A History of The Hussites

By Tim Lambert

Jan Hus was a famous preacher of the Middle Ages. Hus was born in Bohemia (what is now the Czech Republic) in about 1374 and he was educated at the University of Prague. In 1401 he was ordained a priest.

Hus was heavily influenced by the English reformer John Wycliffe and he soon proved to be a popular preacher. Hus preached against forged miracles and avarice in the church. He also emphasized the importance of the Bible. However, his strong preaching against abuses in the church alienated some of the clergy.

In 1414 Hus was ordered to attend the Council of Constance to defend his beliefs. As a result, he was sentenced to death and burned in 1415. However, his execution caused outrage in Bohemia and his followers carried on. (Although the Hussite movement was also a nationalist one. At that time many of the people who lived in Czech towns were Germans and nearly all the important posts in the Church were held by Germans).

In 1419 a long series of wars began when Czech Hussites refused to accept a man named Sigismund (who was an anti-Hussite) as king of Bohemia. In 1420 a crusade was launched against the Hussites but it was badly defeated in January 1422. The wars dragged on but the Catholic Church eventually gave up the attempt to destroy the Hussites by force. In 1436 the Hussites accepted a peace treaty with the Catholic powers.

Jan Hus influenced later reformers such as Martin Luther. However, in 1620 the Austrians conquered Bohemia (Czech Republic) and reimposed the Roman Catholic Church.

But the Hussite movement did not die. In 1457 a group of them formed a new organization called The Unity of the Brethren. In the 17th century, the movement was suppressed. However, some members of the Unity of the Brethren carried on and eventually, they scattered across Europe. In 1722 some of them settled in Saxony in Germany. The movement then revived and its members became known as Moravians.

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