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Jan Hus on the pulpit, Jena Codex

The term Hussites (Czech: Husité or Kališníci ), also known as Bethlehemites , summarizes various reformatory or revolutionary movements in Bohemia in the 15th century that emerged from 1415 after the burning of the theologian and reformer Jan Hus . The Hussites were supported by most of the Bohemian aristocrats and were directed mainly against the Bohemian kings, who at the same time held the office of Roman-German emperor, and against the Roman Catholic Church . As a result of the clashes, the Hussite Wars broke out between 1419 and 1434 .

Traditional Utraquism had been legally recognized in Bohemia and Moravia by the Basel compacts since 1436 . The Hussite Utraquists formed a large majority (about 85%) of all Christians in Bohemia and Moravia. From 1458 to 1471, Georg von Podiebrad, the first non-Catholic king in Europe, ruled in Bohemia . In 1468 Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia came under the rule of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus , who wanted to restore the dominance of Catholicism. In 1485, the Basel compacts in Kutná Hora were confirmed by Bohemian estates. In 1490 the neighboring countries of Bohemia were reunited in a regional association under Vladislav II. The Vladislav regional order of 1500 did not introduce any legal restrictions for the Hussites. The Bohemian Diet of 1512 extended this agreement "for ever".

In 1575, on behalf of the non-Catholic countries of the Bohemian Crown, the Confessio Bohemica was written by Hussite neo-Utraquists and Lutherans . The formation of a regional church did not succeed, but with the majesty letter of 1609 , the Protestant faiths were recognized as permitted denominations. In 1620, after the Battle of the White Mountains , the great majority of the Hussites were finally returned to Catholicism by force, expelled or fled to the remaining Protestant countries.


The name Hussites goes back to the Czech theologian and reformer Jan Hus (approx. 1370-1415). He complained about the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church , its immorality and the indulgence trade , in which the forgiveness of sins was promised against payment of a sum of money. Hus accepted the Bible as the only binding source on questions of faith . Furthermore, he did not recognize the primacy of the Pope and thus followed John Wyclif and the Waldensians . At the Leipzig disputation in 1519, Martin Luther was presented with sentences of Hus condemned by Johannes Eck from the Council of Constance , and Luther declared that some of them were Christian and Protestant. For Eck, Luther was convicted as a Hussite heretic; Luther subsequently saw Hus as his forerunner (understanding of the church, lay chalice).

Burning of Jan Hus, painting by Il Sassetta , 1423–1426
Burning of Jan Hus, detail of an altar wing, Wenceslas Church in Roudníky, today Hussite Museum Tábor, 1486

Jan Hus traveled to the Council of Constance (from 1414), where King Sigismund had assured him of safe conduct to and from Prague and during his stay in Constance. Nevertheless, he was arrested. Even after severe interrogation and imprisonment, he refused to revoke his teaching. On July 6, 1415, Jan Hus was burned on a stake on the Brühl in Constance along with his writings and the ashes were poured into the Rhine.

The Konstanz verdict against Jan Hus was not recognized in Bohemia. 452 Bohemian nobles sent a solemn protest to the Council of Constance in September 1415 and formed an alliance. The burning also triggered violent protests in the population, as a result of which a Bohemian freedom movement emerged, which took over the main goals of Jan Hus. It was agreed to protect the free preaching of the Word of God and to recognize ordinances of the bishops and the Pope only insofar as they were in harmony with the Holy Scriptures . Since the free exercise of religion was restricted, the followers of Jan Hus met from Easter 1419 and 1420 in remote places, for example on mountains, such as the Beránek near Mladá Vožice , the Bzí, Bradlo, Olivetská hora and Oreb for pilgrimages in the open air. The high point of the poutě na hory was the Great Assembly, which ended on July 22nd, 1419 with the final sermon in front of 42,000 followers on the Burkovák near Nemějice , which was then named Tábor in reference to the biblical world mountain Tabor .

Revolt against repression

After Jan Hus was burned in 1415, the Bohemian King Wenceslaus tried to exclude the indignant Hussite supporters from church and state offices. This led to an uprising. The first lintel in Prague occurred on July 30, 1419 , when the Hussites stormed the town hall and threw some councilors out of the window. King Wenceslas died on August 16. The Hussites did not want to recognize his brother Sigismund as king because he had not kept the safe conduct promised to Jan Hus at the time; he was considered to be its murderer. In the days after Wenceslas's death, the Hussite masses in Prague forcibly subjected churches and monasteries to chalice communion or destroyed and burned them. The riots lasted for several weeks.

In March 1420, Pope Martin V issued the so-called crusade bull . A war developed from the uprising.

Four Prague Articles

Christ gives the Eucharist in both forms, Tyn Church around 1470

In 1420 the Four Prague Articles were written, which contained the following demands:

  1. the freedom to preach
  2. freedom for the chalice
  3. freedom from secular church rule
  4. freedom from unjust secular rule

These demands were essentially considered the most important by the Kalixtine wing . The more radical Taborites also called for the abolition of many church institutions and customs.

Kalixtines and Taborites

Monument to Jan Žižka in Tábor

The Hussite movement consisted of two groups: The Kalixtiner (from Latin calix chalice) founded the settlement of Tábor in southern Bohemia, named after Mount Tabor , and were largely recruited from the poor urban and rural population. The Taborites wanted to establish the kingdom of God by force of arms and thus turned against the existing secular order with feudalism and monarchy .

In the spring of 1421 the "new authorities" of Tábor ( Jan Žižka , Nikolaus von Pelgrims , Johannes von Jičín ) drove the radical core of the Taborites around Martin Húska from the city. Jan Žižka found them in the villages where they had sought refuge and had them exterminated. The (noble) Calixtines and Žižka had Martin Húska himself, who was popular in Tábor and Prague, tortured by the (Catholic) Prague Archbishop Konrad von Vechta and burned at the stake in the summer of 1421.

After the extermination of Húska's followers, Jan Žižka slandered them as allegedly systematic fornication " Adamites " and as " picards ". This name was derived from Protestant refugees from Picardy , whose " heresy " they allegedly adopted.

Žižka himself was posthumously portrayed as a leader of the " Orebites " (or, referring to Žižka's death, " Orphanites ", Latin "orphans, orphans") located between Taborites and Calixtines . The motive of this interpretation was to subsequently delimit Žižka from the initially radical Taborites and thus at least partially adopt it for the noble and bourgeois Czech nationalities who believe themselves to be in the tradition of the Calixtines. However, the existence of the Orebites is not certain, especially since Žižka worked from Tábor.

The Hussite Wars

In December 1419, a royal Catholic unit near Pilsen suffered a first defeat against a small Hussite contingent, and the Catholic troops suffered a second defeat in March 1420 in South Bohemia near Sudoměř. Catholic troops under the later Emperor Sigismund entered Prague Castle , the Hradschin , in June 1420 . The attempt to conquer all of Prague was repulsed by Hussite troops under Jan Žižka on July 14th in the battle of St. Vitus Hill in Prague. In the autumn of 1420 the conquest of the other Prague castle, Vyšehrad, failed . Žižka led a tight regiment, which among other things led to the death and expulsion of many Germans from Bohemia.

The second campaign in 1421 also failed. The victory of Friedrich von Meissen over the Hussites in the Battle of Brüx in August had no lasting effect. A little later, in September, an army of the cross evacuated the land near the nearby Saaz in wild flight after the Hussites approached.

The third campaign ended in January 1422 with two more defeats by the royal Catholic armies at Kuttenberg and Deutschbrod . In the spring of 1423 serious differences broke out within the various Hussite currents. In the Battle of Horschitz in April 1423, the radical Taborites under Jan Žižka prevailed against the Prague ( Utraquists ). In June there was a temporary settlement between the various parties in Konopischt . After peace negotiations between the Utraquists in Prague and Sigismund failed in October 1423, the inner-Hussite conflict broke out again.

In June 1424 Žižka again had the upper hand against the Prague in the battle of Maleschau. The focus of the fighting now shifted to Moravia. While Duke Albrecht tried to take control of the country from the south in July, a devastating Hussite attack began from the west. Habsburg or Catholic-minded cities were captured and razed to the ground.

Andreas Prokop; 17th century illustration

After Žižka's death on October 11, 1424 during the siege of Pribislau Castle , Andreas Prokop took over the leadership of the Hussites. Even under Prokop's command, the Hussites remained victorious.

The Hussites advanced into Silesia for the first time in 1425 , but otherwise the fighting, which was fought with great cruelty by both sides, was largely confined to Moravian-Bohemian territory until autumn 1425. In November 1425, Hussite armies penetrated Lower Austria for the first time in order to distract Duke Albrecht , who operated in Moravia with varying degrees of success, in order to reduce the burden on his own country and to gain booty. Numerous monasteries and cities were looted.

The fourth campaign in 1427 ended for the Catholic troops with a heavy defeat near Tachau in western Bohemia (= Battle of Mies on August 4th).

As early as 1428, the Hussites under Andreas Prokop attacked Catholic bastions. The war campaign of 1428 devastated Lower Austria and parts of Silesia, and in 1429 another advance to Lower Austria and Lusatia followed. On July 25, 1429, an alliance between the Wettins and the Hohenzollern against the Hussites was formed in Plauen. But only three months later Altendresden was burned down by the Hussites, a few months later an attack by the Hussites followed down the Elbe, probably to the area of Torgau and then westwards towards Leipzig , through the Vogtland to Upper Franconia . The city of Lößnitz was besieged in vain by a Hussite troop in 1429/30.

The Hussite procession of 1430 also affected Silesia, that of 1431 parts of Hungary (western Slovakia ).

Even a resolution to fight the Hussites at the Reichstag in Nuremberg in 1431 could not change the fortunes of war. The fifth crusade under Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini ended on August 14, 1431 with an embarrassing defeat at Taus . The future emperor then looked for a solution on a negotiated basis.

During this time, the most extensive operations of the Hussites followed in 1432/34, leading in the east to Upper Silesia and western Slovakia, north to Lausitz , to Lower Silesia , via Neumark to the Danzig area (Land of the Teutonic Order) and to Poland . A smaller advance in April 1432 again affected Brandenburg (including Frankfurt (Oder) , Bernau , Strausberg ).

Since the imperial and papal troops were denied victory against the Hussites except for minor skirmishes, negotiations with them took place between 1431 and 1433. Although Elector Friedrich II of Saxony had already concluded a separate peace with the Hussites on August 23, 1432, for two years, the war did not end everywhere until 1436.

At the Basel Council , the Hussites were granted some concessions with the Prague compacts . Pressure was exerted on the council by the Bohemians under Procopius through the siege of the Catholic and loyal city of Pilsen from mid-1433. The "Upper Palatinate", today Upper Palatinate , was again at great risk and, as has often been the case, threatened by Hussite raids. On 21 September 1433, a sub-quota of the Hussite siege army, which for foraging had entered the "Upper Palatinate" from the much smaller army of the Count Palatine Johann von Pfalz-Neumarkt , the "Hussitengeißel" in Hiltersried defeated.

During the Council of Basel, the less radical wing of the Utraquists or Calixtines returned to the bosom of the Catholic Church and even allied themselves with the imperial troops against the more radical Taborites . These were finally defeated on May 30, 1434 in the Battle of Lipan ( Czech : Lipany ) after a tactical mistake by Prokop. Only a small delegation under Jan Roháč z Dubé rescued themselves at his castle Sion near Kuttenberg, until this too was conquered in 1437 and Roháč was executed in Prague.

The last battle of the Hussite Wars was the battle of Brüx on September 23, 1434, when the Hussites, who were allied with the Poles , suffered a heavy defeat against Emperor Sigismund, Friedrich II. And Heinrich von Schwarzburg .

Many of the war-trained and feared Hussite warriors continued to hire themselves out as mercenaries, some in Catholic services, after the end of the actual war. B. in the Soest feud .


Central Europe in the age of the early Reformation (around 1530):
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant (either Lutheran or Reformed )
  • hussistic ( utraquistic )
  • Islamic
  • In the end, the Hussitism movement failed to gain acceptance. The Catholics expelled from Bohemia demanded the return of their property after the end of the fighting , which they were denied in 1436. The few religious concessions made by the Catholic Church to the Hussites were withdrawn by Pope Pius II on March 31, 1462.

    The concessions made in the meantime have nevertheless been an impetus for the formation of a Czech national consciousness . Georg von Podiebrad , King of Bohemia from 1458 to 1471, persecuted the remaining radicals, but did not come to an agreement with the papacy himself. Ultimately, he failed because of a superior force, but was nevertheless the first non-Catholic king in Europe since Christianization.

    His Catholic successor, King Vladislav II (1471–1516), had to confirm the compacts in 1485 at the Kuttenberg state parliament. The Diet of 1512 even gave the Hussites the same rights as the Catholics.

    During the 16th century the Utraquists came closer to the Lutherans. The Bohemian Brothers tended to pursue their own direction during this period .

    After the defeat of the Bohemian estates in the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 , the Bohemian lands were finally returned to Catholicism by force, and the Utraquists who fled were absorbed into the Lutheran or Reformed churches.

    Historical evaluation

    The scientific discussion about the nature and the driving forces of the Hussite movement is still not complete among historians. Even contemporaries evaluated the events from very different perspectives. In addition to the initially ostensible religious causes, social and national aspects increasingly appeared on an equal footing, probably with increasing time lag after the death of Jan Hus. However, the Hussite movement was certainly not a purely Czech national uprising; after all, there were quite a number of “German” Hussites in Bohemia as well as in the rest of the empire. In addition, the rebellion found resolute opposition in Bohemia, which ultimately played a decisive role in the defeat of the Taborites in Lipan.

    Today's churches

    The Evangelical Church of the Bohemian Brethren , founded in 1918, was created through the union of the Evangelical Lutheran and the Evangelical Reformed Church in the Czech Republic. She sees herself as a successor to the Hussite Utraquists and the Czech Brethren.

    The Czechoslovak Hussite Church, founded in 1920, invokes the Hussites and - as a split from the Catholic Church - is comparable to the Anglican Church . It is also known as Neo-Hussite.

    See also

    • Huși , a city in Romania that was founded by the Hussites.


    • Franz Grundler, Dominik Dorfner: Hussen, hymns, heroes, myths, on the trail of the Hussites , Buch & Kunstverlag Oberpfalz, Amberg 2005, ISBN 3-935719-28-0 .
    • František Šmahel : Heresy and Premature Reformation in the Late Middle Ages (= writings of the Historical College. Colloquia. Vol. 39). Oldenbourg, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-486-56259-2 ( digitized version ).
    • František Šmahel: The Hussite Revolution (= writings of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Vol. 43, 3 parts). Hannover 2002, ISBN 978-3-7752-5443-4 .

    Web links

    Commons : Hussites  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
    Wikisource: Hussite  Sources and Full Texts

    Individual evidence

    1. ^ Ferdinand Seibt: Germany and the Czechs. History of a neighborhood in the middle of Europe ; Piper-Verlag 1993. František Šmahel: The Hussite Revolution , 3 volumes; MGH publications 43 / I-III; Hanover, 2002.
    2. About us. Evangelical Church of the Bohemian Brethren, accessed July 7, 2013 .