hus is very forcible. He writes: “ Qualiter hoc est quod incestuosi et varie criminosi absque rigo (sic) correctionis tamquam tauri indomiti et equi emmissarii collis extentis incedunt libere, sacerdotes autem humiles, spinas peccati evellentes officium vestri implentes regiminis ex bono affectu, non sequentes avaritiam, sed gratis pro Deo se offerentes ad evangelizationis laborem tamquam haeretici mancipantur carceribus et exilium propter evangelizationem ipsius evangelii patiuntur." Palacky, Doeumenta, pp. 1—2. The MS. copied and published by Palacky is somewhat defective. It IS in this letter that Hus—as mentioned above—refers to the mandate given him by the archbishop to report on the conduct of the clergy of Prague.
’ Palacky, Documenta, pp. 5-7.