The New International Encyclopædia/Huss, John

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The New International Encyclopædia
Huss, John
Edition of 1905. See also Jan Hus on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HUSS, John (c.1370-1415). A Bohemian religious reformer. He was born at Husinetz (or Husinec), Bohemia, northwest of Budweis. His baptismal name was Jan; from his birthplace he was called Johannes de Hussynecz, or, in English, John Huss. The day and year of his birth are unknown. His parents were Czech peasants. He studied at the University of Prague, where he soon made a reputation for scholarship, became M. A. (1396), university lecturer (1398), dean of the philosophical faculty (1401). and was rector in 1402 and 1403. In philosophy he was a realist. He became a priest in 1401. Owing to the marriage in 1382 of Anna, sister of King Wenceslas, to King Richard II. of England, there was much intercourse between Bohemia and England. So the writings of the great English theologian, Wiclif (died 1384), came into Bohemia. Huss read them eagerly, and availed himself of permission to lecture upon them in the university. He went further, and translated them into Bohemian, and the world has given Huss credit for writings which were merely translations from Wiclif. He also defended Wiclif's opinions, not only in the lecture-room, but from the pulpit. As he was a very popular preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, and confessor to the Queen and a scholar of high repute, this stand attracted wide attention.

Wiclif had, however, not escaped the charge of heresy, and so in 1403 Huss was forbidden by the university authorities to discuss forty-five sentences or theses which he had derived mostly from Wiclif; and in 1409, when the Pope, Alexander V., had issued his bull against the teachings of Wiclif and the Archbishop of Prague had burned Wiclif's writings, Huss felt the effect of the opposition he had stirred up on the part of the hierarchy, the priests, and the monks by denouncing, in imitation of Wiclif, the corruption of the Church. In 1410 he and his followers were put under the ban. Undeterred, he kept on preaching as before. In 1411 Pope John XXIII. proclaimed a crusade against King Ladislas of Naples, and promised indulgences to the volunteers. Huss the next year gave out a university debate upon the question of indulgences, which only widened the breach between himself and the university authorities and the clergy. In 1412 a Papal interdict was issued against him. In reply he wrote his book On the Church, again drawing heavily from Wiclif, and appealed from the Pope to a general council and to Christ; and then, feeling no longer safe in Prague, he withdrew to the castles of certain friendly noblemen. In 1414, obedient to a summons, but under the protection of King Wenceslas, and with a safe conduct to go to Constance, given by the Emperor Sigismund, he went to the general council which had been convened in Constance.

His journey thither was a triumph, and he entered the city (November 3d) in great state. At first he was a free man, but on November 28th he was apprehended and charged with having made an attempt to leave the city, and cast into prison, in spite of the indignant protests of the Bohemian and Polish nobles. He may have fancied that he would have opportunity to defend his views in open debate, but he quickly learned that the council intended to try him as a heretic. He was, however, long kept in suspense, for it was not till June 5, 1415, that he was first formally accused. On June 8th thirty-nine charges were exhibited against him, some of which he acknowledged as fairly based upon his teachings, while others he declared to be misrepresentations. Being required to recant his alleged errors, he refused to do so until they should be proved to be errors. On June 18th the articles of his condemnation were prepared; on June 24th his books were burned; on July 1 his attempts to come to an understanding with his prosecutors failed, and on Saturday, July 6th, he was condemned to be burned at the stake for heresy. The same day the sentence was executed, and the martyr's ashes were thrown into the Rhine. The Emperor, probably influenced by the fact that condemned heretics had no claim to protection, did not interfere, as he might have done. The death of Huss caused sorrow and indignation throughout Bohemia, and led to the so-called Hussite War. See Hussites.

A critical edition of Huss's writings, distinguishing between his own works and his translations from Wiclif, is lacking. The best we have is F. Palacky's Documenta Magistri Joannis Hus (Prague, 1869). The works of Huss in Bohemian were published by K. J. Erben (Prague, 1865-68). E. de Bonnechosa published a French translation of his letters (Paris, 1846), from which an English translation was made (London, 1846); F. B. Mikowec prepared one in German (Leipzig, 1869). Nowotny began a German translation of his sermons (Görlitz, 1855). For his biography, consult: Gillett (Boston, 1863-64), and Wratislaw (London, 1882); for his relations to Wiclif, Loserth, Wiclif and Huss, translation (London, 1884).