Posted by: LM | May 7, 2008

Something Your History Teacher Didn’t Tell You…

… At least mine never told me. Actually, they probably did, I just don’t remember. You’ve heard of the Hussites, I’m sure, and for most of us the name “John Huss” does ring at least a couple of bells. You might not be able to tell me who the guy is or why he had followers bearing his name, but don’t feel too bad. This isn’t one of those questions you’d find on an episode of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”.

My parents came to visit me twice during the 10 months that I was in Prague. My dad’s big (and I mean BIG) into history and literature and all that jazz, so all I heard about for months was how excited he was about his first venture into Europe. I couldn’t blame him. It’s an exciting thing. The thing I heard about the most from my pastor-father, though, was the name Jan Hus (or as we Americans like to say… John Huss). I knew the little things about the dude. He’s a big name in Czech history. All you have to do is walk through Old Town Square once to know that this man was larger than life. His memorial statue stands right in the center of the square. I’m no genius, but that’s enough for me to know that this person was someone I should learn a thing or two about. To teach me a thing or two, I assigned my students to do oral reports. Their topics were fairly broad, but I was pretty proud of the idea. I simply wanted them to teach me something about the Czech Republic. They could do something historical, something about music, fashion, places to visit, a grammar lesson. I didn’t care. All I wanted was for my students to speak English for 15 straight minutes and for me to learn something I could take back to the states with me. It worked. One of my students chose Jan Hus as his topic. Listening to the life of this man being dictated to me, I realized why his statue was so huge and his name was so familiar. This guy was a very big deal.

He was born in Bohemia (most of which now falls into the boundaries of the Czech Republic) in the 14th century. What we largely protestant Americans have heard about him deals mostly with the Protestant movement and his popularization of the teachings of John Wycliff. However, it’s much more detailed than that. An abridged version of the story is that King Richard II of England came to Bohemia with his Bohemian queen and brought Wycliff’s ideas with him. Hus took them to heart and began to spread them around the countryside asking for reform within the church. Most of his followers went by the name of Hussites, but the most radical of the group called themselves the Taborites. Hus is mostly known for his writings which strongly influenced Martin Luther and led to the Protestant Reformation years later, however he was a large contributer to the Czech language as well. In fact, he’s the guy that came up with the hacek (that hook we talked about in earlier posts).

After lots of fighting, lots of pleading and other nonsense, Jan Hus was excommunicated from the Church and all his followers with him. In 1415 he was sentenced to be executed by being burnt alive (painting above by Chronik from 1485). Some of Hus’ last words were utterances of a prophecy about Martin Luther and his 95 thesis. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something about a man from God coming in the next 100 years who would not be able to be silenced. Unfortunately, Hus was silenced, though he died refusing to recant his teachings. One hundred years later, Luther did indeed have a message the church could not ignore and Hus’s teachings were the driving force of his thesis that he nailed on the door of the church in Wittenberg. After hearing the story, it’s no wonder the Czechs are so proud of Hus and his influence on today’s world.


  1. Thank you for giving out the True info on the Great Jan Huss who was the forerunner of all the other protestant reformers.

  2. […] a gander at Jan Hus for a few minutes. You know all about him after reading my post on him, I’m […]

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