Crisis of Feudalism
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Church History : Dissent : The Hussites

In 1348, Emperor KARL IV. founded the UNIVERSITY OF PRAGUE. Here, the teachings of JOHN WYCLIF (-1384) were discussed, and early in the 15th century they were further developed by JAN HUS. He was summoned to appear in front of both the Emperor and the COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE (he had been given a letter of safe passage, both to Konstanz and back. In spite of that document he was accused of heresy, sentenced and burnt at the stake (1415).
Back in his native BOHEMIA, he still had a devoted followership, the HUSSITES, which were not willing to accept the demand of the church to return to the Catholic credo. The Hussites saw themselves as (early) reformators, as those who lived according to the real interpretation of the bible. They believed, that it was necessary for both the priest AND THE COMMUNITY to participate in the communion, i.e. eat the bread (thought to be the body of Christ) and drink the wine (thought to be the blood of Christ); in Catholic rite, only the priest drinks the wine). After this, the Hussites are also called UTRAQUISTS. Jan Hus also criticized the sale of LETTERS OF INDULGENCE.

Both the church (i.e. the council) and the Emperor organized crusades against the Hussites. However, the Hussites, lead by blind JAN ZIZKA, repelled attack after attack, using the WAGGON BARRICADE strategy. Year after year the 'crusaders' attacked and were repelled, and the anti-Hussite crusade movement wore down.
The Hussites meanwhile had split, the more radical TABORITES moving out of Prague and establishing a new town sacred to them on Mount Tabor in southern Bohemia. Finally, the conflict was resolved diplomatically, a part of the Hussites reintegrating into the Catholic church, others forming separate communities.
In the 1440es, Hussite bands left Bohemia and interfered in warfare elsewhere, for instance in the war between the Prussian Federation (allied with Poland) and the Teutonic Order.

Reenactment of Jan Hus' voyage to Constance, by Michal Vynohradnyk
Article "Hussites" from Catholic Encyclopedia
The Hussites, from Medieval Life & the 100 Years War
The Hussites, from Marginality and Community in Medieval Europe, a project at Kenyon College

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 29th 2001


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