Many books have been written about the Hussite Wars, so a brief
explanation is likely to be inadequate in some ways. Nevertheless, I will
attempt to outline the significant events, as I know them. If others find
some errors in this, hopefully they will contribute corrections.
The term "Hussite" is a reference to Jan Hus (1370-1415), a Prague
preacher who would eventually become rector of the Prague university and
who was a follower of the English reformer John Wycliff. Some of the
tenets of Wyclifism, as promoted by Jan Hus, were to also become those of
Luther's Protestant Reformation over a century later. Starting in the
1380's, Wyclifism was hotly debated in the Prague university and this
theological debate divided the Germans and Czechs on the faculty. Some
historians have also pointed out that at the same time there was a
similar struggle by the Czech aristocratic classes, particularly the
minor nobility, against richer German old-established families, who
controlled city governance, Church lands, and royal estates.
Despite his excommunication by the Papal Curia, Jan Hus continued to
preach against the moral decay of the Catholic clergy, such as the sale
of papal indulgences. He was summoned to the Council of Constance for his
heretical teachings and was burned at the stake in 1415. The Czech
nobility condemned the execution of Hus and called it a national insult.
Between 1416 and 1419, papal loyalists were expelled from churches in
Prague and elsewhere and replaced by Hussites. At the same time, the
reformers began to seize Church lands and suppress monasteries.
The Hussite revolution began its most violent period in 1419, when a
radical preacher in Prague so inflamed the crowds that they stormed the
town hall and threw its councilors from the windows (the so-called first
defenestration of Prague). Two weeks later, the Czech king, Vaclav IV,
died of a heart attack. In the following days, Prague mobs attacked
monasteries, churches, and the houses of German burghers, many of whom
Vaclav's successor was his brother, Emperor Zikmund (Sigismund), king of
Hungary. Zikmund refused a negotiated settlement with the Czech nobility
and obtained papal backing for a crusade against the heretical reformers.
In 1420, the Czech nobles proclaimed Zikmund as an enemy of the Czech
kingdom and language. They assembled an army of peasants from various
Hussite strongholds and defeated the imperial crusaders. Over the next 14
years, four more imperial crusades were repulsed by the Hussites. The
country was devastated; Church lands seized, monasteries sacked, Germans
slaughtered or expelled, and defiant towns and villages destroyed.
Perhaps something should be mentioned here of the split among the
Hussites themselves. The greatest divisions were between the so-called
Utraquists (who demanded receiving communion in both kinds, both bread
and wine) and Taborites and other radicals who rejected all
ecclesiastical authority except that of the Bible and proposed social
equality, requiring all members to pool their private property. Much of
the time when the Hussites were not fighting against the imperial
crusaders, they were fighting among themselves.
The Papacy eventually abandoned their crusades and sought a diplomat
settlement with the Prague Utraquists. The Council of Basle accepted the
Four Articles of Prague (with a few limitations) as a basis for
settlement in 1433. The Taborites and other radicals were unwilling to
accept the compromise. However, they were defeated in battle by the
combined force of the Utraquists and Czech Catholics in 1434. With this,
the Hussites were accepted back into the Roman church.
The Compacts of Basle did not end the religious strife in Bohemia. There
was another holy war over the issues of succession after the death of
Zikmund in 1437. But that is another story .
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve and Donna Frank" <sfrank(a)woh.rr.com>
Sent: Friday, November 29, 2002 1:54 PM
Subject: [GERMAN-BOHEMIAN] Hussite Wars
I am relatively new to your mailing list.
Recently, I have read some of the emails from this mailing list and
have referred to the Hussite Wars.
I would appreciate any assistance from people on the list who could
a brief lesson on the Hussite Wars and its impact on Bohemia.
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