In This Article Czech Reformation and Hussite Revolution

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals and Bibliographies
  • Radicalization of Hussite Theology
  • Hussite Revolution
  • Sociology of the Czech Reformation
  • Crusade against Hussites
  • Taborites and Other Radical Hussites
  • The Bohemian (Utraquist) Church
  • Efforts to Legitimate the Bohemian Church
  • Petr Chelčicky and Czech Pacifism
  • History of the Unity of the Brethren
  • Social and Political Doctrine of the Brethren
  • Theology and Ecclesiology of the Brethren
  • Art and Iconoclasm in the Czech Reformation
  • Music and Liturgy In The Czech Reformation
  • Relationship of the Czech Reformation to the Protestant Reformation
  • Habsburg Empire and the End of the Czech Reformation

Renaissance and Reformation Czech Reformation and Hussite Revolution
by
Craig D. Atwood
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 April 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0108

Introduction

The Czech Reformation of the 15th century has long been overshadowed by the Protestant reformations that swept across Europe in the 16th century, but it was one of the most important social, intellectual, and political movements of the early modern period. The Czech Reformation produced the first national church separate from Roman authority, the first radical apocalyptic religious movements of the early modern period, and the first pacifist protestant church. However, research on this period has been hampered by the fact that most of the original and secondary sources have been published only in Czech. Jan Hus is the dominant figure of the Czech Reformation, and a separate bibliography on Hus is provided in this series. Hus’s followers, including his successor at Bethlehem Chapel, Jakoubek of Stříbro (d. 1429), were more radical than he was. In 1414, Jakoubek decisively broke with over 200 years of Catholic teaching by allowing laypersons to drink the wine representing the blood of Christ from the chalice (sub utraque species) in the mass. The practice of taking communion “in both kinds” was called Utraquism, and the chalice quickly became one of the most potent symbols of the Czech Reformation. By 1419, there was a clear division in the realm between the Catholic Church, which controlled a few important bishoprics such as Olomouc, and the Bohemian (or Utraquist) Church. In the summer of 1419, tens of thousands of people gathered for a massive outdoor religious service on a hill christened Mt. Tabor. The Taborites practiced a form of communal economy that has been of great interest to Marxist historians. After five crusades failed to suppress the Hussites, Catholic officials at the Council of Basel in 1434 grudgingly sanctioned the use of the lay chalice in Czech lands, but following the defeat of Czech Protestants at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, the Habsburgs successfully recatholicized Bohemia and Moravia, ending the Czech Reformation. In contrast to the Utraquists, the Jednota Bratrska (Unity of the Brethren) was a small but influential Hussite Church, established by Gregory the Patriarch in 1457 or 1458, in eastern Bohemia. Like the later Anabaptists, the Brethren insisted on separation of church and state and were pacifists. The Brethren translated the Bible into Czech and published several hymnals, confessions of faith, and catechisms. The most famous member of the Unity of the Brethren was John Amos Comenius (1592–1670) who was the last bishop of the Moravian branch of the church. When Czechs were forced to convert to Catholicism or leave Bohemia and Moravia in the 1620s, thousands of Brethren fled to Poland where the church endured for about a century.

General Overviews

Many Czech historians consider the Czech Reformation the most important period of the nation’s history. František 1836–1867 and Gindley 1856–1858 highlight the importance of the Unity of the Brethren for the development of Czech culture. Höfler 1856–1866 rejects this view, asserting instead that the Czech Reformation retarded the development of Bohemia. Betts 1969, in contrast, provides a general orientation to the complexities of Czech history for Anglophone scholars. Macek 1965 presents one of the most succinct interpretations of the Hussite movement as a precursor to Marxism. Leff 1967 remains one of the most thorough, accurate, and even-handed treatments of the Czech Reformation in the context of late medieval dissent generally. Seibt 1987, a collection of articles on various aspects of the Czech Reformation and Hussite Revolution, comprises a useful overview of the whole period.

  • Betts, Reginald Robert. Essays in Czech History. London: Athlone, 1969.

    E-mail Citation »

    Includes essays on the Czech Reformation within the context of Czech history generally.

  • František, Palacký. Geschichte von Böhme. 5 vols. Prague: Kronberger and Weber, 1836–1867.

    E-mail Citation »

    This classic work of Czech scholarship inaugurated the modern era of critical historical scholarship written by Czechs. Palacký considered the Hussite Revolution to be the crucial period of Czech history, and he devoted a great deal of time to recovering the documents of that period.

  • Gindley, Anton. Geschichte der böhmischen Brüder. Prague, 1856–1858.

    E-mail Citation »

    Though focused on the history of the Unity of the Brethren, this work serves as an introduction to the Czech Reformation generally.

  • Höfler, Konstanin von. Geschichtsschreiber der husitischen Bewegung. 3 vols. Vienna: Kaiserliche und königliche Hof- und Staatsdrückerie, 1856–1866.

    E-mail Citation »

    An unsympathetic study of the Hussite movement that argues that the movement was doomed to failure because of internal dissent. Volume 2 includes the very important Chronicon Taboritarum, one of the oldest sources on the history of Tabor.

  • Leff, Gordon. Heresy in the Later Middle Ages: The Relation of Heterodoxy to Dissent, c. 1250–c. 1450. 2 vols. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1967.

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    Leff examines a variety of late-medieval protest movements and charts their inter-relationships. He is particularly helpful on the relationship of the Waldensians to the Hussites.

  • Macek, Josef. The Hussite Movement in Bohemia. Translated by Vilèm Fried and Ian Milner. Prague: Orbis, 1965.

    E-mail Citation »

    Macek interprets the Czech Reformation from a Marxist historical perspective, paying particular attention to the Taborites as proto-communist revolutionaries.

  • Seibt, Ferdinand. Hussitenstudien: Personen, Ereignisse, Ideen einer frühen Revolution. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1987.

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of articles on the entire Hussite movement by one of the premier German historians of the early modern period. Seibt is particularly insightful in his analysis of the motivations of individuals in this period.

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