Jan Hus is an iconic figure in Prague. He was peasant born, but a follower of the John Wycliffe, the English reformer. He preached in the language of the masses (Czech) against the wealth, corruption and hierarchical tendencies within the church. Though a devout, mild-mannered man himself, he become embroiled in the disputes between the conservative clergy backed by the pope and the Wycliffian Czechs at the University of Prague.
King Vaclav IV supported Hus (who was the confessor to his wife, Sophie). However, when Hus broadened his attack on the Church to attack the sale of indulgences to fund the inter-papal wars, he incurred the enmity of the King (who received a percentage of the sales.) In 1412, Hus and his followers were expelled from the University of Prague, excommunicated and banished from Prague. They travelled throughout Bohemia, spreading the ideas of Wycliffe and the reformers.
Hus naively attended the Council of Constance in 1415, believing in the guarantee of safe conduct from the Emperor Sigismund. He was there denounced as a heretic, and, refusing to renounce his ideas, was burnt at the stake in 1415.
Religious disputes, when mixed up with money and power, as, in the last analysis, they often are, can be deadly.
Hus’s most famous dictum was Pravda Vitezi –Truth Prevails–which has been the motto of every Czech revolution since his time. And in the long run, I believe it does!
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