Hus, Jan

Hus, Jan
(John Huss)
(ca. 1373–1415)
   Jan Hus was a Czech religious reformer who challenged abuses in the church and supported the growing Czech nationalist movement in the early 15th century.Hus was accused of heresy because of his criticism of the papacy and the church, and was burned at the stake at the Council of Constance. But Hus’s followers ultimately became the Moravian Church, and in his beliefs he was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation.
   Hus was born at Husinec in southern Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in about 1373. In 1390, he enrolled in the faculty of arts at the University of Prague (now Charles University), receiving his master’s degree in 1396 and subsequently lecturing there on philosophy, becoming dean of the arts faculty in 1401. That same year, in addition to his university duties, he was ordained a priest and began his ministry preaching fiery sermons (calling for church reform) in the Czech language at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague.His conducting services in Czech rather than the customary Latin contributed significantly to the movement for Czech nationalism, and he attracted a large number of followers. Hus came to prominence during a period of severe disorganization in the church hierarchy. After a disputed election in 1378, two rival popes vied for power, one in Rome and the other in Avignon— a situation known as the Great Schism. After an attempt to rectify the problem through an election by an international church council at Pisa in 1409, a third pope was named, but neither of the other two would accept his claim to the papacy. In questioning papal authority, Hus was giving voice to the doubts and frustrations of much of Europe. In condemning the practices of bishops, Hus was striking a blow as well for Czech nationalism, since many Bohemian bishops were appointees from Germany, and had little regard for their Czech parishioners.
   Hus was also influenced to some extent by the writings of the English reformer John WYCLIFFE, who had died in 1384. Through the marriage of ANNE OF BOHEMIA to the English king RICHARD II, an alliance and easy correspondence had arisen between the two countries, and Hus’s closest disciple, Jerome of Prague, had spent some time in London in the 1390s and had brought back to Prague several manuscripts of Wycliffe’s writings. Hus was less radical than Wycliffe, but agreed with the English reformer in his attacks on some of the worst abuses of the church: Priests, Hus said, must be held to a higher level of morality, and avoid drunkenness as well as sexual and financial abuses.
   Preaching and Bible lessons should be conducted in the language of the people, as Hus was doing at Bethlehem Chapel. All Christians should receive full communion in the Mass (at this time, only the priests were allowed to receive the wine at communion). Hus objected strongly to the sale of indulgences (personal pardons blessed by the pope and sold ostensibly for charitable purposes). Finally, Hus asserted that the authority of the Bible must be seen as overriding decisions by popes or church councils if those decisions were contrary to Scripture—thus the new notion of “papal infallibility” was, for Hus, unsupportable.
   In 1403, 45 of Wycliffe’s propositions were condemned by the German masters of the University of Prague, who formed a majority of the university faculty. Despite this official condemnation, Hus translated Wycliffe’s Trialogus into Czech, and supported a number ofWycliffe’s views from the pulpit. In 1405, on orders from Pope Innocent VII (the one in Rome), Archbishop Zbyn˘ek issued a decree condemning Wycliffe’s “errors” and forbidding any further attacks on the clergy. In 1408, upon the urging of the new Roman pope Gregory XII, both the university and Bohemia’s King Wenceslas took measures to collect all Wycliffite writings in Prague, an order with which Hus complied.
   At the same time, the king was advancing the Czech nationalist movement. The University of Prague had been dominated by Germans since its founding in 1348, but in 1409, they gave control of the university over to the Czech masters, at which the German students and faculty (at least 1,000 of them) left the university. Hus was chosen rector of the university that same year. Later in 1409, the archbishop forbade any preaching in Prague except at the cathedral and at collegiate, parish, and cloister churches (thus in effect outlawing worship at Bethlehem Chapel), and in 1410 he ordered Wycliffe’s writings burned.When Hus and his associates protested to John XXIII, the pope elected from the Council of Pisa, the archbishop excommunicated Hus. The people of Prague greeted this news with riots in protest.With the support of the populace and of King Wenceslas, Hus continued his advocacy of church reform, protesting in particular against a new program of indulgences, and when he refused to appear before Pope John in 1411, his excommunication was affirmed by the pope. Prague was placed under interdict, and the pope ordered the arrest of Hus and the destruction of Bethlehem Chapel. Hus fled to Austi in 1412, and here wrote his most important works: De ecclesiâ (The Church), a Latin exposition ofWycliffite ideas; and On Simony, a Czech attack on clerical greed and monetary abuses.When the king refused to obey the pope’s demands, Hus returned to Prague in 1414 and continued to preach.
   Later in 1414, an international church council was convened at Constance, mainly to settle the question of papal succession.Hus was called to appear before the council to defend his teachings. When Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, guaranteed his safety, Hus answered the summons and agreed to appear before the council. But when he arrived in Constance, he was immediately arrested and put on trial for heresy. He was tried, found guilty, and was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. His chief lieutenant, Jerome of Prague, suffered the same fate the following year.
   Having turned Hus and Jerome into martyrs, the church now had to deal with open rebellion in Bohemia and Moravia. Hus’s followers formed what was essentially a national church, the Hussites, and a period of “Hussite Wars” followed. Five crusades were proclaimed against the Hussites, but the Roman Church was never able to completely subdue them. The “Unity of Brethren,” the last Hussite denomination, was the first group to publish hymnals and the Bible in the vernacular, 60 years before Luther organized his Protestant Church. Luther certainly admired Hus, and adopted a number of his positions, though Luther’s doctrine that salvation depended on “faith alone” and “Scriptures alone” was more radical than anything Hus had advocated.
   ■ Hus, Jan. The Church. Translated, with notes and introduction by David S. Schaff. 1915. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974.
   ■ ———. The Letters of John Hus. Translated by Matthew Spinka. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1972.
   ■ Peter of Mladonovice. John Hus at the Council of Constance. Translated with notes and introduction by Matthew Spinka. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965.
   ■ Spinka, Matthew. John Hus: A Biography. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968.
   ■ ———. John Hus and the Czech Reform. 1941. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1966.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Hus,Jan — Hus or Huss (hŭs, ho͝os), Jan or John 1372? 1415. Czech religious reformer who was excommunicated (1409) for attacking the corruption of the clergy. His De Ecclesia questioned the authority and infallibility of the Catholic Church. * * * …   Universalium

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  • Jan Hus —     Jan Hus     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Jan Hus     (Also spelled John).     Born at Husinetz in Southern Bohemia, 1369; died at Constance 6 July, 1415.     At an early age he went to Prague where he supported himself by singing and serving in… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Jan Pribram — Jan z Příbrami (deutsch: Johann von Pibrans) (auch z Příbramě oder Jan Příbram) (* etwa 1387; † 20. Dezember 1448), war tschechischer Priester (Theologe der Hussiten) und Schriftsteller. Leben 1408 nahm er an der Versammlung der böhmischen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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