The name Jan Hus may not ring a bell to too many people who haven’t lived in the Czech Republic. Every year on July 6th, Czechs celebrate the day that he was burned at the stake in 1415. As shocking as it sounds, Czech history is full of macabre stories and holidays. To be fair, most things that happened hundreds of years ago were violent. But Czechs take it to a whole new level with their infamous defenestrations, regular quartering as well as displaying the heads of their enemies on spikes on the Charles Bridge. Make sure to visit the Museum of Medieval Torture when you visit.
Who Was Jan Hus?
Born in 1369, Jan Hus was a priest, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. He was inspired by the teaching of John Wycliffe so he translated his work into Czech. John Wycliffe was an English theologian, philosopher, church reformer, and promoter of the first complete translation of the Bible into English. He was one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. Jan Hus got followers that were known as Hussites.
“Hus is seen as a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century. He was an advocate of church reforms, such as using Czech as the liturgical language, aligning the church’s practices with teachings contained in the Bible, limiting the power of the church to spiritual matters, and stopping the sale of indulgences.”Office Holidays
How He Died
Going against the church and fighting, essentially, for freedom, got the church angry at Jan Hus. He became a symbol of independent Czech national identity. Today, you can see a statue of him in the very heart of Prague – Old Town Square. The grand statue stands proudly in the middle of the square. It was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus’s martyrdom.
“Consequently, he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1412 for insubordination. He was summoned to the ecclesiastical Council of Constance in 1414, where he was ordered to recant his teachings. Refusing to comply, Hus was burnt at the stake on July 6, 1415.”US Embassy
His death ended up leading to the Hussite wars which were a pivotal time in Czech history. The sculptor who created the statue needed to build a special studio to accommodate it’s size. The studio was called Šalounova Villa, named after the sculptor Ladislav Šaloun.
“The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus in the wake of the lost Battle of the White Mountain during the Thirty Years’ War, and a young mother who symbolizes national rebirth.”Wikipedia
How to Celebrate?
A man was burnt at the stake, and it was meaningful yet sad. How exactly does one celebrate that? By learning Czech! After all, Jan Hus was a linguist and significantly influenced the Czech language. He simplified writing by introducing accents and laid the foundation of literary Czech language. Here’s a video in Czech with English subtitles and a few key-words that you can learn with more info about Jan Hus Day.
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