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power.” 1 Cossa retaliated without delay. Carrying out a plan he had perhaps previously conceived, he granted his protection to the council assembled at Pisa, which, in the disturbed state in which Italy then was, could hardly have met had it not been for the strong military force that was under Cossa's command. Through his influence Pope Alexander was elected, and, as already mentioned, Cossa shortly became his successor. As Pope John XXIII. he resumed his former Italian policy, endeavouring in a manner not dissimilar from that afterwards employed by Caesar Borgia to carve out a kingdom for himself in that land. His most dangerous opponent was King Ladislas of Naples. It was by attempting to raise money for the purpose of a crusade against Naples that John XXIII. became the cause of disturbances in the distant city of Prague. When, on the repeated invitation of the Emperor Sigismund, Cossa reluctantly proceeded to Constance, his former good fortune seems to have forsaken him. A thorough Italian, he appears out of his element in northern lands.
After noticing briefly the general state of European politics, dominated as it was entirely by the schism, reference must again be made to Hus. In Bohemia, as elsewhere, the schism was the almost exclusive object of public interest. It has already been noted that the rival pontiffs always expressed their desire that the schism should be brought to an end. Pope Gregory XII., who had by the cardinals of the Roman obedience been elected as successor to Boniface IX. and to Innocent VII., soon after his accession informed the University of Prague that he was ready to resign his dignity, should his opponent Benedict do likewise. There is, however, no evidence that either pope would have accepted any solution except the abdication of his rival. When the cardinals assembled at Pisa to choose a new pope, they addressed a petition to Venceslas and all other Christian princes, begging them to maintain neutrality, that is to say, to recognise henceforth neither of the contending pontiffs, Gregory and Benedict. Venceslas was inclined to view such a proposal favourably. The French court,
1. Abridged from Raynaldus Annales Ecclesiasticae, vol. viii. p. 220.
which was on traditional terms of friendship with the house of Luxemburg, had decreed that, up to the conclusion of the schism, the popes should not be allowed to exercise the papal rights in France. They would thus become unable to confer benefices, and it was hoped that they would in consequence lose many of their supporters. This measure rightly appeared to Venceslas as a first step towards a pacification. He had, however, as was always the case, great difficulty in coming to a decision. In 1408 he had already entered into negotiations with the cardinals who had deserted Gregory and Benedict. He first employed for this purpose Magister Mauritius de Praga,' who was, as far as we can conjecture from the very contradictory reports, a partisan of Pope Gregory. At any rate he did nothing to further the negotiations that had been entrusted to him. In October of the same year Venceslas sent to Italy as his envoys two members of the University of Prague, Magisters Stanislas of Znoymo and Stephen Palec, who were known as members of the party favourable to church-reform. The envoys were to proceed to Pisa, but were on their journey arrested at Bologna by order of Cardinal Cossa. As Cossa was the guiding spirit of the council and the envoys were representatives of a sovereign supposed to be favourable to its plan of pacification, this step of Cardinal Cossa has caused much controversy and remains unexplained. Perhaps the fact that the envoys carried with them a large sum of money and had numerous horses in their convoy-they were deprived of both coins and horses-affords some clue to this occurrence. It is also very probable that some message had been sent to Bologna from Prague, stating that the envoys were “Wycliffites." This would give Cardinal Cossa a welcome pretext for his depredation. The envoys were very roughly treated by the mercenaries of Cossa, and Stephen Palec is said never to have recovered from the fright he felt at this time. Hus did not hesitate to affirm that this was the reason why the opinions of Palec changed suddenly after his mission to Italy. The University of Prague determined to take steps to insure the safety of its
1 By Hus and his friends generally known as “Rvacka.”
imprisoned members. On the suggestion of Hus, Henning of Baltenhagen, then rector, addressed, on December 8, 1408, a complaint to the cardinals assembled at Pisa,' stating that those venerable men, Stanislas, of Znoymo, professor of theology, and Stephen Palec, bachelor of theology, “well-beloved sons of the university," had been deprived of their possessions and imprisoned. After praising “the vigorous wisdom, praiseworthy conversation, and solid doctrine" of these men, the letter begged that they might be released. Cossa was on very good terms with the council, and the prisoners were almost immediately liberated, though their goods were not restored to them.
Very shortly after Stanislas and Stephen had started for Italy, and probably before their arrestation had become known in Bohemia, Venceslas decided to send another envoy to the council. He had previously, in a letter forwarded to the cardinals at Pisa on November 24, 1408, declared his willingness to send an envoy to Pisa on condition that such an envoy should be considered as a representative not only of the King of Bohemia but also of the King of the Romans. A few years previously some of the German electors had deposed Venceslas and elected in his stead as king Rupert, Count Palatine. It was the invasion of Bohemia by German troops acting in the cause of Rupert that was the occasion of the famed eloquent sermon of Hus, which has already been mentioned. Venceslas had never recognised his deposition, and the demand which he addressed to the cardinals therefore appears justified. It appears to have been accepted, but after considerable delay, for it was only a year later that the king's new representative, Master John "Kardinal,” 3 of Reinstein, started for Italy. While Stanislas and Stephen appear to have had only a semi-private mission, Magister Reinstein acted as the king's official representative. Reinstein was a firm adherent of the party of church-reform and a warm personal friend of Hus up to the end of his life. Venceslas's choice of an envoy is therefore significative.
1 Palacky, Documenta, p. 345.
Ibid. p. 343. 3 This strange designation of Master John of Reinstein was a nickname.
The attempt of the cardinals assembled at Pisa to induce the principal European powers to accept the system of neutrality, that is to say, to renounce the obedience of both Gregory and Benedict, proved on the whole successful. France, where the University of Paris used its great influence in favour of a measure which would, as was believed, terminate the schism, declared in favour of neutrality. In Germany also John of Nassau, the powerful Archbishop of Maintz, used his vast influence in favour of neutrality, though Rupert of the Palatinate, Venceslas's rival as King of the Romans, a firm supporter of Pope Gregory, strongly opposed it. Bohemia would, according to the wishes of Venceslas, also have immediately adhered to the system of neutrality. The fact alone that Rupert of the Palatinate whom Gregory had recognised as King of the Romans opposed that system, rendered it the obvious policy of Venceslas to adopt it. Yet he found difficulties in his path. Archbishop Zbynek was then and continued to a somewhat later period an adherent of Gregory. At the university opinion was divided. The German magisters, many of whom secretly sympathised with Rupert in his conflict with their king, were loath to renounce the obedience of Gregory. The Bohemian members of the university, on the other hand, were unanimous in their desire to comply with the wishes of King Venceslas. They were by no means blind to the many failings of the king, but they believed him to be on the whole a well-meaning sovereign not unfavourable to the cause of church-reform. It should indeed be noted that the very exaggerated unfavourable accounts of the life of Venceslas, which have been repeated by countless historians, had their origin rather in the favour he for a time accorded to Hus and his disciples than in the very real failings of Venceslas, which he shared with many other princes of the fifteenth century. The Bohemian members of the university were also largely dependent on the king's favour for obtaining the changes at the university favourable to their nation, which they desired. Another motive may also have influenced them. Many of the Bohemian masters may have read the works of Wycliffe and other opponents of the extreme
pretensions of the papal see. Such men would be less opposed to the disposition of popes than others who upheld the unlimited authority of papacy; for we meet already with such upholders at this period. The differences of opinion caused by the question of neutrality, as was inevitable, accentuated and envenomed the national discord which already prevailed at the university, where a Bohemian majority was oppressed and deprived of its rights by a somewhat overbearing German minority. At a meeting of the members of the university held late in the year 1408, the rector Baltenhagen and all the German members energetically maintained that Gregory should continue to be recognised as pope. The Bohemians-Hus acting as spokesman--expressed themselves strongly in favour of neutrality up to the time when a new pope should have been elected. The meeting broke up without a vote having been taken, probably because Baltenhagen was afraid of offending the king. Hus always maintained that it was from this moment that he lost the favour of the archbishop. It is certain that shortly after this meeting a decree signed by Archbishop Zbynek declared that Hus, as a disobedient son of the church, was forbidden the exercise of ecclesiastical functions. Hus replied in an eloquent letter--to which reference was made in the last chapter--and the correspondence then ceased.
King Venceslas, who had for some time been residing in Silesia, left that country about the end of the year 1408, and returning to Bohemia, proceeded to Kutna Hora (Kuttenberg), where he and his court remained for a considerable time. Venceslas here awaited the visit of a French embassy, the purpose of which, as was known, was to persuade the king to follow the example of France by renouncing the obedience of Gregory and Benedict. The opinion of the University of Prague at this period was of great importance in all theological discussions. It was customary to consult it in such cases, as had been done in Paris and Bologna. Venceslas
1 Dr. Harnack writes (Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. iii., pp. 398–399 n.): “ The book de planctu ecclesiae of the Franciscan monk Alvarus Pelagius . contains passages which prove that even in the nineteenth century the glorification of papacy could not be carried to a greater extreme."