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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

King Wenzel arrested some of the ringleaders


Huss's

friend, Jerome, who came to Constance on the express promise of the Council that he should not be imprisoned before a fair hearing, was thrown into a dungeon as soon as he arrived, and so broken down by sickness and cruelty that in September, 1415, he promised to give up his doctrines. But he soon recovered from this weakness, declared anew the truth of all he had taught, and defended himself before the Council in a speech of remarkable power and eloquence. He was condemned, and burned at the stake on the 30th of May, 1416.

[Sidenote: 1416.]

The fate of Huss and Jerome created an instant and fierce excitement among the Bohemians. An address, defending them against the charge of heresy and protesting against the injustice and barbarity of the Council, was signed by four or five hundred nobles, and forwarded to Constance. The only result was that the Council decreed that no safe-conduct could be allowed to protect a heretic, that the University of Prague must be recognized, and the strongest measures applied to suppress the Hussite doctrines in Bohemia. This was a defiance which the Bohemians courageously accepted. Men of all classes united in proclaiming that the doctrines of Huss should be freely taught and that no Interdict of the Church should be enforced: the University, and even Wenzel's queen, Sophia, favored this movement, which soon became so powerful that all priests who refused to administer the sacrament

"in both forms" were driven from their churches.

The Council sat at Constance until May, 1418, when it was dissolved by Pope Martin V. without having accomplished anything whatever tending to a permanent reformation of the Church. The only political event of importance during this time was a business transaction of Sigismund's, the results of which, reaching to our day, have decided the fate of Germany. In 1411, the Emperor was in great need of ready money, and borrowed 100,000 florins of Frederick of Hohenzollern, the Burgrave (_Burggraf_, "Count of the Castle") of Nuremberg, a direct descendant of the Hohenzollern who had helped Rudolf of Hapsburg to the Imperial crown. Sigismund gave his creditor a mortgage on the territory of Brandenburg, which had fallen into a state of great disorder. Frederick at once removed thither, and, in his own private interests, undertook to govern the country. He showed so much ability, and was so successful in quelling the robber-knights and establishing order, that in 1415 Sigismund offered to sell him the sovereignty of Brandenburg (which made him, at the same time, an Elector of the Empire), for the additional sum of 300,000 gold florins. Frederick accepted the terms, and settled permanently in the little State which afterwards became the nucleus of the kingdom of Prussia, of which his own lineal descendants are now the rulers.

[Sidenote: 1419. ZISKA HEADS THE BOHEMIANS.]

When the Council of Constance was dissolved, Sigismund hastened to Hungary to carry on a new war with the Turks, who were already extending their conquests along the Danube. The Hussites in Bohemia employed this opportunity to organize themselves for resistance; 40,000 of them, in July, 1419, assembled on a mountain to which they gave the name of "Tabor," and chose as their leader a nobleman who was surnamed _Ziska_, "the one-eyed." The excitement soon rose to such a pitch that several monasteries were stormed and plundered. King Wenzel arrested some of the ringleaders, but this only inflamed the spirit of the people. They formed a procession in Prague, marched through the city, carrying the sacramental cup at their head, and took forcible possession of several churches. When they halted before the city-hall, to demand the release of their imprisoned brethren, stones were thrown at them from the windows, whereupon they broke into the building and hurled the Burgomaster and six other officials upon the upheld spears of those below. The news of this event so excited Wenzel that he was stricken with apoplexy, and died two weeks afterwards.


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