Eus, John
(Jan Hus)
( 1373-1414 )
   reforming churchman and forerunner of the Reformation
   John Hus's views on theology and church practice prefigured much of later Protestant theory. Though he was martyred, his followers kept his ideas alive for 150 years until they were adopted by millions during the Reformation.
   Hus was born in 1373 in Husinec, a small town in Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic). His peasant parents saw the priesthood as the best means of escaping their life and supported his clerical studies. in 1390, he entered the University of Prague, where he completed his B.A. in 1393, his M.A. in 1396, and his bachelor of divinity in 1404. He became one of the most popular of the university's instructors.
   While continuing to study for the priesthood, in 1402 he was appointed rector and preacher at the Chapel of the Holy infants of Bethlehem in Prague. His appointment coincided with a conversion experience, about which he began to preach. Hus also began to absorb the ideas on church reform and biblical authority advocated by John Wycliffe, as conveyed to him by Jerome of Prague, a former student at Wycliffe's Oxford. Hus began by advocating the moral reform of the clergy, but was calling for changes in church teachings and practices, including the distribution of both elements of the Eucharist to the laity.
   Hus was calling commonly accepted church doctrines heresy, and his support at the university eroded. A total of 45 statements identified with Hus were condemned by his colleagues, after which he was forbidden to preach. Finally, he was excommunicated by the archbishop of Prague. Summoned to Rome, he refused to go, after which the pope ratified his excommunication. When the pope placed Prague under an interdict, meaning that no religious services could be held in the city, Hus moved back to his hometown.
   In 1414, a church council was called at Constance (Germany) to decide between rival claimants to the papal throne. Hus was also summoned to appear before the council and promised safe-conduct by Sigismund (r. 1411-37), emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
   A month after his arrival in Constance, Hus was arrested and kept in prison for almost a year. When he was finally brought before the council, Hus was denied the opportunity to speak for himself. He was defrocked and condemned to be burned at the stake. In the face of the church leadership gathered at Constance, Sigismund felt powerless to keep his promise of safe-conduct.
   Hus's ashes were thrown into the Rhine River in an attempt to prevent him from being venerated. However, when news of his betrayal and death reached Prague, it led to further popularization of his ideas. They are carried on by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in his homeland and the Moravian Church, established by Czech immigrants in Germany in the 18th century.
   Further reading:
   ■ Heiko A. Oberrman, The Dawn of the Reformation (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1986)
   ■ Edward Peters, ed., Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980)
   ■ Matthew Spinka, John Hus at the Council of Constance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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