Faithful Heroes: John Huss

Jan Hus {John Huss}

John Huss is considered the first church reformer after John Wycliffe, the theorist Protestantism. He was the forerunner to Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.

Jan Hus was the true spelling of his name. He was born around 1369 in Bohemia.

By 1400, he had earned a Bachelor and Master’s of Arts degree from the University of Prague and was ordained a priest. He began preaching and became an advocate for the Czechs and the Realists.

He was heavily influenced by the banned writings of John Wycliffe. He translated some of Wycliffe’s writing into Czech and helped to distribute it.

He denounced the moral failings of the clergy, bishops and papacy from the pulpit.

He continued to speak out against the policies of the Catholic church and to promote the writings of Wycliffe. He was excommunicated on December 20, 1409.

A religious movement was now underway in Bohemia. A reconciliation was attempted but no compromise could be reached.

The Pope and Archbishop attacked Hus and riots broke out. Hus decided to bypass the church powers and appeal directly to Jesus Christ as the supreme judge. This was significant to Martin Luther’s 95 theses a century later.

He sent his written plea to Prague, where it was publicly read.

The Council of Constance summoned him for a hearing and Hus wrote his will before leaving. Upon his arrival he was imprisoned. For 73 days, he was chained day and night, separated from his friends, poorly fed and became ill.

Hus before the Council of Constance

His trial began on June 5, 1415 and he refused to recant his writings and beliefs. He was condemned by the church and sentenced to death. He stated ” even at this hour he did not wish anything, but to be convinced from Scripture. He fell upon his knees and asked God with a soft voice to forgive all his enemies.”

After being stripped of his priestly robes, he was led away to the stake. His words at the sake are recorded as “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.”

He was burned at he stake on July 6, 1415.

As the fire intensified, thanks to an old woman who threw brushwood on it, he called out “Holy Simplicity”. With his last breath he cried out “Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on us!”

monument at Huss place of execution

His ashes were thrown into the Rhine River.

After his death, the people of Bohemia moved away from the Papal teachings and Rome pronounced a crusade against the Bohemian people.

Today there is a memorial to Jan Hus at the Old Town Square in Prague and other smaller memorials throughout the Czech Republic.

In 2015, he was voted the greatest hero of the Czech nation.

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