The Hussite Wars/Chapter 3
It is necessary to turn for a moment from the records of incessant warfare to the study of the internal condition of Bohemia during the early part of the Hussite wars. These wars have that analogy to the great English civil war in that minor struggles, simultaneously with the warfare of the main armies, but almost independently of it, took place in several parts of the country. Thus ’s brilliant campaign in Southern Bohemia in the autumn of 1420 had little connection with the war waged against by the Praguers and the Utraquist nobles almost at the same moment. Up to the end of the war there was constant border-warfare on the frontier of Bohemia and Silesia, and incessant combats between the citizens and the neighbouring Utraquist nobles also took place around Plzeň—the town which, first occupied by Žižka, became the principal stronghold of the Roman party during the later period of the war.
As the religious dissensions were—whatever other motives may have influenced the actors—the principal cause of the Hussite wars, it is well to consider here the position of the different parties. It is a mistake to believe, as many writers have done, that a fundamental difference existed among the Hussites from the beginning of the movement and as soon as they attempted to obtain religious freedom. All Hussites equally revered the great name of Church; no similar condition fortunately exists in any country at the present time. Had the Utraquist or moderate Hussite Church been allowed peacefully to pursue its development, it is not impossible that a Bohemian national Church, conforming to Rome in most matters, might have been established under the auspices of the very influential university of Prague, and of the Bohemian nobility, then one of the most enlightened in Europe. Had Venceslas, who undoubtedly sympathised with the Hussite movement—as far as his very limited intelligence permitted him to do so—been a man of firm will and determination, such an occurrence was, perhaps, not an impossibility. From the moment that the foreign invasion began the extreme party gained the upper hand, as was the case in the French Revolution and on so many other occasions. The terrible misfortunes that befell Bohemia inevitably raised to the highest pitch of excitement a race in which mysticism is innate. The example of relentless warfare which the Bohemians derived from their study of the Old Testament and the Apocalyptic preaching of fanatical priests, such as John of Zělivo and Ambrose of Králové Hradec, undoubtedly contributed largely to the brilliant victories of the Hussites. There is also no doubt that these priests, as the preachers of the Scotch Puritans, were fully convinced of the justice of their cause. The priests John and Ambrose differed in no respect from the Táborite woman who, when urged to take part in a temporary retreat during the battle of the Vitkov, said: “A true Christian must never retire before Antichrist.” The ferocity with which the Germans carried on the war, of course, continuously strengthened the advanced party among the Hussites. To the Germans the national hatred of the Bohemian Slav proved an even stronger incentive to cruelty than the fanaticism which urged them to exterminate heretics. It is certain that among the countless Bohemian peasants, men and women, who, in the neighbourhood of Prague, were ruthlessly slaughtered by the so-called crusaders, there were many who had always been faithful to the Catholic Church and had never even heard of the Hussite doctrine. The unfortunately well-founded conviction that the Germans intended to destroy their race and extirpate their language excited the Bohemians to greater fury, and their revenge was sometimes terrible, though it must never be forgotten that the cruelty of the Hussites was never as great nor as general as that of their antagonists., and agreed generally on many important points, such as Communion in the two kinds and the necessity of a thorough reformation of the clergy. How urgent that necessity was can only be understood by those who take the trouble to study contemporary records, even those written by faithful adherents of the Roman Catholic
The first symptoms of discord among the Hussites were not of great importance, and were founded on differences of social rank, which at a feudal period necessarily separated the nationalist nobles from the peasantry, and even from the Utraquist townsmen. There were certainly among the advanced Táborites levellers, to whom the distinction conferred by learning, as represented by the university of Prague, was as distasteful as were the privileges of knighthood and nobility. More serious, however, were the theological dissensions which, almost immediately after the victory of the Vitkov had secured temporary safety, broke out between Utraquist and Táborite priests on certain guestions of ritual and doctrine.
The prominent leaders of the two Hussite parties attempted to mediate in these disputes, which, within a nation then almost entirely absorbed in theological controversies, were bound to lead to a rupture, and eventually to civil war; this apprehension somewhat later became fully justified. After concluding a truce with Lord Ulrich of Rosenberg Žižka marched to Rican, a city that was still in the hands of Sigismund’s partisans. Some of the men of Prague joined in this expedition, and Rican capitulated on December 4. When the allies returned victoriously to Prague, the leaders began to consider the possibility of organising a disputation in which the Utraquist priests of both parties could expound their doctrine. It was hoped that such an exchange of views might lead to a compromise. The real originator of this plan appears to have been Peter Zmrzlik of Svojšin, an intimate friend of Hus, who had been mintmaster during the reign of King Venceslas, but had been dismissed by Sigismund because of his Hussite sympathies. Of the other nobles who took part in this attempt at reconciliation the most important was Ulrich, Lord of Hradec Jindřichův (Neuhaus). These men succeeded in persuading the citizens of the Old and New Towns of Prague, as well as the Táborites, to send delegates to a conference which was to meet at the church of St. Ambrose on the Přikop on December 8. To further the peaceful development of the negotiations the citizens had taken a step which is very characteristic of the period; they had forbidden access to the church to all priests and women. The proceedings were orderly, and it was agreed that the deliberations should be continued two days later at the Carolinum college of the university. On the roth the aldermen of the old town invited the disputants to partake of a banquet at the town-hall before they proceeded to the neighbouring Carolinum. Žižka, always favourable to concord among the Hussite parties, readily accepted the invitation, as did several other Táborite captains. Nicholas of Hus, however, under the pretext that he would not be safe in the midst of his enemies, declined to proceed either to the banquet or to the subsequent conference. When after the banquet the Táborite leaders and the Utraquist nobles arrived at the Carolinum, they found there Master Prokop of Plzeň, rector of the university, and many theologians who belonged to it. The priests of the Táborite community failed to appear. Lord Ulrich of Hradec and Žižka, however, did not even then despair of obtaining an agreement, and they proposed that the disputants should meet at the house of Peter of Svojšin in the old town. All present proceeded to that house, and the Táborite divines also consented to appear there. Among those present were besides of Svojšin many Utraquist nobles, including Lord John of Lacembok, son of Lord Henry, who had accompanied Hus to Constance, the Hussite captains Žižka, Chval of Machovic, Lord Roháč of Duba, one of the few nobles who remained faithful to the cause of Tábor up to the end of the civil war, and many others. Among the theologians present were Prokop of Plzeň, rector of the university, and the most learned divines of Prague, as well as the most prominent priests of the community of Tábor. Their leader and spokesman was Nicholas of Pelhřimov, whom the Táborite clergy had elected bishop, thus openly seceding from the Roman Church, while the moderate Utraquists always endeavoured to obtain Catholic ordination for their priests. Among the Táborite divines present was also Martin Loquis, celebrated as an eloquent preacher. It had previously been agreed that the discussion should turn mainly on the question of vestments, which then, as at some other periods of the development of the Catholic Church, caused much controversy. Prokop of Plzeň, rector of the university, however, thought it advisable to extend the discussion, and instructed Master  to read out a lengthy paper, which formulated in seventy-two articles the theses of the Táborites to which the Utraquist university of Prague objected. The accusation was undoubtedly an unfair one. Some of the articles recorded the Chiliastic teaching of certain Táborite preachers, their statement that at that period all goods should be common to all the faithful, who were justified in devastating the estates of those opposed to the teaching of Tábor, and also of depriving them of all wordly goods. The Táborites were further accused of saying that at that moment all temporal authority had ceased to exist, and that women were now justified in leaving their husbands, if they felt inclined to do so. This terrible indictment of the whole Táborite party cannot be sufficiently blamed. The Táborites were here practically accused of socialism, polygamy, and anarchism. Such views had undoubtedly been expressed by fanatical and semi-crazy priests who claimed to belong to the Táborite community. Other articles dealt with more serious matters, and referred to views that were really held by many Táborites. Prokop of Plzeň declared in his articles that the Táborites rejected auricular confession, that they celebrated mass in the open air and under tents, that they had maintained that those who, contrary to the custom of the primitive Church, celebrated mass clothed in vestments were not priests but hypocrites, that their prayers were, therefore, vain, and that none should attend their religious services. It is, of course, impossible to enumerate here the entire contents of the seventy-two articles. These general accusations caused great indignation among the Táborites. Bishop Nicholas of Pelhřimov declared that he accepted the teaching contained in the articles, but rejected the venomous insinuations which had been read out together with them. He added that the Táborites had only taken part in the conference to discuss the question what vestments should be worn by the priests when celebrating mass. It was finally decided that Nicholas of Pelhřimov as representative of Tábor and Master Jacobellus of Stříbro in the name of the university should both forward to Lord Ulrich of Hradec Jindřichův, who presided at the conference, and to the burgomaster of Prague, a detailed written statement formulating their religious opinions. The conference then separated with only the negative result that a formal rupture between the Hussite parties had been avoided. On the following day Žižka and his soldiers returned to Tábor.
Politics and religious controversy were at that moment so closely connected in Bohemia that it is an easy transition to refer now to the political situation in Bohemia during the early part of the Hussite wars. Public opinion was greatly divided. Of the powerful Bohemian nobility, that part which was opposed to Church reform was, of course, entirely devoted to the cause of Sigismund, the champion of the Roman Catholic Church; they formed, however, but a small minority. Most Bohemian knights and nobles fervently revered the memory of Hus, whom many of them had known personally, and they were unanimous in demanding a thorough reformation of the discipline of the clergy and the right of receiving Communion in the two kinds. Many of these men, however, hesitated before formally renouncing their allegiance to Sigismund, and continued hopeless attempts to persuade their sovereign to make certain religious concessions to the Bohemian nation. It seems almost certain that these nobles had some ground for thinking that the compromise which they desired was not impossible. The treachery and duplicity of Sigismund render all conjectures admissible, even if we remember the virulent abuse of all heretics in which the King of Hungary frequently indulged. It is not improbable that in private conversations with some of the nobles Sigismund may have insinuated that he was prepared to make certain concessions to the Bohemian people, should they recognise him as their sovereign. This is rendered all the more probable by the fact that in his speeches Sigismund often referred to the example of his father, , who, though a very fervent Catholic, severely blamed the morals of the clergy of his time. The enforcement of rigid discipline of the clergy was one of the points on which the Hussites laid great stress. During the siege of Prague Sigismund’s conduct had on several occasions appeared suspicious to his German allies. It has already been mentioned that he was accused of having prevented the artillery of the crusaders from firing at the city, and when the German crusaders left the neighbourhood of Prague, after the raising of the siege, they loudly declared that Sigismund was secretly himself a heretic.
While thus the Roman Catholic nobility remained faithful to Sigismund, and a certain number of Utraquists long hesitated to throw off entirely their allegiance to him, a large party in Bohemia soon began to consider the subject of electing a new king. Among those who principally favoured this plan were the majority of the Utraquist nobility, the cities and university of Prague, and the moderate Táborites with Žižka at their head. (Only a few extreme fanatics dreamt of a republican, or rather anarchical, form of government. Nicholas of Hus immediately protested against the choice of a foreign prince. He may be considered as having thus raised his own claim to the Bohemian throne. That he entertained such a plan is stated by the contemporary chroniclers even when writing of the period that preceded the outbreak of the war. In consequence of the great increase of the racial hatred between Slav and Teuton, which was one of the consequences of the outbreak of the Hussite wars, the election of a German prince was out of the question. Many soon began to consider the possibility of raising a Polish prince to the Bohemian throne. The negotiations that followed are shrouded in great mystery, as, in consequence of the opposition of the Roman see, to which the Poles have always been greatly attached, they were resultless. The Bohemians had no wish to record an attempt that had proved a failure, and the Poles were glad to leave in obscurity the fact that they had, even for a moment, swerved from their allegiance to Rome. The Bohemian chroniclers, therefore, give but little information on this subject, and Dlugosze’s Historia Polonica, which deals more fully with these matters, is written with so strong a bias that it must be used with great caution.
It is stated that as early as in April 1420 some of the Hussite leaders determined to offer the Bohemian crown to King Ladislas of Poland. During the following warlike events these negotiations for a time came to a standstill, but they were—as already mentioned—resumed after the victory of the Žižkov. The principal Utraquist nobles, as well as the citizens of Prague and Žižka—who signed the parchment which accredited the Bohemian envoys—entrusted Lord Hynek of Kolštýn with the mission to proceed to Poland and offer the Bohemian crown to King Ladislas, and, in the case of his refusal, to his relation, Prince Vitold of Lithuania. It may, indeed, be conjectured that it was Prince Vitold on whom the Bohemians really wished to confer their crown. Prince Vitold, whose name is now undeservedly forgotten, was then at the height of his fame, which had spread over all the Slavic north-east of Europe. Like King Ladislas of Poland, he belonged to the Lithuanian dynasty of Gedymin, which had only recently accepted Christianity, and he himself was born a pagan. After his conversion to Christianity he joined the Greek Church, and in consequence of the vicissitudes of Polish politics, to which it is unnecessary to refer here, he had recently conformed to the Church of Rome. The Lithuanian people, however, mostly continued faithful to the Eastern Church, and were therefore Utraquists. There was thus a natural link between them and the Calixtines of Bohemia. Vitold himself was known as a man whose religious views were by no means fanatical. Even after he had joined the Church of Rome he had built a church for his subjects who conformed to the Greek rite. It was also known that Vitold had allowed one of his courtiers to declare publicly at his table that Hus had been unjustly condemned and burnt. Vitold, an exceptionally gifted statesman, might thus have played a considerable part in the history of Bohemia, and, indeed, of the Slavic world, had he not been occupied with continual warfare on his eastern frontiers, where Poland and Lithuania were then constantly extending their territory at the expense of Russia, and had not advancing age—he was born in 1350—then already somewhat weakened his formerly indomitable energy.
It is a proof of the great secrecy which surrounded the mission of Hynek of Kolštýn that King Sigismund was long quite unaware of the departure of the Bohemian envoy for Poland. It was only later that he was informed of it by the citizens of Breslau, whom he thanked in a letter, requesting them at the same time to arrest the “Wycliffite” envoy. We have, for reasons already mentioned, very scanty information concerning this first embassy to Poland. The Bohemians were received by King Ladislas, who was at that moment badly disposed to Sigismund, because of his intervention in the dissensions between Poland and the Teutonic order. The King was, however, in view of the great influence of the clergy in Poland, obliged to act with great caution. He therefore limited himself to general assurances of good will, and declared that he must confer with his councillors. The Bohemian envoy also visited the Prince or, as he is often called, Grand Duke Vitold, but we have scarcely any information concerning the result of the visit. Judging by subsequent events it is not improbable that he proved more favourable to the Bohemian cause; yet he also probably refused to bind himself. Though the battle of the Žižkov had been fought the castles of Hradčany and Vyšehrad were still held by Sigismund’s troops, and it appeared venturesome to side openly with the Bohemian “heretics.” The not very successful result of this attempt to obtain allies among their fellow Slavs did not deter the Bohemians from continuing their negotiations with Poland. The Utraquist nobles, the Praguers and that part of the Táborites who were entirely devoted to Žižka, determined to send another embassy to Poland. It was finally decided that the new embassy should start at the end of the year 1420. An unexpected event facilitated the mission of the envoys. On December 24 Nicholas of Hus, the principal opponent of the establishment of a Polish dynasty in Bohemia, died from the consequences of a fall from his horse. Hynek of Kolštýn was again the head of the embassy, which started for Poland on December 26, but he was now accompanied by several other prominent nobles, aldermen of the cities of Prague, and several Utraquist divines, among whom was , nicknamed “Kardinal.” The envoys were, to use Březova’s words, “to visit the King of Poland on behalf of all who defended God’s law, and to ask him to defend the law of God and accept the Bohemian crown.” This signified, in the Hussite terminology of the period, that the election of the Polish King was made conditional on his accepting the articles of Prague. The result was such as the delegates probably expected it to be. Ladislas declined the “crown of a kingdom with articles condemned by the Catholic Church.” The envoys then proceeded to Lithuania and entered into prolonged negotiations with the Grand Duke Vitold. These negotiations were rendered very difficult by the interference of King Ladislas, who disapproved of Vitold’s plans, either from jealousy or because he was influenced by the very powerful Polish clergy. The influence of the Bohemian envoys, however, finally prevailed, and Vitold formally declared that he was ready to accept the Bohemian crown. In June 1421 Hynek of Kolštýn returned to Prague, accompanied by the envoy of Vitold, Wyszek Raczynski, who was authorised to inform the Bohemians of his master’s decision. The news was received with great joy by the Bohemians, who modestly attributed this happy event not to their own merit, but to the special beneficence of Providence.
The negotiations between Poland, Lithuania, and Bohemia continued for a considerable period, and finally led to the result that a Lithuanian prince became for a short time ruler of Bohemia. It is now, however, necessary to refer briefly to the numerous warlike events of the year 1421. It has already been mentioned that warfare—sometimes on a large scale, sometimes consisting of mere skirmishes between guerillas—continued in Bohemia almost without interruption from 1420 to 1434. It will, of course, only be possible to refer here to the more prominent events which considerably influenced the course of the war. During the winter of 1420 to 1421 warfare never entirely ceased. On New Year’s Eve the citizens of Prague laid siege to Nový Hrad, the stronghold from which Sigismund had recently attempted to relieve the Vyšehrad fortress. On January 25, 1421, the commander, Herbort of Fulštýn, capitulated, on condition that he and his troops should be allowed to leave the fortress freely and take with them all their own property, but not that of King Sigismund. When Fulštýn left the castle it was discovered that he had concealed in the carts which conveyed his goods many books and other property belonging to Sigismund. The people seized these objects and, irritated by this deceit, plundered everything they found in the fortress. The Praguers then engaged workmen, who entirely destroyed the stronghold, to prevent its ever again affording support to those mighty attempts to attack the city.
Žižka also during these periods continued his ever-victorious campaigns. Leaving Tábor early in January, he first marched to the town of Střibro (in German, Miess). Hearing, however, that Bohuslav of Švamberk, the principal leader of the Roman party in the district of Plzeň, which always continued to be a stronghold of Sigismund’s party, had retired to the castle of Krasikov, Žižka laid siege to this fortress. Švamberk was finally obliged to capitulate, and became a prisoner of the Táborites. It is one of many instances of the strange vicissitudes through which the Bohemian nobility passed during the great civil war that Švamberk, in the following year, joined his former antagonists, and became, during the later part, one of the foremost leaders of the Táborites. After this important success Žižka marched to Tachov (in German, Tachau), and approached the frontiers of Bavaria. The name of the Táborites had already become so formidable that German cities such as Nürnberg and Ulm became alarmed, appealed to Sigismund for aid, and exchanged letters inquiring where the King of Hungary was. Sigismund, when informed of the great successes of Žižka in the district of Plzeň, feared that his scanty adherents in Bohemia would now be entirely discouraged, and marched to Plzeň with a considerable army. On hearing of his arrival Žižka abandoned the siege of Tachov and proceeded to Tábor to seek reinforcements for his army. His bravery and enthusiasm, indeed, never diminished his prudence, and he was determined to meet the King of Hungary at the head of as large a force as possible. This was the more advisable as Sigismund had received considerable help from several German princes, principally from the Duke of Bavaria and the Margrave of Meissen. Žižka had during his temporary absence left considerable garrisons in the recently conquered towns. The most important of these cities, Kladruby, was during his absence besieged by Sigismund and his German allies, but, bravely defended by Chval of Machovic, one of Žižka’s most brilliant lieutenants, it successfully resisted all attacks. Before rejoining his troops Žižka also succeeded in renewing the alliance with Prague. The Praguers joined Žižka at Dobřiš with a large force of infantry and cavalry and 320 armed wagons on February 6, and the united Utraquist armies then marched by way of and Horovic to Rokycany, a town that was then under the rule of the Archbishop of Prague. The Hussites were received within the walls without any resistance. The decisive step taken by the archbishop a few months later afterwards explained an attitude which, at the time, undoubtedly caused great surprise. The national army then marched in the direction of Kladruby, where the Táborite garrison under Chval of Machovic was still besieged by Sigismund and his allies. Žižka evidently now wished to offer battle to the royalist army, but when he arrived near Kladruby he was informed that the King of Hungary had already retired and disbanded his troops. Sigismund retired to Litoměřice and then to Kutna Hora, but early in March he left Bohemia and proceeded to Moravia.
Žižka was now more than ever intent on subduing the city of Plzeň and the surrounding country. The great importance of that stronghold could not but be obvious to a man of his brilliant talent, and it was undoubtedly a great fault that he did not insist on an unconditional capitulation. Some years after Žižka’s death the fact that Plzeň refused to accept the articles of Prague proved one of the great difficulties which the Bohemians encountered at the Council of Basel, and the events that occurred during the later siege of Plzeň largely contributed to the downfall of Tábor. At that moment, however, the citizens of Plzeň by no means felt disposed to encounter the victorious Bohemian hero, though some of the neighbouring towns where the Roman Catholics had the upper hand and some knights of Sigismund’s party had joined them. A treaty was, therefore, concluded, according to which the citizens of Plzeň and their allies promised not to molest those inhabitants of Plzeň and the neighbouring country who professed the articles of Prague, and also to allow Utraquist divines to preach and celebrate mass freely in the territory which was in their power.
After having thus secured, at least for a time, a peaceful understanding with the citizens of Plzeň and their confederates, Žižka marched to Chomoutov (in German, Komotau), probably called there by the citizens of the neighbouring town of Žatec, who had always been strong upholders of the Hussite cause. As in Plzeň, in Chomoutov also several knights and nobles of Sigismund’s party had joined the citizens in their attacks on the neighbouring Utraquists. On March 15 Žižka’s forces made a first attempt to storm Chomoutov, but they were repulsed with great slaughter. On the following day—it was Palm-Sunday—Žižka was more successful. The Praguers attacking on one, and the Táborites on the other side, both forces succeeded in escalading the city walls. The defence continued even then, and each street was only occupied after prolonged fighting. This is one of the few occasions on which Žižka cannot be acquitted of cruelty. By his order all the male adult inhabitants of Chomoutov were killed. Only thirty men were left alive to bury the others. If, as has so often been done, we compare the great Bohemian warrior to Cromwell, Chomoutov was certainly Žižka’s Drogheda. If, as is probable, the Utraquists wished to spare the women, their intention was frustrated by the fanatical Táborite women. Under pretence of saving the lives of the wives and children of the citizens, they enticed them out of the city, deprived them of their clothing and jewels, and drove them into a farm building, where they were burnt alive.
Though the last-named atrocity was possibly, and indeed probably, committed contrarily to Žižka’s wish—for the Hussites generally spared the lives of women and children—no one can acquit Žižka of great cruelty on this occasion. His conduct can only be defended in the fashion in which all reprisals have been defended; it has been said that the courage of the adherents of a party is strengthened by the belief that cruelties committed against them will become fewer if the enemies know that they are liable to suffer similarly, that acts of cruelty committed in common will bind the adherents of a party more closely together, finally that fear will attract waverers to the party of those who have been guilty of deeds of cruelty.
It is certain that the massacre of Chomoutov brought many new recruits to the Hussite ranks, and that many hitherto wavering cities either recognised the supremacy of Prague or joined the confederacy of Tábor or at least concluded treaties, similar to the agreement made with Plzeň, by which they granted immunity and even a certain amount of liberty to the Utraquists. The most important accession to the Hussite party, which cannot, however, be directly ascribed to the events at Chomoutov, was the acceptation of the articles of Prague by Conrad of Vechta, Archbishop of Prague. The archbishop has, by his defection from the Church of Rome, incurred much uncalled-for, or at least greatly exaggerated, obloquy. The great modern historian of Prague, Professor Tomek, himself a fervent Roman Catholic, wrote of Conrad that he was neither better nor worse than the majority of the great dignitaries of the Church in Bohemia at that time. Sigismund, who appears to have had a personal dislike to the archbishop, in a letter sent in 1416 to the Council of Constance in answer to its complaints with regard to the progress of heresy in Bohemia, and to the attitude of King Venceslas, wrote that his brother was guided by the archbishop, who in consideration of the authority of the Council declined all responsibility, desiring to be “not a martyr, but a confessor.”
It is certain that Vechta sympathised with King Venceslas, as long as that prince was favourable to the cause of Hus and of Church reform. In the absence of all unfavourable evidence, very remarkable at a time when theological controversy consisted largely in the grossest personal invective, we have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the archbishop. It is probable, though as on so many matters connected with the Hussite wars our information is here scanty, that the archbishop had incurred the enmity of both Sigismund and the papal legate Ferdinand, Bishop of Lucca. Though Archbishop Conrad was a Westphalian by birth, he had become friendly to the Bohemian people, and he may have expressed disapproval of the indiscriminate slaughter of the peasantry in the country around Prague. It was, however, an act of hostility on the part of one of Sigismund’s partisans that was the immediate cause of the secession of Vechta. Lord Hanuš of Kolowrat, one of the King of Hungary’s most enthusiastic followers, stormed and plundered the small town of Přibram, situated on the archbishop’s estates. On April 21 Conrad addressed a letter to the citizens of Prague, stating that he accepted the four articles and had renounced the allegiance of King Sigismund. The Praguers immediately answered; promising him their aid should he be attacked by the enemies of Utraquism. More interesting than these communications is a letter which the archbishop, also on April 21, forwarded to the King of Hungary. He stated that he had hitherto always endeavoured to serve and please him, but that the King had listened to false accusations, such as that he (the archbishop) was leagued with the Praguers, which was not true. He further stated that the King, together with “Ferdinand, the so-called papal legate,” had forwarded false and untrue accusations against him to the papal see. He then bitterly complained that Sigismund had, in contempt of Almighty God and of the saints, harassed the Church of God in his diocese by intolerable rapines, affronts, and calumnies, deeds which God’s vengeance would not leave unpunished. The archbishop further declared that he and all his followers henceforth entirely renounced their allegiance to King Sigismund, and accepted the true and Catholic four articles (of Prague) to which the famed community of Prague and the barons of the kingdom of Bohemia and of the margravate of Moravia had conformed.
The acceptation of the four articles by the Archbishop of Prague naturally greatly strengthened the moderate Utraquists, the Hussite High Church, as we may call it. The adherence of an archbishop, of course, ended the difficulty with regard to the apostolic succession of the priests, on which the conservative party among the patriots laid great stress. It also, though we are here limited to conjectures, probably facilitated the enterprise of Prince Korybut, who shortly afterwards arrived in Bohemia. The extreme fanatics of the Táborite party alone showed displeasure. They declared that, as a German, Conrad was by birth an enemy of the (Bohemian) nation, and reproached him for having crowned Sigismund as king.
While the great victories of Žižka and of the men of Prague had almost silenced all hostility in southern and western Bohemia, the country, never destined to enjoy a respite even of a few months, was now obliged to assure the safety of its eastern and northern frontiers. Bohemia here marches with Silesia and the county of Glatz, which was then still considered as forming part of the Bohemian kingdom. Silesia itself, with Moravia and Lusatia, then formed the lands of the Bohemian crown, as they were called. This theoretically and at some periods actually involved a supremacy of Bohemia over these lands. The population of Silesia at that time consisted mainly of Germans, who were very zealous Catholics, and therefore hated their Bohemian neighbours both as Slavs and as heretics. Incessant border-warfare, therefore, took place on the frontiers during the great civil war. It did not on the whole have much influence on the main current of the war, and therefore requires but slight notice here. In consequence of the great victories of Žižka in the spring of 1421 some of the Catholic frontier towns of Bohemia appealed to their Silesian neighbours for aid. In May 1421 a Silesian army, consisting of the levies of the towns of Breslau and Schweidnitz and numerous knights with their followers, invaded Bohemia. According to Březova the army consisted of about 20,000 men. Crossing the frontier at Trautenau—now known as one of the battlefields of 1866—they burnt down the small town of Police, and a few days later stormed the fortified hill of Ostaš, where the inhabitants of Police and other neighbouring Utraquists had taken refuge. The Germans here committed acts of horrible cruelty. They murdered all whom they found on the hill, including the unarmed men and the women, and cut off the noses, arms, and legs of about forty boys. The Silesian army did not, however, remain long on Bohemian territory. When the citizens of Králové Hradec, commanded by Krušina of Lichtenburg and Bořek of Miletinek, marched to the Silesian frontier, together with the men of the Orebite community under the priest Ambrose, the Silesians retired without giving battle. They attempted another incursion later in the year, but retired on hearing that Žižka was approaching. The chroniclers record during the first part of the year 1421 a long list of cities, castles, and fortified monasteries which surrendered to Žižka. The capitulation of Kutna Hora, whose inhabitants had committed great cruelties against the Utraquists, is of particular interest. When the citizens of Prague on April 23 marched from Kolin on Kutna Hora, the citizens of that town also marched out to meet them in the field, led by Žižka’s old antagonist, the mintmaster Divůček. When they, however, came in sight of the Hussite army, they immediately retired, impressed by the strength of the forces of the enemy. On the following day they sent envoys to Kolin offering their submission, and begging only that those who would not conform to the Utraquist creed should be allowed freely to leave their city. The Hussites consented, but made it a condition that all the population, men, women, maidens, and children, should, leaving the town, go in procession to ask forgiveness for the cruelty they had committed by beheading guiltless men and throwing them down the shafts of their mines. On April 25 the citizens of Kutna Hora proceeded to the monastery of Sedlec, where the army of the Praguers was drawn up. The people of Kutna Hora then all fell on their knees, and a prominent citizen in the name of all begged “the pardon of God and of the Praguers.” The priest John of Zělivo then addressed them and, reminding them of their crimes, exhorted them not to sin any more. He then declared that “God and the Praguers” granted them peace and mercy. Then all those of both parties cried bitterly, and all intoned the Te Deum, the miners of Kutna Hora and the Praguers alternately singing one verse. The citizens then joyfully returned to their town, accompanied by some of the Praguers, who were to take possession of it and establish the new order (i. e. Utraquist government) in it.
The submission of Kutna Hora also brought many nobles back to the Utraquist ranks. The most important of them was the ever-fickle Lord Čeněk of Wartenberg, whom the Hussites obliged to do penance in a manner similar to that to which the citizens of Kutna Hora had had to submit. Negotiations in view of the capitulation of the Hradčany castle began in May, and the garrison, isolated in the midst of a vast country, now entirely occupied by their enemies, wisely consented to evacuate the stronghold. The nuns of the abbey on the Hradčany mostly consented to accept the articles of Prague; those who refused to do so were safely conducted outside of the Hussite lines. Immediately after the departure of Sigismund’s garrison 160 soldiers of the Old and 100 of the New Town occupied the deserted citadel to maintain order there. This unfortunately proved very necessary, for immediately after the departure of the enemy the rabble of Prague, led by the priest John of Zělivo, attempted to plunder and destroy the churches and monasteries on the Hradčany. It is impossible not to agree with Březova’s censure of this priestly anarchist. John himself may, in consequence of his iconoclastic views, have believed himself justified in destroying images and decorations which he believed to be hurtful to true Christianity; but the rabble whom he led on saw in his conduct only a pretext for robbing and stealing.
By the middle of the year 1421 by far the largest part of Bohemia was in the hands of the Utraquists, that is to say of all those who, though differing on some matters, had accepted the articles of Prague. A few isolated castles in various parts of the country remained in the hands of Sigismund’s partisans, and a few cities such as Plzeň, though they had unwillingly granted the Utraquists permission to celebrate religious services according to their rites, had not accepted the teaching of Hus. Yet the country was sufficiently pacified to make it advisable to deliberate on the subject of its future government. The cities of Prague had, since the great victory of the Vyšehrad, possessed a hegemonic position in Bohemia. It was, therefore, befitting that they should take the initiative in this matter. In their own name and in that of the archbishop and of the barons of Bohemia they invited the estates of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as those of Silesia and Lusatia, without distinction of religious creed, to meet at a conference or diet at Časlav. It was suggested that this assembly should begin its sittings on June 1. It was at the same time formally declared that letters of safe conduct would be granted to all adherents of the Church of Rome who wished to take part in this Council of the nation. Considering the frequent cases of treachery during this struggle between the Roman and the national Church, it deserves mention that this promise was scrupulously kept.
This step of the Utraquists was undoubtedly statesmanlike, and their well-intentioned attempt deserved the success which it did not obtain. Compromise has almost always proved a failure in Slavic countries. Many of the delegates arrived at Časlav on the June 1, and even earlier, but the sittings of the Congress only began on the 3rd. On that day masses were said in all the churches of Časlav, and the hymn “Veni sancte spiritus” was sung. The debates of the first day were limited to attempts to adjust feuds between various cities and nobles, which it was very desirable to terminate at a moment when a general pacification of the country did not appear impossible. Somewhat later a considerable number of Moravian nobles appeared at Časlav, as well as some Bohemians, who were adherents of Rome and of Sigismund. The King of Hungary had requested some of the nobles of his party to uphold his claims at Časlav, thus putting his trust in the faith of those to whom he had himself broken his word.
The assembly at Časlav was a thoroughly representative one. Among those present were the Archbishop of Prague, Conrad of Vechta, representatives of Prague and the allied cities, Žižka and the other Táborite captains, among whom Rohač of Duba had taken the place of Nicholas of Hus, Krušina of Lichtenburg, Henry of Poděbrad,, who had accompanied Hus to Constance, Ulrich of Rosenberg, leader of the papal nobles, as well as the Lords Holicky of Sternberg and Puta of Častolovice, who by desire of Sigismund were present as his unofficial representatives.
It is greatly to be regretted that we are very insufficiently informed as to the deliberations of the assembly of Časlav. It is certain, however, that it was declared, though not without opposition on the part of some of those present, that all bound themselves to accept and defend the articles of Prague. The assembly further declared that it would never recognise Sigismund as King and rightful possessor of the Bohemian crown, unless God should will it otherwise, or the glorious cities of Prague, the Bohemian lords, the Táborite community, the knights, nobles and cities and all other communities who acknowledged the four articles subsequently decide otherwise; for the King had been a blasphemer against the holy truth, and a mortal enemy of the honour and of the persons of the Bohemian nation. A further resolution decreed that the assembly should elect twenty men, who were provisionally to act as regents and maintain order in the land. Their period of office was to end on the day of St. Venceslas (September 28) unless the country should recognise a king before that time. Of the twenty regents five were to be chosen among the nobles, four from the citizens of Prague, two among the members of the Táborite community, five among the knights, and four among the representatives of the towns—except Prague—and the other communities. In all cases where the regents might be unable to decide as to God’s will—this undoubtedly refers to theological controversies—they were to consult two priests, John of Přibram, one of the most prominent theologians of the university of Prague, and John of Zělivo, who had great influence over the people of that city. It was further decided that an assembly of the Bohemian priests of all denominations should shortly take place to settle all theological dissensions. It was lastly declared that all those who would not accept the decrees of the assembly of Časlav should be considered as enemies of the commonwealth, and should by force of arms be obliged to conform to these decrees.
The proceedings of the assembly of Časlav, as far as they are known to us, are among the most interesting records of the Hussite wars. The project of establishing a provisional government on a wide basis is not devoid of greatness. Its failure has caused it to have fallen into almost complete oblivion. Among the twenty regents were Ulrich of Rosenberg, Čeněk of Wartenberg, Krušina of Lichtenburg, John Žižka of Trocnov, and other representatives of all the political and ecclesiastical parties in Bohemia. The manifesto, as we may call it, published by the assembly, also bears the trace of being the result of a compromise. Thus after violently denouncing Sigismund and declaring him to be excluded from the throne, the document refers to possible, though certainly not probable, contingencies which might render his recognition as King of Bohemia admissible. We know that the nobles of Moravia—over which country Sigismund never as completely lost his hold as over Bohemia—and even some Bohemian nobles had at first refused to sign the manifesto. Similarly the negotiations with Poland were not mentioned directly in the proceedings at Časlav, though these negotiations, as will be mentioned presently, were being energetically pursued at that moment. The injunction concerning the period during which the regents were to hold office, of course, indirectly referred to the arrival of a Polish or Lithuanian prince. An undoubtable mistake was, however, committed when it was agreed that in certain cases an appeal should be made to two priests, of whom one belonged to the Calixtine, the other to the extreme Táborite party. John of Přibram, a very learned theologian, entertained that intense animosity against the Táborites which we meet with also in Březova’s great work. He considered the Táborites more dangerous opponents of his lifelong plan of founding a national Church in Bohemia—conforming mainly to the Roman Church, but faithfully maintaining the articles of Prague—than even the Roman Catholics. This leader of the Hussite High Church was expected to deliberate jointly with an iconoclastic fanatic, such as was John of Zělivo. The assembly of Časlav, while maintaining a conciliatory policy with regard to all Bohemians, firmly and decidedly rebuked the hostile attitude which perhaps racial, rather than religious, motives had induced the estates of Silesia and Lusatia to assume. The letter to the estates of Silesia, dated from Časlav June 1, 1421, complained bitterly of the cruelties committed by the Silesians during their incursions into Bohemia and reminded them of their allegiance to the Bohemian crown. A similar letter was on the same day sent to the estates of Lusatia. The question of electing a Polish prince to the Bohemian throne was undoubtedly one of the matters discussed at the assembly of Časlav, but as far as the very insufficient records inform us, no decisive step was then taken. The regents invited the representatives of all the parties to meet again at Kutna Hora in August. The menace of a new so-called crusade had then just arisen, and it was decided that the forces of all the Bohemian cities and nobles should assemble at Český Brod (in German, Deutsch Brod) to repulse a new invasion, should it be necessary. The assembly then arrived at a very momentous decision. On September 4 Vitold (or, according to the name he received at baptism, Alexander), Grand Duke of Lithuania, was proclaimed King of Bohemia, and it was decreed that a new embassy should be sent to Poland. Vitold and his councillors had given no definite answer to the former envoys, though their words had been encouraging. The new embassy, consisting of some of the most important nobles, among whom were Lord William Kostka of Postupic and Lord Venceslas of Jenštein, immediately started for Poland. On their journey they were arrested at Ratibor by order of Duke Hanuš of Troppau, one of the numerous princelings who then ruled over parts of Silesia. He probably acted by order of Sigismund, who had in the previous years already attempted to intercept Bohemian envoys on their way to Poland. This outrage was considered a breach of international law, even at that lawless period, as the Bohemian envoys had Polish passports and letters of safe conduct. The indignation in Poland and Lithuania was very great. Grand Duke Vitold sent envoys to Prague requesting the Hussites to attack the Duke of Troppau and promising to send troops under his nephew, Prince Sigismund Korybut, who were simultaneously to attack the Silesian princeling. Korybut himself, the leader of the Bohemian party in Poland, addressed a letter of protest to the Duke of Troppau, informing him that his action had caused great indignation at the Polish Court, and requesting him to liberate the envoys immediately. He writes somewhat as a future claimant to the Bohemian throne; for though his uncle Vitold was the candidate, it was, in consequence of his age, certain that Korybut would soon become King of Bohemia should a Polish or rather Lithuanian dynasty be established. Prince Korybut lays great stress on the racial affinity between the two peoples. King Ladislas, probably in view of the general indignation, also wrote to the Silesian prince, informing him that he was sending an ambassador to him to demand the release of the Bohemian envoys. He appears, however, to have avoided taking any further steps. We already find in Ladislas traces of that fanatical hatred of all opinions antagonistic to Rome which later contributed so largely to the downfall of Poland. The Duke of Troppau found it safest to hand over his prisoners to King Sigismund, who basely ordered the servants and followers to be beheaded, while he retained the envoys as prisoners—no doubt in hope of their being ransomed. The negotiations between Poland and Bohemia continued, nevertheless, but it was only after the great victories of the Bohemians, which I shall mention presently, that Grand Duke Vitold came to a decision.
The ignominious result of the first crusade did not deter the Germans from making further attempts to extirpate the “heretics.” The papal legate, Cardinal Branda, used every effort to encourage the German princes who met at an imperial diet at Nürnberg on April 13, 1421. Though Sigismund, whom war with Turkey detained, was absent, the assembly was numerously attended. Among those present were four German electors, and many other German princes, the papal legate, and even envoys from Brabant, Holland, and Savoy. All present expressed a strong, though, as events proved, momentary, determination to suppress all heresy in Bohemia. The German princes have been frequently blamed for their supposed apathy with regard to the Hussite movement. It is, however, generally forgotten that most of these princes were, in consequence of Sigismund’s ineptitude and indifference, engaged in constant feuds with their nearest neighbours. It was undoubtedly meritorious to exterminate heretics, into whose real tenets nobody troubled to inquire, but it was far more important to defend villages, situated but a few miles from a nobleman’s own castle, which a neighbouring enemy might attack at any moment. About the beginning of May the members of the diet, now certain that Sigismund would not appear, left Nürnberg; but further meetings of the German princes took place at Wesel, and afterwards at Maintz and Boppard, and it was now settled that the German crusaders should assemble at Cheb (in German, Eger) on the day of St. Bartholomew (August 24).
Local warfare continued uninterrupted during the whole summer of the year 1421. In spring the Silesians crossed the Bohemian frontier from the county of Glatz and, entering the Orlice valley, destroyed the castles of Žampach and Litice. They, however, again soon returned to their country. On the Saxon frontier the Bohemians obtained possession of Bilin and several other cities. They, however, met with a reverse when attempting to storm the castle of Most (in German, Brüx). The defenders had received considerable aid from the Margrave of Meissen. Žižka was not present on this occasion. When besieging the castle of Rabi some time previously he was wounded in the eye by an arrow. He hurriedly repaired to Prague to consult the doctors. Though they were able to heal his wound, he now became totally blind, but he continued to command the Hussite armies.
In consequence of the eloquence and energy of Cardinal Branda, the German princes had meanwhile raised a vast army. If Březova, who is, however, somewhat inclined to exaggerate the strength of the hostile armies that invaded his country, can be trusted, the army of the crusaders consisted of about 200,000 men. They were accompanied by the Archbishops of Maintz, Cöln, and Trier, the Elector Palatine, the Margrave of Brandenburg, and over a hundred princes and counts of the empire. This mighty muster of reigning potentates no doubt rendered the progress of the army very imposing, but it also caused it to become almost impossible to maintain discipline. It was not even attempted to appoint a commander-in-chief, as none of the princelets were prepared to surrender their rights to the others. The German crusading armies during the Hussite wars were, indeed, the prototype of that “army of the imperial circles” which, during the Seven Years’ War, became the object of ’s Aristophanic wit, and of the army of the Germanic confederacy, whose inglorious exploits in 1866 have already fallen into deserved oblivion. It had been agreed that the crusaders should enter Bohemia from the west, where the country marches with Bavaria and Saxony. Sigismund and the Archduke Albert of Austria, who about this time became his son-in-law, were simultaneously to attack Bohemia from the east. Sigismund was, however, still occupied with the defence of Hungary against the Turks, and the crusaders, after having waited for him some time, crossed the Bohemian frontier on September Io. On reaching the frontier the electors and other nobles reverently dismounted, knelt down and fervently prayed that God might grant success to their enterprise. The crusaders immediately occupied the city of Cheb (in German, Eger) without meeting with any resistance. Another smaller crusading force, consisting mainly of Saxons, had entered Bohemia some time previously, and had obtained some successes. The Hussites in the neighbouring small towns and castles had all retired to Žatec (in German, Saaz), which appears then to have been strongly fortified. The main army of the crusaders marched on Žatec to join their allies, committing horrible atrocities on its march. As Březova tells us, the crusaders burnt down all villages, castles, and forts, and, acting more cruelly than heathens, they either murdered or burnt alive all those whom they met, young or old, men or women. There is little doubt that the Germans believed they could best suppress Hussitism by exterminating the whole indigenous population of Bohemia. After the crusading armies had joined before Žatec, they immediately attempted to storm this important stronghold. On Friday, September 19, no fewer than six determined attacks on the city were made, but they were all repulsed by the heroic Hussites who, knowing the fate of their comrades, fought with the energy of despair. After this failure the German princes seem already to have thought of abandoning the campaign, particularly as they received no communications from Sigismund, of whom it was expected that he would cause a diversion by attacking Bohemia from the east. The communications were, however, difficult, as the intervening country was almost entirely in the hands of the Bohemians.
The Bohemian main army had during this time remained at Slane, not far from Prague. The national leaders were thoroughly aware of the great importance of assuring the immunity of the capital from all attacks. The city, or rather cities, of Prague had established an autonomous municipal government, somewhat similar to that of certain towns in Italy and the Netherlands. Many smaller cities and some nobles and knights had recognised the hegemony of Prague. No less great was the importance of Prague as the centre of the ecclesiastical administration of the country. As early as in 1415 the estates of Bohemia had pledged themselves to recognise provisionally the university of Prague as the supreme authority in all matters of religion. The Hussites, who enjoyed the sympathy of almost the whole Bohemian people, were naturally well informed as to the movements of their enemies. Assoonas they had ascertained that no hostile forces were, at least for the present, menacing their Eastern frontiers, they resolved to march immediately to the relief of Žatec. On the approach of the Hussites a panic seized the crusaders, who were also exasperated by the attitude of Sigismund, which they attributed to cowardice. They burnt the tents of their besieging army and hurriedly and in great disorder retired to the German frontier. Though the Hussites did not pursue their enemies as they did when they acquired more experience during the later campaigns, they made a large number of prisoners and captured a great part of the arms ofthe enemies. On their return to Germany the crusaders cast all blame on Sigismund, forgetting, as Palacký rightly states, that their forces had been vastly superior to those of the Bohemians.
Fortune—or God’s special grace, as the pious Bohemians would have worded it—here again favoured Bohemia. Almost at the moment when the retreating crusaders left Bohemia the troops of Sigismund appeared on the eastern frontier of the country. The King of Hungary had succeeded in assembling a vast army, consisting principally of his Hungarian, Transylvanian, and Croatian subjects. With these forces he crossed from Hungary into Moravia at the beginning of November. In Moravia Sigismund was joined by an Austrian army of 12,000 men, which his son-in-law, Archduke Albert of Austria, brought to his aid. Frequent defeats had taught Sigismund to distrust his military talent. He had, therefore, engaged as leader for his new enterprise an Italian soldier of fortune, Pipa of Ozora. Pipa, with the ruthlessness of an Italian condottiere, resolved to intimidate his adversaries by wholesale massacres. His instructions were but too energetically carried out. It is certain that Pipa’s policy obtained a certain amount of success. Many nobles of Moravia renounced the articles of Prague and again recognised Sigismund as their legitimate sovereign. Their example was afterwards followed by a considerable number of Bohemian nobles, whom the murder of Sadlo and other internal troubles at Prague, which will be mentioned at the beginning of the next chapter, had for a time alienated from the national cause. Sigismund marched to Brno, the capital of Moravia, almost without meeting with any opposition. He summoned the estates of the country to a diet, which was to have begun its deliberations on November 1, but which, in consequence of delays, only met on the roth of that month. Sigismund had taken the precaution of filling the council-chamber, where the estates met, with his Hungarian soldiery. It was no more attempted to keep up the appearance that the assembly deliberated freely than when, in the present year, the Hungarian Parliament voted in a house that was crowded with police. Sigismund expressed his wishes very clearly. He told the estates that it was their duty to renounce the four articles which were erroneous and heretical; then, having done penance, they would receive absolution from the papal legate. The Moravians hesitated, but seeing the anger of the King, whose fits of fury sometimes verged on madness, and knowing that the Hungarian soldiers were prepared to attack them, they obeyed the King’s command.
The easy submission of Moravia determined Sigismund to march immediately to Bohemia. He first proceeded to Jihlava (in German, Iglau), close to the Bohemian frontier, and here received several Bohemian nobles who had abandoned the national cause. The vanguard of Sigismund’s army immediately occupied the small towns of Humpolec and Ledeč, and the whole army then proceeded in the direction of Kutna Hora. Never was Bohemia in greater peril. Žižka and his Táborites were engaged in warfare with the royalist nobles in the distant southern districts of Bohemia. The troops of Prague had recently been quartered in the country near Časlav, but on receiving the news of Sigismund’s approach they retired on Prague, though not without leaving garrisons at Kutna Hora, Králové Hradec, and other important cities. On hearing of this new invasion the citizens of Prague immediately sent messengers to Žižka begging him to march to their aid. Žižka immediately consented to do so. Though the preparations for a new campaign necessarily caused some delay, the Táborite troops, marching with that rapidity which contributed so largely to the Hussite victories, arrived at Prague on December 1. Žižka’s entry into the city was a triumphal one. When the Táborite forces, preceded as usual by priests carrying the Holy Sacrament, and accompanied by numerous Táborite “sisters,” arrived at the city gates, the whole population hastened to welcome and greet them. Subsequent events render it probable that the Táborite army was a very considerable one. Besides a large force of infantry, the Táborites on this occasion had also a considerable number of horsemen and numerous battle-wagons, so important a feature in the Bohemian warfare of that period. When the blind general entered the city gates, the great bells of the town-hall and of all the numerous church steeples were rung, and he was received with all the honours that were usually only rendered to the sovereign of the land. Žižka spent a week at Prague, conferring with the municipal authorities and also attempting to raise more troops; for he was far too good a soldier to under-rate the difficulty of the task that now confronted him. It is also probable that some agreement was made at this moment between Žižka and the citizens of Prague, according to which he obtained supreme command of all the national forces. At this time Žižka began to sign his commands as “leader of the communities of the Bohemian land who are devoted to God’s law and obey it.” On December 8 Žižka and his Táborites left Prague, and on the following day the Praguers also marched out to encounter the enemies of the Utraquist Creed.
The centre of the new campaign was Kutna Hora. The King of Hungary naturally attached great importance to the occupation of that city. It has been previously mentioned that when that town had accepted the supremacy of Prague, those inhabitants who refused to conform to the teachings of the Utraquist Church had been allowed freely to leave Kutna Hora. The Utraquists, whose leniency always contrasts favourably with the ferocity of Sigismund’s partisans, had not insisted on this stipulation being carried out very strictly. Many adherents of Rome, and particularly many miners whose work caused them to wish to continue near the silver-mines, had thus remained at Kutna Hora. The partisans of Sigismund rightly, as the subsequent events proved, believed that these men would by no means feel grateful to a conqueror who had treated them with a leniency quite exceptional at that period, but that they would prove their vindictiveness as soon as it was possible to do so with comparative safety. The campaign of Kutna Hora is one of the most interesting episodes of the Hussite wars. We have unfortunately even less information concerning this campaign than we have with regard to other far less important events. Kutna Hora, the centre of the new campaign, has not naturally a very strong position, and Žižka, on his arrival there, was confronted by difficulties that must have appeared serious even to his indomitable mind. A considerable part of the population of Kutna Hora was undoubtedly hostile to the national cause, and it was probable that the forces whom the patriots would have to encounter would be greatly inferior to Sigismund’s army. After remaining only a few days at Kutna Hora Žižka repaired to Časlav, where some of his troops had hurriedly thrown up earthworks. He was here joined by the forces of the Moravian nobles, Hašek of Valdštýn and Venceslas of Kravář, as well as by the Lord Boček of Kunštatt Poděbrad, who had, from his castle of Litice, brought a considerable force to aid the national casue. After leaving a considerable garrison at Časlav, Žižka returned to Kutna Hora.
Sigismund, King of Hungary, had meanwhile, avoiding the direct road by way of Časlav, arrived before Kutna Hora on December 19. His troops again committed unspeakable cruelties on the march. Žižka had returned to Kutna Hora, accompanied by his Moravian allies, who were burning to revenge the cruelties committed against their countrymen by an Italian condottiere and semi-savage Hungarians. It was Žižka’s plan to give battle to the adherents of Sigismund outside the walls of Kutna Hora. On December 21—a Sunday—it was, in the name of the Bohemian nobles, Žižka and the citizens of Prague announced in the churches and afterwards by heralds in the streets that all should be ready to encounter King Sigismund, and should keep their faith and, as they had promised, defend the evangelical truth; they should also not give way to fear because the royal army was approaching. The troops immediately marched out of the town by the Kouřim gate and after proceeding but a short distance came in sight of the army of Sigismund. In view of the vast numerical superiority of the enemy, Žižka’s army immediately formed a square, which was defended in every direction by the iron-clad wagons. After the priests had briefly addressed the soldiers and all had knelt down for a short prayer, the guns on the wagons immediately opened fire on the enemies in every direction. The position which Žižka had chosen was a very strong one and had a free outlook almost in every direction. It seems probable that Žižka decided to give battle outside of the town, which, as he rightly believed, contained many secret enemies. The infantry and cavalry of Sigismund immediately attacked the Bohemians, but were repulsed with great slaughter, and at even-tide the King of Hungary had obtained no advantage, though some of his soldiers had succeeded in occupying the space between the Kouřim gate and Žižka’s lager. Treachery within the city walls now, however, entirely changed the situation. Numerous Roman Catholics, particularly miners who had been expelled from the city after its capture by the national party, had returned with Sigismund’s army and had entered into communication with their comrades who had remained in Kutna Hora. The latter, while the fighting between Žižka and the troops of Sigismund was at its height, treacherously opened the Kolin gate, through which the exiled miners, closely followed by the royal troops, entered the city. A massacre immediately ensued, in which the brutal, fanatical miners surpassed in cruelty even the semi-savage Hungarians. As Palacký writes, only the day of St. Bartholomew in Paris surpassed in horror this evening at Kutna Hora. Žižka’s position now became an almost desperate one. He was surrounded by the enemy in every direction, and the loss of Kutna Hora rendered it impossible to provision his troops. He therefore determined to abandon his position and take up another nearer to the country, whence he could hope to obtain food and reinforcements. At daybreak on December 22 Žižka attacked the enemies and, principally in consequence of his superior artillery, drove them from their positions. He then marched to the Kašik hill on the opposite side of the city, and his troops again formed in a square, ready to repulse a new attack. No such attack, however, took place, as Sigismund appears to have hoped to force the Hussites to capitulate. They were, indeed, in a sorry plight, almost without provisions and suffering bitterly from the cold, as the warm clothing had remained at Kutna Hora. The magnetic influence which Žižka exercised over his soldiers enabled him to induce them to remain under arms and face the enemy the whole day. At midnight, however, his artillery again opened fire on the enemies and Žižka succeeded in forcing his way through their lines. On December 23 the whole army had safely reached Kolin. Žižka here granted his warriors a few days of well-deserved rest. With the true intuition of a born general he saw that his army was not then sufficiently numerous to oppose the advance of Sigismund. He therefore immediately sent messengers to the neighbouring districts of Jičin and Turnov calling the people to arms. A large number of peasants, many of them, indeed, armed only with flails and fighting-clubs, flocked to Žižka’s standards.
Sigismund, always a prudent warrior, only entered the gates of Kutna Hora on December 24. (Christmas was celebrated there very festively, and the King believed that the heretics had at last been definitely vanquished. Events soon proved that his hope was not justified. On January 6, 1422, the national army again advanced, and Žižka established his headquarters at Nebovid, a village halfway between Kolin and Kutna Hora. The Hussite soldiers were never so determined as at this moment. Zealous readers of the Old Testament, they considered merciless revenge their duty. Their fury became yet intenser when they found in a shed at Nebovid the corpse of a young girl, who had succumbed to the outrages inflicted on her by some of Sigismund’s Hungarian mercenaries. “It is our duty,” the warriors said, “to avenge this, even at the risk of our lives.” On the other hand, the unexpected advance of Žižka caused a panic among Sigismund’s soldiers. Even so experienced a general as Pipa of Ozora advised the evacuation of Kutna Hora and an immediate retreat to the frontier. It is here particularly regretted that we have very little contemporary evidence. The King decided to leave the town, but suggested that some of the Bohemian nobles who had joined his party should remain at Kutna Hora and defend the city. They declined this task as being too dangerous. Men who had so frequently changed sides can hardly have felt great enthusiasm for either cause. Not wishing that Kutna Hora should fall into the hands of the rapidly advancing enemies, Sigismund gave the order that the city should be set on fire at various places. The Hussite troops, however, entering the town almost at the moment the King left it, succeeded in soon extinguishing the flames. Sigismund’s departure was a flight rather than a retreat. The terrible cold—the first half of January is in Bohemia proverbially the coldest time of the year—demoralised his soldiers, who frequently refused to face the enemies. The army was followed by large bands of miners who, after their recent treachery, could not hope for mercy on the part of the Hussites. They had brought their wives and children with them, many of whom perished from cold and exhaustion. The King ordered some of the town-councillors of Kutna Hora, whom he, probably rightly, suspected of intending to rejoin the national party, to be arrested and tied to some of the wagons which followed the army. On January 8 Pipa drew up his forces on a line of hills near the village of Habry. He hardly appears to have hoped to be successful, but to have wished to delay the rapid pursuit of Žižka’s army. This was certainly particularly necessary in view of the safety of the King, whose fate, had he fallen into the hands of the patriots, was certain. When the sound of trumpets announced the approach of Žižka the Hungarian cavalry refused to fight, and galloped away at the full speed of their horses. The infantry thus deserted also fled, and the rout of the army was complete. There seems at first to have been the intention of halting at Německý Brod, a small town favourable to the royalists, but the King now refused to enter the town, and continued his flight in the direction of the Moravian frontier. He crossed the River Sazava on a bridge, but this bridge was insufficient to give passage to the panic-stricken crowd. Many were cut down by the pursuing Hussites. The Hungarian horsemen attempted to cross the frozen Sazava, but after a certain number had crossed safely the ice gave way and a considerable number were drowned. The whole luggage of the King, as well as the rich plunder which the Hungarians were carrying away, fell into the hands of the Hussites on the occasion of this miniature Beresina. The remaining part of Sigismund’s army sought refuge within the walls of Německý Brod, where they found some sympathisers. The respite was, however, short. On January 9, “immediately after hearing mass,” the Hussites attacked the city from all directions. At nightfall the defenders still resisted, but their cause was already hopeless, and they began to negotiate in view of a capitulation. Meanwhile, some of Žižka’s soldiers entered the gates, and all resistance soon ceased. A general massacre of the citizens and of Sigismund’s soldiers then began, though here also the women and children were spared. Žižka himself was on this occasion unable to control the fury of his men, but he strongly expressed his disapproval. Thus ended the campaign of Kutna Hora. The rapidity with which Žižka moved from Kutna Hora to Německý Brod, in the middle of winter and through an almost roadless country, twice at Habry and before Německý Brod forming his troops in battle order on the way, is a wonderful proof of Žižka’s energy, and of the will-power and enthusiasm of his men. On the 11th Žižka was dubbed a knight, probably by one of the Utraquist knights or nobles in his army. His conforming to the custom of mediæval chivalry proves that he was by no means an anarchist or “leveller,” as has often been stated. On the retreat from Kutna Hora to Německý Brod Sigismund lost about 12,000 men, not including the 458 Hungarian horsemen who had been drowned. Numerous men of rank in his army had also been made prisoners; he was obliged to exchange them, and it may be mentioned that among those who were now enabled to recover their liberty and return to their country were the Bohemian envoys who, contrary to international law, had been arrested at Ratibor.
- I do not care to enter here into this matter, and must refer the reader to my Master John Hus, pp. 14–16.
- Even the Táborites at first hoped that the revolution could be carried out peacefully. Nicholas of Pelhřimov writes in his Chronicon Taboritarum: “Illos articulos [the articles of Prague] ac illas sanctas veritates parati erant rite scripturis legis Dei fundare et munire sine omnibus bellicis difficultatibus. Dum et quando fuisset eis data debita pacifica et catholica publica audientia quam multis annis minime habere potuerunt. Quia autem inimicus veritatis ac humanæ salutis diabolus, nolens ut hoc bonum augeatur, suscitavit membra sua quatenus hoc bonum per potentiam, violentiam ceterasque crudelitates tam per sæculares quam per spirituales impediatur ut puta per papam et alios prælatos per Sigismundum regem tunc Hungariæ, Teutonicos et cæteras exteras nationes et domesticos indigenas eorum in hoc adjutores qui conabantur qualiter hoc bonum inceptum et cum Bohemicæ nationis linguagio condemnent, deleant ac extirminent” (Höfler, Geschichtsschreiber, etc., Vol. II. p. 481).
- See my Master John Hus, p. 275, n. 1.
- See my Prague (“Mediæval Town” series).
- See my Master John Hus, p. 208.
- The companion of Hus at Constance and his biographer, one of the principal moderate Utraquist theologians. See my Master John Hus, pp. 240—243, 357, etc.
- Březova, almost as malicious when writing of the Táborites as he is when referring to the Church of Rome, enumerates all the accusations made against them. He writes that Prokop of Plzeň stated that they believed in a “regnum ecclesiæ militantis quod est domus novissima ante resurrectionem.” In this “regnum reparatum” “mulieres ecclesiæ viantis parient filios et filias sine corporali perturbacione et dolore.” “Est hæresis,” the pious Prokop of Plzeň adds. The whole document has great psychological interest.
- See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 77.
- Dr. Caro writes of him: “Die slavische Welt hat kaum je wider einen Mann von gleichem Gepräge hervorgebracht. Zwei Motive insbesondere machen den Character unter psychologischem Gesichtspunkte bemerkenswerth; erstlich die allmählige Entwicklung desselben, das geschichtliche Werden und Aufsteigen, und dann die ungeheure Ausdehnung und Ausweitung der Persönlichkeit. In diesem letzteren Sinne ist er ganz besonders einer der schärfsten Typen der slavischen Begabung” (Geschichte Polens, Vol. III. p. 624).
- Letter dated from Kutna Hora, August 11, 1420 (published by Grünhagen, Geschichtsquellen der Hussitenkriege, p. 1).
- He had been an intimate friend of Hus, whom he accompanied to Constance. See my Master John Hus, pp. 101, 208.
- p. 465 of Březova’s chronicle.
- It is, of course, only possible to deal here summarily with the complicated political situation of Poland and Lithuania at that period.
- “Ut firmiter creditur, divine benignitatis instinctu” (letter quoted by Palacký, Urkundliche Beiträge, etc., Vol. I. p. 121).
- Březova writes of “libri.” It seems probable that State papers, estate deeds, or patents of nobility are meant.
- Some of these letters are printed by Palacký, Urkundliche Beiträge, etc., Vol. I.
- Březova thus describes this horrible scene: “Thaboritarum vero iniquæ mulieres horrendum ibidem scelus commiserunt, mulieres enim et virgines, viros suos et parentes deflentes extra civitatem deduxerunt promittentes eis salvas abire, quæ cum extra civitatem devenirent, eas vestibus spoliant et pecuniis aliisque rebus ablatis in quodam tugurio vineæ includentes ignis voragine consumunt, nec pregnantibus parcunt ut livorem suæ iniquitatis augmentent” (p. 477).
- “Archiepiscopus se excusat propter præsentiam hujus sacri concilii ad cujus examen et judicium hujusmodi negotium pertinere dicit, cupiens esse non martyr sed confessor” (Palacký, Documenta Mag. Joannis Hus, p. 652).
- Printed by Palacký, Urkundliche Beiträge, etc., Vol. I. pp. 83–84; the two letters to which I previously refer also form part of this collection.
- It may be interesting to give the passage in full in the original: “Insuper etiam quia Ser. V. in contemptum omnipotentis Dei sanctorumque ejus gravem injuriam et offensam ecclesiæque Dei et universo clero diocœsis meæ intolerabiles rapinas et injurias et calumpnias, quas Dei vindicta finaliter non patietur inultas, intulit et arrogavit.”
- Nicholas of Pelhřimov, cap. 25, iii. (in Höfler, Geschichtsschreiber, etc., Vol. I. p. 647).
- This warfare has found a brilliant historian in Dr. Grünhagen, author of Hussitenkämpfe der Schlesier. He writes, however, with a strong German bias, and his statements concerning the cruelties committed by the belligerent parties must be received with great caution.
- I have abridged this account, which is very characteristic of the Hussite period, from Březova’s narrative, which well deserves to be read in its entirety.
- See my Master John Hus, pp. 361–362.
- “Quod Vos et vestri exercitus injurias atroces innumerosas, calumnias, vastationes et exustiones villarum et oppidorum, inhumanas et crudeles occisiones virorum indifferenter, mulierum et puerorum parvulorum, quas nefas est gentibus effecisse contra honorem vestrum in detrimentum coronæ Bohemiæ continue inferatis.” (Letter printed by Grünhagen, Geschichtsquellen der Hussitenkriege, p. 41.)
- Printed in the Codex diplomaticus Lusatiæ superioris, Vol. I. pp. 49–50.
- Or Korybutovič, i. e. son of Korybut.
- “Prædicti domini [King Ladislas and Grand Duke Vitold] in nullum eventum volunt Boemos deserere sed ipsis tanquam linguaio proprio et suis subditis volunt quomodolibet cooperari.” (The whole letter is printed by Palacký, Urkundliche Beiträge, Vol. I. p. 148.)
- See his “Congé de l’armée des cercles et des tonneliers” (Supplément aux “Œuvres de Frédéric II,” Tome I. pp. 277–280. Cologne, 1789).
- Březova maliciously adds, “humilitatem coram aliis, licet simulate, ostendentes.”
- See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 110.
- Březova, whose mysticism renders his book so fascinating, here also sees the direct intervention of Providence. He writes: “Nam miro modo tam inhumanam gentem [the crusaders] nullo homine impugnante Deus omnipotens in fugam convertiti. Die namque II Octobris divina providentia ordinante incensa sunt in multis locis exercitui tentoria, apparuit namque una velut flavea columpna super tentoria transferens se de uno ad alterum et, ubi stabat columpna, ibi ignis vorabat tentoria” (p. 513).
- Březova writes: “Et factum est quod nulli parcentes villas et oppida combusserunt, virgines violarunt et inhumane hominesque utriusque sexus parvulis non parcentes, quos ceperunt, combusserunt aut ferro perimerunt” (p. 513).
- Březova writes: “Videntes ultimate quod rex cum furia super proposita materia ab eis optat adstatim responsum, videntes eciam Ungaros cum armis se invadendos paratos, timore perculsi se regis submittunt facere voluntatem” (p. 527).
- Professor Tomek, Dějepis města (History of the Town of Prague), Vol. IV. p. 220.
- Březova’s work ends quite suddenly in the middle of his narrative. This is usually attributed to the sudden death of the author (see my Lectures on the Historians of Bohemia, pp. 35–47). I have there incorrectly called the historian “Březov.”
- Březova thus addresses the King “O princeps insensate cur domesticos tuos quos defensare deberes gentili more persequeris, cur nidum proprium stercoriando defedare non cessas? cur innocentium sanguinem fundere non desinis? cur delere cupis qui pro lege Dei sui certando se tibi opponunt?” (p. 532).
- The contemporary chroniclers write “two hons.” The “hon,” an old Bohemian measure of distance, consisted of about 125 steps.
- The position is well described by Dr. Toman in his Husitské Válečnictvi (Hussite Warfare). He also remarks that the advantage of the wagon-fort under a leader such as Žižka appears particularly clearly here.
- We have unfortunately scarcely any contemporary information concerning this brilliant deed of arms. We can now no longer use Březova’s history, and the chroniclers devote but a few words to the event. The account given by the learned Jesuit Balbinus is very interesting, as he seems to have used sources that are not now at our disposal. He writes: “Žižka ... in monte Taurgang [Kaňk] ad Cuttnam [Kutna Hora] castra fixit. Cæsar Cuttnam 20 [rect. 21] Decembris obtinuit. Žižkam in monte stantem ita cinxit ut evasurus non crederetur; hic cæci Ducis et animus et magis etiam scientia rei militaris apparuit; ita enim et currus ordinavit et aciem instruxit nocte 23 Decembris ut omnes suos, salvis omnibus impedimentis, per media Sigismundi castra traduceret, pugna semper abstinens et sola fronte dimicans qua viam sibi, rejectis in latera hostibus, faciebat; ita frustra de die jam assilientibus et latera fodientibus cæsareis (quos currus armatis instructi simul progredientes satis arcebant) Colinum salvus et illæsus servatis ordinibus evasit; quod opus militiæ periti majus quam acie vincere existimaverunt.” (Epitome rerum Bohemicarum, Lib. IV, cap. viii.)
- “Scriptores rerum Bohemicarum,” Vol. III. p. 48.
- Professor Tomek in his Life of John Zizka, to which I wish here to acknowledge my indebtedness, quotes on this occasion an important passage from the German chronicler Windecke. Windecke’s German is so rugged and difficult that I will transcribe his words in English. He writes: “Now the King had on this evening [when Žižka’s advance became known] many cowards [Windecke writes ‘Hollanders,’ but the word had that signification at this period] from Bohemia and Moravia in his camp, though they sworn to be faithful to him; so the King had to retreat. Yet Pipo was accused of having caused the flight both from the town and from the open country.”
- Palacký mentions the fate of a Moravian knight, John of Lhotský, who, with a few followers, made a hopeless attack on the advancing Bohemians, hoping that his death would facilitate the flight of Sigismund (Geschichte von Böhmen, Vol. III. Part 2, p. 273, n.).
- According to the “Scriptores rerum Bohemicarum,” “458 men in armour.”
- See my Bohemia, a Historical Sketch, p. 136, n. 2.