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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Huss was publicly burned to death the same day


[Sidenote:

1415.]

As soon as it became evident that all three of the Popes would be deposed by the Council, John XXIII. fled from Constance in disguise, with the assistance of the Hapsburg Duke, Frederick of Austria. Both were captured; the Pope, whose immorality had already made him infamous, was imprisoned at Heidelberg, and Frederick was declared to have forfeited his lands. Although Austria was afterwards restored to him, all the Hapsburg territory lying between Zurich, the Rhine and the Lake of Constance was given to Switzerland, and has remained Swiss ever since. A second Pope, Gregory XII., now voluntarily abdicated, but the third, Benedict XIII., refused to follow the example, and maintained a sort of Papal authority in Spain until his death. The Council elected a member of the family of Colonna, in Rome, who took the name of Martin V. He was no sooner chosen and installed in his office than, without awaiting the decrees of the Council, he began to conclude separate "Concordats" (agreements) with the princes. Thus the chief object of the Council was already thwarted, and the four nations took up the question of suppressing heresy.

Huss, to whom the Emperor had sent a safe-conduct for the journey to and from Constance, and who was escorted by three Bohemian knights, was favorably received by the people, on the way. He reached Constance in November, 1414, and was soon afterwards--before any examination--arrested

and thrown into a dungeon so foul that he became seriously ill. Sigismund insisted that he should be released, but the cardinals and bishops were so embittered against him that they defied the Emperor's authority. All that the latter could (or did) do for him, was to procure for him a trial, which began on the 7th of June, 1415. But instead of a trial, it was a savage farce. He was accused of the absurdest doctrines, among others of asserting that there were four Gods, and every time he attempted to speak in his own defence, his voice was drowned by the outcries of the bishops and priests. He offered to renounce any doctrine he had taught, if it were proved contrary to the Gospel of Christ; but this proposition was received with derision. He was simply offered the choice between instantly denying all that he held as truth or being burned at the stake as a heretic.

[Sidenote: 1415. HUSS AND JEROME BURNED.]

On the 6th of July, the Council assembled in the Cathedral of Constance. After mass had been celebrated, Huss, who had steadfastly refused to recant, was led before the congregation of priests and princes, and clothed as a priest, to make his condemnation more solemn. A bishop read the charges against him, but every attempt he made to speak was forcibly silenced. Once, however, he raised his voice and demanded the fair hearing which had been promised, and to obtain which he had accepted the Emperor's protection,--fixing his eyes sternly upon Sigismund, who could not help blushing with shame. The sacramental cup was then placed in Huss's hands, and immediately snatched from him with the words: "Thou accursed Judas! we take from thee this cup, wherein the blood of Christ is offered up for the forgiveness of sins!" to which Huss replied: "I trust that to-day I shall drink of this cup in the Kingdom of God." Each article of his priestly dress was stripped from him with a new curse, and when, finally, all had been removed, his soul was solemnly commended to the Devil; whereupon he exclaimed: "And _I_ commend it to my Lord Jesus Christ."

Huss was publicly burned to death the same day. On arriving at the stake he knelt and prayed so fervently, that the common people began to doubt whether he really was a heretic. Being again offered a chance to retract, he declared in a loud voice that he would seal by his death the truth of all he had taught. After the torch had been applied to the pile, he was heard to cry out, three times, from the midst of the flames: "Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy upon me!" Then his voice failed, and in a short time nothing was left of the body of the immortal martyr, except a handful of ashes which were thrown into the Rhine.


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