Saturday, 15 December 2007

In the footsteps of Jan Hus in Prague

This past week, I had the chance of attending a seminar on the functioning of the European System of Central Banks, which was held in Prague. It was my first visit to the city and I really enjoyed seeing all the old historical buildings there.

Prague is also the city of Jan Hus (aka "John Huss"), one of the early leaders of the Reformation, a man I had heard a bit about but did not really know too much about. So I was interested in learning more about him during my time in Prague.

Jan Hus was born in 1369 and became a Catholic priest and then also a professor at the University of Prague. He was so prominent that he even became the head of the whole university. However, Hus went against the religious establishment of his day by seeking to preach the Word of God in the Czech language and not in Latin as the Roman Catholic Church prescribed. Hus was appointed preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague (see photo above), where he was able to preach God's Word in the heart language of the Czech people.

For him, the Word of God was the ultimate authority in life, not the teachings and traditions of the Church. Thus, he spoke out against the Church's practice of selling indulgences which supposedly granted forgiveness of sins. It was these beliefs that earned him persecution from the Chruch. Jan Hus was excommunicated by the pope, tried as a heretic and, since he refused to recant his beliefs, sentenced to death. On 6 July 1415, he was burned at the stake in Constance, Germany. Hus prayed that God would forgive his enemies and died while singing a hymn to God.

(Photos from the Jan Hus exhibition in Bethlehem chapel)

Although most Czech people today are Catholic or non-religious, Jan Hus remains their national hero and his death is honoured with a public holiday on 6 July, aka "Jan Hus Day".

Jan Hus memorial in Prague city centre

If you're interested in learning more about Jan Hus, have a look at the following websites:

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