Hus the Heretic

One of the most heart-moving books you will ever read, Hus the Heretic by Poggius the Papist, is new from the press. Reprinted from very old book, and translated into English for this printing, it tells the inspiring story of one of the greatest reformers, as seen through the eyes of Poggius, the papist. Poggius delivered the summons to John Hus to appear at the council of Constance, and participated as a voting member on the council. As the trial unfolds, so potent is John Hus’ humble testimony contrasted with the amazing rudeness and injustice of priests and cardinals, even some of his ardent foes become his defenders. Even Poggius himself is profoundly affected.

The following is taken from Hus the Heretic by Poggius the Papist, 71–75:

Great shouting silenced the noble martyr. They tore the priestly garb from his body and ripped it to pieces, which they tied to their clothes as a remembrance of their victory over Hus. After that, they fought and argued among themselves whether they should disfigure his head with shears or razor, until they procured shears and pressed his head downward, cutting a star into his hair, while they were deriding him. This displeased many and caused remonstrating. A majority was glad about it and they raised their weapons against Hus’ protectors. There were only a few Bohemians, whom it had been forbidden to bring weapons into the church and they were searched at the door. The Bohemian Knight von Meneczesch, who had hidden a long dagger in the leg of his boot, was in the midst of the crowd and when he perceived his friend’s distress, he drew the dagger and plunged it between the ribs of the man who held Hus’ head, so that he dropped without a sound. Immediately Hus’ enemies turned upon Meneczesch with their knives and tried to kill him, but he was a courageous man, defended himself well and escaped without a scratch, through the small door in the choir. Hus, however, cried and clasped his hand above his shorn head and prayed God for a blissful end.

When Hus stood thus shorn before his enemies, they ridiculed him, threw clumps of earth, moistened by saliva, at him and found it funny when they hit his face. Despite this derision, the poor man remained without hate and consoled himself with the thought of his redeemer, who had borne in silence the scourge and the fists of his enemies. “Why do you mock me? Your shouting cannot destroy the triumph of my heart! I hear sweet music above the heights of Golgotha and the sounds of joyful Hallelujah, so that Jerusalem’s foolish battle cry cannot hurt me at all!” Such praise-worthy words spoke Hus, while they cast him out, half-naked, from the temple of the Lord. Outside the church, the bishop of Constance placed a paper cap, upon which three ugly devils had been painted, on his head, saying: “Now we deliver you to the worldly courts and your soul we turn over to the devil and his disciples!”

Hus answered to this terrible curse by folding his hands and by praying: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, into thine hands I deliver my soul, which thou hast redeemed by thy blood. Father in Heaven, do not hold against them the sins which my enemies commit against me, and let mine eyes see them blissfully with thee, when their souls fly to they throne after an easy death. O Holy Ghost, enlighten their deceived hearts, so that the truth of the holy gospel may open their eyes and its praise be spread everywhere, for ever and ever, Amen” The town soldiers had formed a wide circle in front of the church portal, into which the expulsed man was being led. A small fire was lit and several books by Wycliffe and Hus were cast into it, with a lot of shouting. A red-garbed jester moved the books about with a long poker, while he executed peculiar and comical jumps over the fire, so that his feather-tail caught fire and he ran about, crying in feigned distress, for water. These shameless doings lasted for an our, during which Hus was often brushed with this feather-tail, from which water was dripping. The sun was high in the skies and sent down much heat. This made many people thirsty and they drank very much of the wine, which was distributed free. They drank so much that they began to be unsteady on their feet, rioted and sang, without regard for Hus’ feelings, like barbarians.

These event put off the last moments of the unhappy priest for several hours. During this time there was a kirmess, everybody feasted with viands and drink and they were eager for the coming spectacle for the evening, young and old, boys and girls and especially the Latin papists, among whom were several who had never seen the roasting of an heretic before. Meanwhile the wood pile had been decorated with motley hangings, tassels, flags, stars and other tinsel, and many women believed it to be good handiwork to burn pieces of their underwear or clothing with the condemned, to atone for their sins or for the sins of those who roast in purgatory. “Give me a drink of water,” asked Hus of his guard, “so that I might refresh my tongue and not die from thirst, lest your joy, to see me at the stake, might be taken from you. I would regret this for the sake of those who have come here to see me burn and have spent much money on my account.”

Full of pity a soldier offered his filled goblet to Hus, but he did not drink from it and asked for pure water, which was given to him at once. This equanimity and pity shown by Hus impressed the heart of the guard. He rose, approached his sergeant and resigned from the service with these words: “I have fought many a battle in my day and I have seen many a brave man die at Raefels in the Glarner lands, at Buergen, Niedau, Unterfern and in the lands of Appenzell, but my old eyes have never seen such courage and fearlessness in the face of certain death. Therefore I think that this Bohemian is a just man, suffering in innocence and I have no wish to serve masters who persecute the feeble and protect the lewd papists. Take back my spear and my sword, for I shall leave Constance today, before the smoke rises to smother Hus and the fires blaze, which will consume his bones.”

And so the hour of five of the afternoon came, when the procession started, with Hus, for the Bruehl gate, where, on the left side, the woodpile had been erected and had been splendidly decorated. Three trumpeters upon black horses rode in advance and their loud trumpeting called together the people from afar and drew everybody from the chambers of the houses to the windowsills.

There were only few streets in Constance through which the procession did not wind its way and its duration was longer than two hours. Many cried, many made fun and many prayed for Hus. He sang the praise of God in Latin songs; called out many times with Job the Visited: “My harp also is turned to mourning and my pipe into the voice of them that weep. Doth not he see my ways and count all my steps? If I have walked with vanity or if my foot hath hastened to deceit; if my step hath turned out of the way and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved mine hands; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great and because mine hand had gotten much; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above? I would be joyous like a King although I go to my death.” Then he sang in verse, with elated voice, like the psalmist in the thirty-first psalm, reading from a paper in his hands:

“In thee, O Lord, I put my trust,

Bow down thine ear to me.”

With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him in a skirt drenched with pitch. At this moment the elector of Palatinate, Ludewig, rode up and prayed Hus with fervor to recant, so that he might be spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a lean goose, but a hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.” Full of pity and filled with much admiration, the Prince turned away . . .

You may order your copy of Hus the Heretic by Poggious the Papist from Steps to Life.