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The Czech Republic is also known, since 2016, as Czechia. This landlocked country in central Europe is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west. It is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic and includes the historical provinces of Bohemia, Czech Silesia, and Moravia. Its capital and largest city is Prague. The official language is Czech.

The Czech Duchy and was founded in about 870. When the Moravian Empire collapsed in 907, the power transferred to the House of Přemyslid, which was the Czech royal dynasty. In 1002, the Duchy became part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1198, it became the Kingdom of Bohemia.

The Bohemian Reformation began in 1402 and was led by Jan Hus, a university teacher and popular preacher in Prague. He believed that Jesus Christ, not the Pope, was the head of the Church. He criticized the Catholic Church for selling indulgences in 1412, which caused unrest with local government and the Church. An interdict, which in Catholic canon law is a censure or ban on participating in certain rites or sacraments, was issued for him, and he left Prague for the country where, inspired by the writings of John Wycliffe, who attacked the privileged status of the clergy and the luxury of parishes, he began writing books in Czech about the Christian faith. He also made it known that he did not put his trust in the king, the Pope, or the Council but that he appealed directly to Jesus Christ Himself.

In June of 1415, Sigismund of Hungary, the brother of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia wanted to end the discussion about the Church, even as it got louder and more popular. Citing his desire to end the papal schism and to provide a forum within which the reform of the Church could be discussed, he called for a general council at Konstanz to convene on November 1 of 1414. This council is now famously known as the Council of Constance, and it lasted from 1414 to 1418. This was the 16th ecumenical council to be recognized by the Catholic Church. Sigismund offered Hus a promise of safe conduct which he saw this as an opportunity to get the dissension out in the open and come to some agreement with the Church about reforms. His wrote out his will before leaving on the journey to Konstanz, and he got there on November 3, 1414.

He was free to come and go, per the safe conduct promise from Sigismund, staying at the house of a widow, but he continued to violate the interdict which banned him from preaching or celebrating the Mass. On November 28, 1414, he was imprisoned on the assertion that he planned to flee. He was soon locked up in the dungeon of the Dominican monastery. When Sigismund learned that, despite his promise, Hus had been imprisoned and his life was now in danger, he was furious. When he was advised that a person cannot be bound by any promise made to a heretic, Sigismund settled with the idea. Antipope John XXIII appointed a committee of three bishops to do the preliminary investigation while Hus was the captive of the antipope himself. During this time, he was able to stay in touch with friends and be relatively free, but then John XXIII fled Konstanz so as not to have to abdicate his contested papacy, and Hus was virtually incommunicado. He was moved to the castle of the Bishop of Konstanz, chained 24 hours a day, poorly fed, and getting sick. And there he stayed for 73 days.

On June 5, 1415, Hus was moved to a Franciscan monastery in order to be tried. Parts of his writings were read and witness against him were heard. He was asked to confess that he had erred in his theses, that he renounced and recanted them, and that he declared the opposite of these sentences. The closest he would come is to submission was to offer his willingness to recant if any of his writings could be proven wrong by the bible. He admitted to venerating Wycliffe, but he adamantly denied ever having defended Wycliffe's doctrine of The Lord's Supper, or his 45 articles which had been condemned by the Church. After his trial, on June 8, he rebuffed attempts to recant.

On July 6, 1415, he was taken to the cathedral where his official condemnation took place. This was followed by a high mass and liturgy, and then he was led into the church. A bishop spoke about the necessity of ridding the world of heresy, and some of the theses of Hus and then of Wycliffe and finally a report about the trial were read.

In the end, his executioners tied his hands behind his back and chained his neck to a stake. Straw and wood were dumped on top of him, covering him to his neck. Wycliffe's manuscripts were used for kindling, and the fire was lit. Hus sang loudly as he died, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” It was almost exactly 100 years after that utterance that Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door.

 

 

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