Follow Steps of Jan Hus

100 years before Martin Luther Jan Hus started the reforms in the Catholic Church.

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JAN HUS
There is no doubt that Jan Hus was and is one of the signally important figures of Czech history. If the number of statues and squares bearing someone's name can testify to their significance, then Hus, dominating the Old Town Square in Prague and with streets bearing his name in almost every city, is still a dominating presence in national consciousness.
Jan Hus is known to the public in our country and abroad as one of the most significant reformers of the Catholic Church. Jan Hus was born in Husinec u Prachatic (in South-Bohemia). He started his studies at Charles University in Prague in the year 1390 and three years later he became a bachelor and then a master of liberal arts. He was consecrated a priest in the year 1400. In the years 1401 and 1402, he was a dean of artistic faculty and he started preaching in the Bethlehem Chapel in the Old Town of Prague in the year 1402. He was the chancellor of Charles University for one year (1409). Jan Hus is famous as a representative and leader of the Czech reform movement who strove for the reform of the Christian Church and the whole society. Jan Hus was inspired by thoughts of the English thinker John Wicliff. They both thought that the Church should not own any land and that its apostle mission should be renewed. Due to these opinions he entered into controversy with the Pope�s stool which promoted dogmatic interpretation of belief. Master Jan Hus and his followers had more and more disputes with their ideological counterparts, German masters at the university in Prague and the Czech church hierarchy especially after the year 1408.
When interdict was declared in the year 1412, Jan Hus left Prague and found refuge at houses of his noble sympathisers in the country first in Kozi Hradek and Sezimovo Usti and then in Krakovec by Rakovnik.
Jan Hus was supported by influential circles including significant representatives of the king´s court (he was for example supported by the Czech king Vaclav IV.) Jan Hus started for Constance (Germany) on October 14, 1414. He was joined by a small group of about 30 riders. He arrived in Constance on November 3. After several formal hearings at the council which considered some of his teachings heretical he was deprived of his priest rank and sentenced to death. He was burned at stake on July 6, 1415. Grief succeeding his death incited reform movement in the Czech lands which eventually resulted in the Hussite Movement
At first sight, the grounds for Hus' prominence are plainly obvious and hardly need justification. He led the first religious movement in Europe which could be considered Protestant, 100 years before Martin Luther. He directly challenged both the Catholic Church and Holy Roman Empire and gave his name to a movement which brought about revolution. During the Hussite period, the Bohemian lands also became enormously significant for the whole of Europe. They sparked potential unrest in the very heart of the continent and the Holy Roman Empire, drawing down the attention of the Pope and the Emperor and firing ecclesiastical arguments.
When the reform movement grew into a violent and armed rebellion, their military successes seriously upset the possibility of stability in Europe, and crusades were sent by the Pope . Their military successes were such that the Pope had to grant a unique doctrinal concession for the Czech lands, that they could exercise their religion as they saw fit, as long as they gave up their expansive territorial aims on the rest of Europe. The climate which the Hussite revolution had created led ultimately to the crisis which precipitated the 30 Years War with all its repercussions for the shape of Europe today.
The Hussite movement also had far reaching effects within the Czech Lands. Initially, the edict of religious tolerance issued would seem a victory on their behalf. However, it had the effect of isolating Bohemia from the rest of the Christian world, setting it outside the mutual exchange of ideas between monasteries and universities which constituted the intellectual glory of the late Medieval period. The recatholicisation which followed the defeat of the Protestant armies in 1620 brought on what traditional Czech historiography calls the doba temna, the sleep from which the Czech patriotic feeling had to be awoken by the National Revival.
The Hussite period was thus highly significant not only for the development of Bohemia, but for European and ecclesiastical history as a whole. To evaluate the significance of a single individual is however more complicated. Hus did not even belong to the movement which bore his name and cannot be said to have intentionally inaugurated it.


HUSINEC VILLAGE
Birthplace of Jan Hus
(the museum in the house Jan Hus was born)
Not far from Prachatice, in the valley of the Blatnice River, is situated the village of Husinec, which used to be a branch of the Golden Trail. Owing to this fact, big cattle markets were held here and a variety of goods were traded. Husinec experienced a boom in the trade and crafts development. Husinec is a birthplace of a most important church reformer - Jan of Husinec (around 1369). His native house, nowadays housing an exhibition of the Jan Hus Memorial, was proclaimed a National Cultural Monument. The exhibition introduces visitors to the life and work of this personality of Czech and European history.


KRAKOVEC CASTLE
Krakovec Castle was the last stay of Jan Hus before he left to Constance to stand before the court.
One of the most sophisticated structures of its day, this castle was built between 1381 and 1383 by Jira of Roztoky, the master of the hounds of King Wenceslas IV and the burgrave of Krivoklat Castle. Conceived as a comfortable rural seat, the castle was provided with only a few defence elements, being outfitted, however, with such comforts as fireplaces and unusually large windows. In contrast to other contemporary structures of its kind, the castle featured rather unusual vaults.
In 1410 Krakovec passed into the hands of Jindrich Lefl of Lazany who offered the castle as a refuge to Master Jan Hus.
The religious reformer celebrated masses in the castle chapel, wrote his farewell letter here and, eventually, departed to Constance to stand before the court.
In the 1500s, under the Lobkowicz noble family, the structure underwent Renaissance alterations. However, the castle Krakovec fire of 1783 reduced the castle to a ruin. Today, thanks to its romantic atmosphere, the castle is not only popular with hikers, but also with filmmakers, as is attested to by the fact that it has been chosen as a setting for the film fairy tales Long Live the Ghosts and The Prince and the Evening Star.

KOZI HRADEK - RUINS OF THE CASTLE
After jan Hus left Prague he stayed first in the castle Kozi Hradek - for about 15 months before he moved to the castle Krakovec.

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HUSSITES - GOD´S WARRIORS
The Hussites, who included artisans and baronsare usually shown on the old pictures with their blind leader Jan Zizka, singing their hymn.
They shook Europe in fear with their incredible fighting force. They called themselves the Hussites, they were followers of the reformist cleric Jan Hus.
Despite simple weapons, they achieved legendary military success against the Emperor�s Catholic crusadres, due largely to their religious fervour and to the discipline of their brillienta leader, Jan zizka, who invented mobile artillery. Finally the Hussites split into two camps, the moderate "Utraquists" (who took their name from the Latin sub utraque specie, "in both kinds" and the radical "Taborites" who were finally defeated at the battle of Lipany in 1434, paving the way for the moderate Hussite king, George (Jiri) of Podebrady.
The Taborites made lethal weapons from simple farm tools. A variety of farm implements were used as makeshift weapons by the peasants. They used the Hussite shield, that were wooden that were used to fill any gaps in the waggon fortress�s tight formation. For maximum effect, farm waggons were tied together to form a shield. A chilling array of weapons were unleashed including crossbows, flails and an early form of howitzer.
The Hussites defeated 5 armies of Emperor�s Catholic crusades.


TABOR - A HUSSITE TOWN
The town of Tabor which is situated 90 km south of Prague is one of the Czech towns which have a lot to offer to tourists. Its rich history, interesting architecture and charming countryside in the vicinity attract hundreds of people to the town. The heritage of Hussite thoughts has been apparent in the atmosphere of this place till today.
A group of Hus�s followers came to a hill where a Premyslid settlement used to be and they founded a town there in the year 1420 and gave it a Biblical name - Tabor. Being led by captains Jan Zizka of Trocnov and Prokop Holy they started out on their victorious battles from there. The foundation of Tabor is connected with the name of Jan Hus, a great reformer of the Catholic Church. In the year 1437 after the Hussites were defeated, the town of Tabor was granted a royal charter by the Holy Roman Emperor and Czech King Sigismund of Luxembourg.
A lot of time has elapsed since then and a lot of water has flown in the River Luznice; nevertheless, the preserved remains of the mighty fortification system and the charming lanes and squares of the Old Town do not let us forget the eventful past. The centre of the town has been designated a site of special historic interest due to its unique mode of development and a high number of preserved sights.
The Hussite Museum and Zizka Square dominated by a monument to the famous captain Jan Zizka and are a must for every visitor to Tabor. The museum has situated its exposition in the late Gothic town hall. It is impossible not to notice the rich facades of old burgher houses where a number of architectural styles are harmoniously combined late Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo. First-time visitors may not even suspect that there is an ingenious labyrinth of tunnels under the houses and streets in the centre. At the beginning of the 16th century people dug cellars under their houses and these were subsequently interconnected; a section of the tunnel system is open to the public.
The exposition - entitled The Hussites of the Hussite Museum: From the ground floor one can enter the underground tunnels which are very popular with tourists. A section of the ingenious tunnel system (800 m) running under Zizka Square is open to the public. Cultural events and exhibitions are held in the spacious halls of the town hall, especially in the Gothic palace the most impressive interior in Tabor.

The Underground Tunnels

The complex of underground tunnels is Tabor´s tourist highlight. The popular sight had its origin in the 15th century when town citizens started digging cellars under their houses in the Old Town. The cellars were extended by succeeding generations, and eventually many of them were interconnected to create an underground labyrinth, or more accurately a system, because you could hardly get lost there. This fact, however, does not lessen its uniqueness.
Some cellars were very large; they often had as many as three floors reaching as deep as 16 meters. Thanks to a stable, relatively low temperature and high humidity they were used for storing food and especially beer. In case of fire or attack by enemies they were also used as a shelter. A section of the tunnel system (800 meters) running under Zizka Square was opened to the public after the Second World War. You can enter the underground tunnels from the Hussite Museum.

The whole tour takes about 10 hours.



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Last updated on Mar 02, 2006