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Posts tagged ‘Jan Hus’

Konstanz: Jan Hus’ last stand

Above/featured: Old Town from the Bodensee (Lake Constance): visible from left-to-right are respectively the broad-roofed Konzilgebäude (Council Building), Münster (tall Cathedral spire behind sailboat), and the Dominikanerinsel (Dominicans Island). Photo on 23 Sep 2017.

6 July is a national holiday in the Czech Republic; the formal name is “the day Jan Hus was burned at the stake” (Den upálení mistra Jana Husa).

I wrote previously about medieval Bohemian theologian and reformer Jan Hus (John Huss) whose teachings in the relatively novelty of the Czech language and criticisms about abuse and injustice within the Catholic Church predated Martin Luther’s own revolution for change by almost 100 years. Hus’ place within Czech history is fixed onto the nation with a giant memorial sculpture at the centre of Old Town Square in the capital city of Prague. His place is also assured in the European Reformation as seen in full display at the world’s largest Reformation Monument in the German city of Worms. Hus’ conviction and execution and the resulting armed conflicts would give rise not only to the concept of European unity (see also the prominent Czech historical figure George of Poděbrady), but would also give way to the European continental wars of religion.

As key historical aspects for creating unique Bohemian and subsequent Czech identity, Hus’ life, final days, and death are also a part of the historical record in the southern German city of Konstanz (Constance in English, Kostnice in Czech).


How Hus got here

The backdrop was the one of the largest conferences in the Middle Age. The Council of Constance met from 1414 to 1418, during which one key directive of the synod was to decide once and for all a single pope from three candidates. With the Council’s election of Pope Martin V in 1417, the Papal Schism which began in 1378 effectively came to an end; this would also be the one and only time a pope was elected on German soil. As the only meeting of its kind held north of the Alps, this massive medieval assembly gathered tens of thousands of people, including religious, political, civic, and social leaders; scholars and other civic officials; as well as traders and merchants from around the continent.

Constance had become a free Imperial city in the late 12th-century, allowing the city to prosper by trade of many goods around the European continent and onto the Mediterranean to destinations in Africa and the Middle East. The city was chosen to host the 15th-century conference, because the city as bishopric had sufficient space and resources to host, house, and feed a very large number of conference guests. Constance has the nickname “Stadt des Konzils” or the “Council City”, and has been included as part of the Hussite Cultural Route (Hussitische Kulturroute), which traces Hus’ final journey from Prague to Konstanz.

As follower of English philosopher John Wycliffe, Hus spoke out on flagrant abuse and corruption, especially on the sale of indulgences with the act of forgiveness for sin being used as a tool to increase church income. At a time when the church claimed complete spiritual, moral, and civic authority, Hus was an obvious troublemaker, and the central church authority punished him with censure and excommunication. Hus was called to travel from Prague to Konstanz and answer charges of heresy at the Council of Constance. He ignored the pleas of friends and colleagues to stay put (“it’s a trap!”), and armed with an apparent imperial promise of safe passage and conduct, he set off on his journey to Konstanz. Upon arrival in November 1414, the promise was naught and the betrayal complete; Hus was promptly arrested, imprisoned, and tortured in various places throughout the area for several months. In refusing to recant over his criticisms against the church, he was never given a fair trial. The Council convicted him of heresy inside the city’s cathedral on 6 July 1415. Hus was immediately handed over to the civil authority, who condemned him to death by burning at the stake on the same day. Jan Hus is revered as a key historical figure for Czechs and the Bohemian Reformation, just as Martin Luther would be for his role to kick off the German Reformation almost 100 years later.


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My Praha: Jan Hus, Bohemian reformer and Czech icon

Above/featured: Jan Hus Monument, Old Town Square – 4 Jul 2008 (HL, 450D).

Most visitors to the Czech capital city of Prague will pass by and overlook the large sculpture near the middle of Old Town Square. The central figure in the monument is one of the most important historical figures for capital and country.

Although he may not be as well known outside of the European continent, Jan Hus is a massive historical figure within central Europe. Jan Hus was declared the greatest hero of the Czech nation in a 2015 survey by Czech Radio. In Konstanz on 6 July 1415, Jan Hus was sentenced to death on the charge of heresy. In recognition of his attempts to reform the Catholic Church and to foster and encourage Bohemian identity, July 6 is commemorated annually as a national holiday in the Czech Republic: the holiday is known as “Den upálení Mistra Jana Husa,” which translates to “day of the burning of Jan Hus.”

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Worms: world’s largest Reformation Monument

Arriving by German rail or on Rhine river cruises, visitors to the city of Worms (pronounced ‘VOHRmz’) will likely sample the crisp wine from the surrounding Rheinhessen region; learn about the 5th-century Nibelung saga; see important religious symbols including the “crown” that is St. Peter’s Cathedral, and remaining structures from the once-thriving Jewish community which along with Speyer and Mainz formed a medieval league of Jewish communities. Many will retrace Martin Luther’s steps in the city.

In April 1521, Luther was ordered to appear at the Diet (Imperial Parliament) convening in Worms. In the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth, Luther held firm against charges of heresy and refused to recant. What’s amazing is that Luther survived the triumphant journey from Wittenberg to Worms and, with his subsequent status as “outlaw” from the imperial edict following the Diet, Luther survived departure from Worms because his benefactor, Friedrich III, secretly arranged for Luther to be “kidnapped” and brought to safety at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.

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Petrikirche, Taufkirche, Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Tracing Martin Luther’s steps in 16 German cities (IG)

Above/featured: “Luther war hier. // Luther was here.” Eisleben, Germany (HL, 27 Oct 2016).

In pre-teen years, I attended a Catholic elementary school by weekday, and a missions-oriented Protestant church by weekend. I already had multiple questions running around my pre-scientist brain, like electrons appearing and dissipating in a fuzzy halo. When various disparate elements began to settle with few satisfying answers, I left behind the churches and their respective religions. But one thing that’s remained is my love of history. History has never been boring, because I carry the past (as offspring of immigrants), and I’m determined to bring history’s lessons into the present.

Even in youth, I had to ask: why was one set of churches called “Protestant”? What was under protest? How did one man help spark a movement that would help merge and create a version of a language that continues today, that would bring accessible means to literacy for the public, and that would begin to change rule by religion to rule by law?

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Jan Hus (John Huss), Pomník mistra Jana Husa, Jan Hus Memorial, Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem, Church of Our Lady before Tyn, Staroměstské námesti, Old Town Square, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Jan Hus Day

Above/featured: Jan Hus looks up at the Church of Our Lady before Tyn – 4 Jul 2008 (HL).

Before Martin Luther, there was Jan Hus …

Over centuries, the Catholic Church operated with total authority on religion, science, and politics and far-reaching aspects on daily life. It’s a nice racket to claim you’re the only legitimate path to God and salvation. What Jan Hus (John Huss) and subsequent Martin Luther would set in motion when they openly challenged the superiority of the Church and introduced the idea of an individual’s direct path to their own thoughts and emotions in the world and to God. Being cut out as the “middle man” did not endear these two men to the Church.

Jan Hus helped bring about “The Bohemian Reformation” in the Czech Republic in the 15th-century, predating Luther’s movement in neighbouring Germany by a century. The US Embassy in the Czech Republic describes Jan Hus as:

Jan Hus (1369-1415), a predecessor of Martin Luther, was an early 15th century Czech theologian and scholar. He advocated church reforms, such as using Czech as the liturgical language, aligning the church’s practices with teachings contained in the Bible, limiting the power of the church to spiritual matters, and stopping the sale of indulgences. Consequently, he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1412 for insubordination. He was summoned to the ecclesiastical Council of Constance in 1414, where he was ordered to recant his teachings. Refusing to comply, Hus was burnt at the stake as a heretic on 6 July 1415. Over the centuries Jan Hus has become a powerful symbol of an independent Czech national identity.

News of Hus’ martyrdom sparked outrage, anger, and protests (often violent) among Czechs, and the movement eventually ignited the Hussite wars between Hus’ followers (early Protestants) and the Catholic Church. Armed conflict ended with infighting among the Hussites, and ultimately defeat of the Hussites at the hands of Catholic forces.

In 1903, Czech sculptor Ladislav Saloun began work on designing the Jan Hus Memorial. Jan Hus is seen looking up and towards the Church of Our Lady before Týn which was the primary church for the Hussites between 1419 and 1621. The memorial was inaugurated at Prague’s Old Town Square on 6 July 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus’ martyrdom. As Prague was under the rule of the Habsburg (i.e., Catholic) Empire in 1915, the authorities of the day refused to acknowledge the memorial and forbade an official event. In quiet protest, city residents proceeded to blanket the new monument with flowers. The Jan Hus memorial has become a symbol of opposition against foreign rule.

6 July 2015 marked the 600th anniversary of Jan Hus’ death. What were some of the following consequences?

•   1st Defenestration in Prague, 1419
•   Jiří z Poděbrad (George of Poděbrady)
•   Precedes Martin Luther’s Reformation by 100 years
•   World’s largest Reformation monument in Worms, Germany
•   Pope John Paul II’s apology, 1999

More on Jan Hus

•   My Expats CZ
•   My Czech Republic
•   Prague.CZ

I made this photo on 4 July 2008 with the Canon EOS450D, EF 18-55 IS zoom- and kit-lens, and the following settings: 1/500s, f/7.1, ISO200, and 27mm focal length (43mm full-frame equivalent). This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6WM.

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