Remembering Jan Hus

Jan Hus (c.1369 – July 6, 1415)

Today marks the martyrdom of one of the great, but largely forgot about, Christian reformers. Jan Hus (sometimes called John Hus or John Huss) was a Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) priest and professor who lived from c. 1369 to July 6, 1415.

Using his position as President of the University of Prague (one of the great centers of culture during that time), Hus spoke out against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church (greed, riches, sexual immorality, pride, etc).

Only he did not stop there – instead he preached the “…pure gospel of Christ” as found in the Four Gospels to the people in Czech, not Latin. Oh, and he (gasp!!) declared that all followers of Jesus had the right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves instead of relying on priests to tell them what to do.

Matters where further complicated by the Western Schism (1378-1417) in which there were two Roman Catholic popes – one in Rome and one in Avignon, France (shoot, there was even a third one near the end of the schism in Pisa, Italy).

After many years battle both domestic and international politics, Hus was ordered to appear before the Council of Constance (1414-1418) to defend his teaching. Even though Jan was warned not to go, he trusted the Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire, Sigismund, who promised him safe passage to the council and back home again. As you can guess, this promise was broken and Jan Hus was captured, tortured and burned at the stake as a heretic.

This, however, was not the end of Jan Hus’ teachings as his followers, the Hussites, continued to grow and spread his ideas. One group of Hussites eventually became known as the Unitas Fratrum (The Unity of the Brethren) – or in modern terms, the Moravian Church, of which I have previously wrote about.

In ending this post, I would like to quote part of John Foxe’s account of Jan Hus’ execution as it draws the line forward to the reformation movement of the 1500’s lead by Martin Luther:

“When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Hus;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Hus signifying goose in the Bohemian language) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who had a swan for his arms.