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Jan Hus’s call to reform church doctrine occurred during an internal battle in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Papal Schism, which followed the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, was a decades-long divide where two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon, France, vied for control.  In the early 1400s a church council deposed both Benedict XIII and Gregory XII, and elected another to the position of pope, in an attempt to heal the schism.  The addition of Alexander V to the conflict increased the turmoil, thus creating a political climate filled with spying, mistrust, and false accusations.  Hus fell victim to this tumultuous environment because of his desire for reform and his defense of Wycliffe’s teachings.

John Hus portrait displayed above image of Hus being burned at the stake with crowd watching. (Found in

Portrait of Jan Hus displayed above an image of Hus being burned at the stake with crowd watching.
(Image found in “Jan Hus” by Jozef B. Krcmery)

In December 1409 Alexander V issued a papal bull ordering the suppression of Wycliffe’s writings and forbidding preaching in chapels.  Hus refused to stop preaching to his parishioners and was excommunicated by Archbishop Zbynek.  He was later summoned to Rome for trial, but he refused, fearing for his life.  A greater excommunication was issued for Hus and the entire city of Prague was placed under interdict so that no religious services could be performed, thus forcing Hus into exile.

“And because I am ready in the hope of her head, the Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer the punishment of a dreadful death rather than deliberately to say or assent to anything contrary to the will of Christ and of His Church, therefore, I faithfully, truthfully, and steadfastly assert that I have been wrongfully indicted at the Apostolic See by the enemies of truth.”

From a letter Jan Hus wrote to Pope John XXIII, September 1, 1411, translated in Matthew Spinka, The Letters of John Hus.

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