You can’t go to Prague without learning about Jan Hus first. Hus, a Catholic priest and professor turned protestant reformer, is this nations hero. The Czech nation even has a public holiday in honor of Hus.
Hus was from the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic and spent most of his life studying, teaching and preaching at Charles University in Prague. His ideas of reform of the Roman Catholic Church, were very popular to the Czech people seeking religious and political freedom. Followers of Hus’s religious teachings were known as Hussites. Hus was burned at the stake by the Church as a Heretic in 1415, which initiated the Hussite wars that lasted about 15 years.
Hus is considered one of the first if not the first church reformers, (long before Martin Luther’s time) and was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century. It is said that unlike Hus, Luther was able to accomplish the goal of reformation by being able to send his message quickly and effectively through the new printing press. Luther also lived long enough to carry out his break from the church, as Germany would have had do face major political drama if they had executed him.
For those that don’t know much about the Protestant Reformation, in a nutshell it was the people rising up and questioning certain aspects of the Roman Catholic religion and wanting to stand up against the corruption and control of the Church which ruled most of Europe. The Church fought back with the Counter-Reformation which brought on war and eventually, many new religions that branched from the Roman Catholic Church. The interesting part is that in more modern time, the Roman Catholic Church was revamped with Vatican II which changed a great deal of the religion to what the original reformers had been preaching about.
Hus is important to Czechs due to the fact that the people of Bohemia and other regions around Prague were constantly under oppressive regimes. Jan Hus became a symbol of dissidence and strength against any oppressive regimes. His opposition to church control by the Vatican gave strength to those who opposed control of Czech lands at every point in history after Hus. Hus soon became a symbol of freedom in the Czech Republic.
Hus’s statue stands proud in the center of the Old Town Square and was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his martyrdom. The memorial was paid solely by public donations.
If you are interested in Hus’s story as much as I am, you can also visit Charles University’s former Bethlehem Chapel where Hus used to Preach. Standing-room-only crowds of more than 3,000 were the norm when he preached. The Chapel also has an exhibit on the life of Hus and his history in Prague.