John Hus

Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Christ’s Faithful Servants, copyright 2023

. . . Reformer. In 1402 he [Hus] was selected as priest for the Chapel of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, in Prague—a church established in 1391 to promote the reformist views of John Wyclif. Hus excelled in this new position, becoming the most popular and most famous preacher in Prague—even confessor to the Queen of Bohemia. He preached in the Czech language, rather than the Latin used by the Church, and encouraged his congregation to sing hymns during the worship service. Hus’ character was unimpeachable; even his enemies conceded his well-deserved reputation for purity. But he preached incessantly for moral reform in the Church, denouncing the evils he saw at all levels—from priest to pope.

Excommunication and Exile. Hus was a great admirer of Wyclif and his efforts to reform the Church. Hus would later say, “Wyclif, I trust, will be saved; but could I think he would be damned, I would my soul were with his.” When some of Wyclif’s writings were condemned by the Church and barred from the University of Prague, Hus ignored the prohibition. For this offense, Archbishop Zbynek excommunicated him and several of his associates in 1409, forbid him to preach, and ordered that Wyclif’s writings be burned. Hus continued to preach.

In 1411, Pope John XXIII declared an offering of indulgences to help finance a war against Naples. Hus preached against the indulgences in Prague, opposing them both on principal and because the money was to be used for making war on other Christians. He even expressed doubts about the existence of Purgatory, a long-standing Church dogma. Hus’ relentless attacks on the indulgences—and even on the pope, whom Hus called a money-grubber—cost him much of his support in both the government and the university. The King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus IV, finally outlawed any further opposition to the indulgences. The pope excommunicated Hus and placed an interdict on the city of Prague.[1] The King persuaded Hus to leave Prague in 1412, partly for his own safety, but also so that the interdict could be lifted.

During his sabbatical, Hus wrote extensively. He criticized simony, as well as the practice of charging fees for administration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and burial. He rejected the infallibility of the pope, and argued that the pope is neither the head of the Church (which is Christ) nor the highest authority for the Church (which is the Bible). Hus argued that a pope who fails to obey the law and spirit of Christ need not be obeyed. . . .

Christ’s Faithful Servants is available on

[1]. As we saw in Chapter 9, an interdict forbid all religious services in the city, including worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.