Moravia - Church History

Orthodox Mission . Saints Cyril and Methodius arrived in Greater Moravia in 863; here they created the Church Slavonic script (Glagolithic) and established an Orthodox church administration, with a bishopric in Nitra (modern Slovakia). While the Catholic Church used Latin for mass and church records, the Orthodox church held mass and wrote church records in old Slavonic. The Orthodox church organization of Greater Moravia was destroyed, together with the state it served, by Magyar incursions (c. 905). The Slavonic church language was still used in certain monasteries in Bohemia in the 11th century.

Catholic Mission . When the Moravian church adopted Catholic rite is not quite clear. From 955 onward, the history of Moravia was, with brief interruptions, tied to that of Bohemia. The establishment of the Diocesis of Prague (under the Archdiocesis of Mainz) in 973 marks the conclusion of the process of conversion of the Bohemians and Moravians, which took one and a half centuries. In 1063 the Diocesis of Olomouc was separated from the Diocesis of Prague.

Monastic Moravia . In importance next to the diocesal administration in Olomouc were monasteries. The earlier monasteries were of the Benedictine Order (Rajhrad near Brno); in the 12th century Premonstratensians and Cistercians followed.
In the 13th century, ethnic German settlers immigrated, settling in cities which emerged all over Moravia, and in the hitherto thinly inhabited outer regions of Moravia. New monastic orders, the Dominicans and Minorites (Franciscans) established convents in the cities, taking on charitable tasks. The Teutonic Order, a militant order organizing the conquest and forced conversion of the pagan Prussians, established a Kommende in Bohemia (where it recruited knights for the fight in Prussia; the Kommende Bohemia included Moravia).

The 14th Century . In 1344 the Diocesis of Prague was elevated to an Archdiocesis, and Olomouc turned into a suffragan diocesis under Prague. The language of the church was Latin, favouring neither the Czechs nor the Germans. In 1348 the University of Prague was established, the first in the Holy Roman Empire outside Italy.
The elevation of Prague from diocesis to archdiocesis had turned the Bohemian Lands into an independent entity, in terms of church politics. The university attracted students from beyond Bohemia; the majority of the students was ethnic German; the university was organized in four 'nations', three German, one Czech.

Hussitism (1409-1434) . In 1409 King Wenceslas decreed the organization of the University of Prague to be reformed; now there were three Bohemian nations and one German nation. Many of the German professors and students left Prague in protest; they founded new universities in Leipzig and Erfurt.
At the University of Prague, a group of scholars inspired by the writings of John Wyclif formed. Jacob of Mies in 1414 proposed to hand out the eucharist to the parishioners in both kinds; Jan Hus preached in the vernacular, criticized the church for being corrupted, and especially the practice of the sale of letters of indulgence. Hus was excommunicated in 1411, invited to appear at the Council of Konstanz 1414 in order to defend his theses, and - in violation of safe conduct granted to him by Emperor Sigismund - burnt at the stake in 1415.
His followers in Bohemia and Moravia, the Hussites, did not accept this judgment; Bohemia and Moravia were split in two camps, the Catholic church administration and the Hussite Church. The popes called for crusades against the Hussite heretics (1420-1433), which all were repelled.
Meanwhile the Hussites split in two camps, the moderate Utraquists (Calixtines) and the radical, milleniarist Taborites. In 1434 the Calixtines were readmitted into the Catholic Church (Compacts of Basel, offered by the Council of Basel; in 1462 annulled by the pope), with the permission to continue the eucharist in both kinds. Calixtines and Czech Catholics defeated the Taborites in the Battle of Lipany 1434; Bohemia and Moravia were restored to the Luxemburg Dynasty.
The period of early Hussitism had not only seen a drastic decline in the population of Moravia, but also the usurpation of church property by nobles and cities, a factum the Moravian Margraves had to accept before being paid homage to. The clergy lost her representation in the Moravian diet.
Click here for a more detailed history of the Reformation in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.

1434-1526 . The years between 1434 and 1526 were characterized by changing dynasties (Luxemburg Dynasty -1437; Habsburg Dynasty 1438-1456, George of Podebrady 1456-1471, Jagiellonian Dynasty 1471-1526). Most of these dynasties ruled several countries simultaneously and resided outside of Bohemia and Moravia. George of Podebrady was a confessed Hussite; he was excommunicated, and again a crusade against Bohemia and Moravia called for. The Moravian diet in 1469 paid homage to King Mathias Corvinus of Hungary. Moravia was a Hungarian sideland until 1490, then again a Bohemian sideland.
Remnants of the Taborites reorganized as the Bohemian (or Moravian) Brethren.
The year 1522 saw the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation in Saxony. Lutheranism spread in Moravia's ethnic German communities. The year 1529 saw the arrival of Anabaptist Hutterites, refugees from Tyrol.
Click here for a more detailed history of the Reformation in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.

The 16th Century (1526-1620) . In 1526 Ferdinand of Habsburg, brother of Emperor Charles V., was paid homage to as Margrave of Moravia, King of Bohemia. The Habsburg Dynasty was to rule Bohemia and Moravia for the next century. King Ferdinand (1526-1564) and Emperor Rudolf II. resided in Prague.
In the mid 1530s, the Anabaptist Hutterites, who had arrived six years earlier, experienced persecution in Moravia; the Hutterite community continued to exist until into the era of the Counterreformation.
The Habsburg Dynasty was staunchly Catholic. The earlier Habsburg rulers were well aware of the religious diversity of Moravia; Lutheranism spread among the country's German population. The Jesuits were called to Olomouc in 1566, but not given a free hand yet. In 1611, Emperor Rudolf was deposed; Emperor Matthias resided in Vienna; in 1617 Archduke Ferdinand of Styria was elected King of Bohemia, Margrave of Moravia. He was a staunch supporter of the Counterreformation, which he had had implemented by force in Inner Austria (Styria, Carinthia and Carniola). The protestant segment among Bohemia's nobility feared the policy of enforced Recatholization to come to Bohemia, and in 1618 staged a coup d'etat - the Defenestration of Prague. While Bohemia adopted the constitution of a nobles' republic, with a nominal elected king, Frederick Count Palatine, a Calvinist, the Moravian diet, dominated by Protestant nobles, expressed its loyalty to the Habsburg Dynasty.
Click here for a more detailed history of the Reformation in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown.

Counterreformation Bohemia (1620-1711) . The Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 restored Bohemia to Habsburg rule. Now the Habsburg Dynasty ruled Bohemia by a combination of divine right / the right of conquest, no longer by a combination of genealogical claim, a vote influenced by bribery and the good will of the Bohemian Estates. Thus the Habsburgs were no longer coerced into a policy of religious toleration; the Jesuits were given a free hand in implementing the Counterreformation. Bohemian Brethren, Calvinists and Lutherans were either coerced to convert to Catholicism or to emigration. The rebel Bohemian nobles were executed, their estates auctioned off (to Catholic, mostly foreign nobles). Utraquism was also suppressed; the Catholic Church, by a combination of terror (Inquisition) and incentives (Carnival, Pilgrimages) regained control of the Bohemian parishioners. After initial restraint, the same policy was applied to Moravia, despite the loyalty of the Protestant Moravian nobles shown in 1618; the most famous Moravian exiles were the Moravian Brethren, lead by Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius).

18th Century Bohemia (1711-1792) . While the Habsburg Dynasty remained staunchly Catholic, rulers came to realize that a policy of leaving the Jesuits in control was harmful to the economy. As the Dynasty, in oder to finance her wars, long depended heavily on foreign subsidies, a Mercantilist policy was essential; Mercantilists supported a policy of improving the conditions of the peasants, and of religious toleration. Yet, in 1726 Moravia's Jews were forced to move into ghettos. Maria Theresia, while concerned about the peasants, was opposed to religious toleration. During the War of Austrian Succession, she accused the Moravian Jews of supporting her enemies, and demanded them to pay a heavy indemnity (1742). Her son Joseph II., inspired by Enlightenment philosophy, decreed religious toleration in 1781. The Jesuit Order had been dissolved in 1773, its assets were used to found modern institutions of higher education. The (formerly Jesuit) college of Olomouc, in 1777, was moved to Brno and elevated to the status of university. In the same year, Olomouc was elevated to archdiocesis, and the suffragan diocesis of Brno was established. Joseph II. closed down monasteries of contemplative orders, rededicating their assets to institutions with social / charitable tasks. Prospective Catholic Priests had to study at Priests' Seminars, to take an oath of loyalty to the state.

The Nineteenth Century (1792-1918) . Enlightenment and Liberalism reduced the influence of the churches. The Catholic Church had been reduced from an organization complementing the state to an institution within the state by Joseph II. (1780-1790), and, while no longer state church (Patent for the Protestants 1861), remained the dominant religious organization in Moravia. Relations between the Austrian state and the papacy were regulated in a series of concordats. The Jews were granted emancipation in 1849, the Jewish ghetto abolished in 1852. The 1830es to 1870es saw the assimilation of Moravia's Jews into the German culture; toward the end of the 19th century, in the face of continued Anti-Semitism, Zionism spread.
The phenomenon of persons refraining from religious services appeared, as did Atheism in the later part of the century.

Czechoslovakia (1918-1992) . Czechoslovakia declared independence in 1918. The Czechoslovak constitution foresaw separation of church and state. The Catholic Church remained the strongest church in the country. In 1919 the Czechoslovak Hussite Church was founded, which held religious services in Czech language.
During the German occupation of Central Moravia (1939-1945), the German administration aimed at the extermination of the country's Jewish minority, without discriminating between practicing Jews, non-religous persons of Jewish ancestry and former Jews who had converted to Catholicism.
Immediately after the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, the country's ethnic Germans (3 million in all of Czechoslovakia) were forcibly expelled. The People's Republic of Czechoslovakia then declared Atheism official policy and, in the late 1940es / early 1950es, confiscated church property and arrested church officials. Church attendance decreased significantly. In the mid 1950es this policy eased.

Czech Republic (since 1993) . In 1996 the Diocesis of Ostrava-Opava was detached from the Diocesis of Olomouc.

Chronology of Catholic Dioceses, Czech R., from Kirken i Norge
Biographies of Czech Saints, from Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon, in German
Articles Bohemia, Lutheran Theology in, Bohemian Brethren, from Christian Cyclopedia, posted by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
The Czechoslovak Hussite Church, official website
Articles Prague, from Jewish Virtual Library
Articles Religion in Communist Czechoslovakia, Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Moravians (Religion) (= Bohemian Brethren), Hussites, Utraquism, from Wikipedia
Article Moravia from Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition
Article Moravia, from Jewish Encyclopedia
Patron Saints Index : Moravia, from Catholic Forum
Article Entstehungsgeschichte der Hutterer, from Wikibooks, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 11th 2006, last revised August 15th 2008

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