FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS
An Account of the Persecutions in Bohemia Under the Papacy
The Roman pontiffs having usurped a power over several churches were
particularly severe on the Bohemians, which occasioned them to send two
ministers and four lay-brothers to Rome, in the year 977, to obtain redress of
the pope. After some delay, their request was granted, and their grievances
redressed. Two things in particular they were permitted to do, viz., to have
divine service performed in their own language, and to give the cup to the
laity in the Sacrament.
The disputes, however, soon broke out again, the succeeding popes exerting
their whole power to impose on the minds of the Bohemians; and the latter, with
great spirit, aiming to preserve their religious liberties.
In A.D. 1375, some zealous friends of the Gospel applied to Charles, king
of Bohemia, to call an ecumenical Council, for an inquiry into the abuses that
had crept into the Church, and to make a full and thorough reformation. The
king, not knowing how to proceed, sent to the pope for directions how to act;
but the pontiff was so incensed at this affair that his only reply was,
"Severely punish those rash and profane heretics." The monarch, accordingly
banished every one who had been concerned in the application, and, to oblige
the pope, laid a great number of additional restraints upon the religious
liberties of the people.
The victims of persecution, however, were not so numerous in Bohemia,
until after the burning of John Huss and Jerome of Prague. These two eminent
reformers were condemned and executed at the instigation of the pope and his
emissaries, as the reader will perceive by the following short sketches of
Persecution of John Huss
John Huss was born at Hussenitz, a village in Bohemia, about the year
1380. His parents gave him the best education their circumstances would admit;
and having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the classics at a private school,
he was removed to the university of Prague, where he soon gave strong proofs of
his mental powers, and was remarkable for his diligence and application to
In 1398, Huss commenced bachelor of divinity, and was after successively
chosen pastor of the Church of Bethlehem, in Prague, and dean and rector of the
university. In these stations he discharged his duties with great fidelity; and
became, at length, so conspicuous for his preaching, which was in conformity
with the doctrines of Wickliffe, that it was not likely he could long escape
the notice of the pope and his adherents, against whom he inveighed with no
small degree of asperity.
The English reformist, Wickliffe, had so kindled the light of reformation,
that it began to illumine the darkest corners of popery and ignorance. His
doctrines spread into Bohemia, and were well received by great numbers of
people, but by none so particularly as John Huss, and his zealous friend and
fellow martyr, Jerome of Prague.
The archbishop of Prague, finding the reformists daily increasing, issued
a decree to suppress the further spreading of Wickliffe's writings: but this
had an effect quite different to what he expected, for it stimulated the
friends of those doctrines to greater zeal, and almost the whole university
united to propagate them.
Being strongly attached to the doctrines of Wickliffe, Huss opposed the
decree of the archbishop, who, however, at length, obtained a bull from the
pope, giving him commission to prevent the publishing of Wickliffe's doctrines
in his province. By virtue of this bull, the archbishop condemned the writings
of Wickliffe: he also proceeded against four doctors, who had not delivered up
the copies of that divine, and prohibited them, notwithstanding their
privileges, to preach to any congregation. Dr. Huss, with some other members of
the university, protested against these proceedings, and entered an appeal from
the sentence of the archbishop.
The affair being made known to the pope, he granted a commission to
Cardinal Colonna, to cite John Huss to appear personally at the court of Rome,
to answer the accusations laid against him, of preaching both errors and
heresies. Dr. Huss desired to be excused from a personal appearance, and was so
greatly favored in Bohemia, that King Winceslaus, the queen, the nobility, and
the university, desired the pope to dispense with such an appearance; as also
that he would not suffer the kingdom of Bohemia to lie under the accusation of
heresy, but permit them to preach the Gospel with freedom in their places of
Three proctors appeared for Dr. Huss before Cardinal Colonna. They
endeavored to excuse his absence, and said they were ready to answer in his
behalf. But the cardinal declared Huss contumacious, and excommunicated him
accordingly. The proctors appealed to the pope, and appointed four cardinals to
examine the process: these commissioners confirmed the former sentence, and
extended the excommunication not only to Huss but to all his friends and
From this unjust sentence Huss appealed to a future Council, but without
success; and, notwithstanding so severe a decree, and an expulsion in
consequence from his church in Prague, he retired to Hussenitz, his native
place, where he continued to promulgate his new doctrine, both from the pulpit
and with the pen.
The letters which he wrote at this time were very numerous; and he
compiled a treatise in which he maintained, that reading the books of
Protestants could not be absolutely forbidden. He wrote in defence of
Wickliffe's book on the Trinity; and boldly declared against the vices of the
pope, the cardinals, and clergy, of those corrupt times. He wrote also many
other books, all of which were penned with a strength of argument that greatly
facilitated the spreading of his doctrines.
In the month of November, 1414, a general Council was assembled at
Constance, in Germany, in order, as was pretended, for the sole purpose of
determining a dispute then pending between three persons who contended for the
papacy; but the real motive was to crush the progress of the Reformation.
John Huss was summoned to appear at this Council; and, to encourage him,
the emperor sent him a safe-conduct: the civilities, and even reverence, which
Huss met with on his journey were beyond imagination. The streets, and
sometimes the very roads, were lined with people, whom respect, rather than
curiosity, had brought together.
He was ushered into the town with great acclamations, and it may be said
that he passed through Germany in a kind of triumph. He could not help
expressing his surprise at the treatment he received: "I thought (said he) I
had been an outcast. I now see my worst friends are in Bohemia."
As soon as Huss arrived at Constance, he immediately took logdings in a
remote part of the city. A short time after his arrival, came one Stephen
Paletz, who was employed by the clergy at Prague to manage the intended
prosecution against him. Paletz was afterwards joined by Michael de Cassis, on
the part of the court of Rome. These two declared themselves his accusers, and
drew up a set of articles against him, which they presented to the pope and the
prelates of the Council.
When it was known that he was in the city he was immediately arrested, and
committed prisoner to a chamber in the palace. This violation of common law and
justice was particularly noticed by one of Huss's friends, who urged the
imperial safe-conduct; but the pope replied he never granted any safe-conduct,
nor was he bound by that of the emperor.
While Huss was in confinement, the Council acted the part of inquisitors.
They condemned the doctrines of Wickliffe, and even ordered his remains to be
dug up and burned to ashes; which orders were strictly complied with. In the
meantime, the nobility of Bohemia and Poland strongly interceded for Huss; and
so far prevailed as to prevent his being condemned unheard, which had been
resolved on by the commissioners appointed to try him.
When he was brought before the Council, the articles exhibited against him
were read: they were upwards of forty in number, and chiefly extracted from his
John Huss's answer was this: "I did appeal unto the pope; who being dead,
and the cause of my matter remaining undetermined, I appealed likewise unto his
successor John XXIII: before whom when, by the space of two years, I could not
be admitted by my advocates to defend my cause, I appealed unto the high judge
When John Huss had spoken these words, it was demanded of him whether he
had received absolution of the pope or no? He answered, "No." Then again,
whether it was lawful for him to appeal unto Christ or no? Whereunto John Huss
answered: "Verily I do affirm here before you all, that there is no more just
or effectual appeal, than that appeal which is made unto Christ, forasmuch as
the law doth determine, that to appeal is no other thing than in a cause of
grief or wrong done by an inferior judge, to implore and require aid at a
higher Judge's hand. Who is then a higher Judge than Christ? Who, I say, can
know or judge the matter more justly, or with more equity? when in Him there is
found no deceit, neither can He be deceived; or, who can better help the
miserable and oppressed than He?" While John Huss, with a devout and sober
countenance, was speaking and pronouncing those words, he was derided and
mocked by all the whole Council.
These excellent sentences were esteemed as so many expressions of treason,
and tended to inflame his adversaries. Accordingly, the bishops appointed by
the Council stripped him of his priestly garments, degraded him, put a paper
miter on his head, on which was painted devils, with this inscription, "A
ringleader of heretics." Which when he saw, he said: "My Lord Jesus Christ, for
my sake, did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, again
wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that
willingly." When it was set upon his head, the bishop said: "Now we commit thy
soul unto the devil." "But I," said John Huss, lifting his eyes towards the
heaven, "do commend into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ! my spirit which Thou
When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling
countenance, "My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for
my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?"
When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so
officious as to desire him to abjure. "No, (said Huss;) I never preached any
doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my
blood." He then said to the executioner, "You are now going to burn a goose,
(Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will
have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil." If he were prophetic, he
must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who
had a swan for his arms.
The flames were now applied to the fagots, when our martyr sung a hymn
with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings
of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was
interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence.
Then, with great diligence, gathering the ashes together, they cast them
into the river Rhine, that the least remnant of that man should not be left
upon the earth, whose memory, notwithstanding, cannot be abolished out of the
minds of the godly, neither by fire, neither by water, neither by any kind oof
Persecution of Jerome of Prague
This reformer, who was the companion of Dr. Huss, and may be said to be a
co-martyr with him, was born at Prague, and educated in that university, where
he particularly distinguished himself for his great abilities and learning. He
likewise visited several other learned seminaries in Europe, particularly the
universities of Paris, Heidelburg, Cologne and Oxford. At the latter place he
became acquainted with the works of Wickliffe, and being a person of uncommon
application, he translated many of them into his native language, having, with
great pains, made himself master of the English tongue.
On his return to Prague, he professed himself an open favorer of
Wickliffe, and finding that his doctrines had made considerable progress in
Bohemia, and that Huss was the principal promoter of them, he became an
assistant to him in the great work of reformation.
On the fourth of April, 1415, Jerome arrived at Constance, about three
months before the death of Huss. He entered the town privately, and consulting
with some of the leaders of his party, whom he found there, was easily
convinced he could not be of any service to his friends.
Finding that his arrival in Constance was publicly known, and that the
Council intended to seize him, he thought it most prudent to retire.
Accordingly, the next day he went to Iberling, an imperial town, about a mile
from Constance. From this place he wrote to the emperor, and proposed his
readiness to appear before the Council, if he would give him a safe-conduct;
but this was refused. He then applied to the Council, but met with an answer no
less unfavorable than that from the emperor.
After this, he set out on his return to Bohemia. He had the precaution to
take with him a certificate, signed by several of the Bohemian nobility, then
at Constance, testifying that he had used all prudent means in his power to
procure a hearing.
Jerome, however, did not thus escape. He was seized at Hirsaw by an
officer belonging to the duke of Sultsbach, who, though unauthorized so to act,
made little doubt of obtaining thanks from the Council for so acceptable a
The duke of Sultsbach, having Jerome now in his power, wrote to the
Council for directions how to proceed. The Council, after expressing their
obligations to the duke, desired him to send the prisoner immediately to
Constance. The elector palatine met him on the way, and conducted him into the
city, himself riding on horseback, with a numerous retinue, who led Jerome in
fetters by a long chain; and immediately on his arrival he was committed to a
Jerome was treated nearly in the same manner as Huss had been, only that
he was much longer confined, and shifted from one prison to another. At length,
being brought before the Council, he desired that he might plead his own cause,
and exculpate himself: which being refused him, he broke out into the following
"What barbarity is this! For three hundred and forty days have I been
confined in a variety of prisons. There is not a misery, there is not a want,
that I have not experienced. To my enemies you have allowed the fullest scope
of accusation: to me you deny the least opportunity of defence. Not an hour
will you now indulge me in preparing for my trial. You have swallowed the
blackest calumnies against me. You have represented me as a heretic, without
knowing my doctrine; as an enemy of the faith, before you knew what faith I
professed: as a persecutor of priests before you could have an opportunity of
understanding my sentiments on that head. You are a General Council: in you
center all this world can communicate of gravity, wisdom, and sanctity: but
still you are men, and men are seducible by appearances. The higher your
character is for wisdom, the greater ought your care to be not to deviate into
folly. The cause I now plead is not my own cause: it is the cause of men, it is
the cause of Christians; it is a cause which is to affect the rights of
posterity, however the experiment is to be made in my person."
This speech had not the least effect; Jerome was obliged to hear the
charge read, which was reduced under the following heads: 1. That he was a
derider of the papal dignity. 2. An opposer of the pope. 3. An enemy to the
cardinals. 4. A persecutor of the prelates. 5. A hater of the Christian
The trial of Jerome was brought on the third day after his accusation and
witnesses were examined in support of the charge. The prisoner was prepared for
his defence, which appears almost incredible, when we consider he had been
three hundred and forty days shut up in loathsome prisons, deprived of
daylight, and almost starved for want of common necessaries. But his spirit
soared above these disadvantages, under which a man less animated would have
sunk; nor was he more at a loss of quotations from the fathers and ancient
authors than if he had been furnished with the finest library.
The most bigoted of the assembly were unwilling he should be heard,
knowing what effect eloquence is apt to have on the minds of the most
prejudiced. At length, however, it was carried by the majority that he should
have liberty to proceed in his defence, which he began in such an exalted
strain of moving elocution that the heart of obdurate zeal was seen to melt,
and the mind of superstition seemed to admit a ray of conviction. He made an
admirable distinction between evidence as resting upon facts, and as supported
by malice and calumny. He laid before the assembly the whole tenor of his life
and conduct. He observed that the greatest and most holy men had been known to
differ in points of speculation, with a view to distinguish truth, not to keep
it concealed. He expressed a noble contempt of all his enemies, who would have
induced him to retract the cause of virtue and truth. He entered upon a high
encomium of Huss; and declared he was ready to follow him in the glorious task
of martyrdom. He then touched upon the most defensible doctrines of Wickliffe;
and concluded with observing that it was far from his intention to advance
anything against the state of the Church of God; that it was only against the
abuse of the clergy he complained; and that he could not help saying, it was
certainly impious that the patrimony of the Church, which was originally
intended for the purpose of charity and universal benevolence, should be
prostituted to the pride of the eye, in feasts, foppish vestments, and other
reproaches to the name and profession of Christianity.
The trial being over, Jerome received the same sentence that had been
passed upon his martyred countryman. In consequence of this, he was, in the
usual style of popish affectation, delivered over to the civil power: but as he
was a layman, he had not to undergo the ceremony of degradation. They had
prepared a cap of paper painted with red devils, which being put upon his head,
he said, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He suffered death for me a most miserable
sinner, did wear a crown of thorns upon His head, and for His sake will I wear
Two days were allowed him in hopes that he would recant; in which time the
cardinal of Florence used his utmost endeavors to bring him over. But they all
proved ineffectual. Jerome was resolved to seal the doctrine with his blood;
and he suffered death with the most distinguished magnanimity.
In going to the place of execution he sang several hymns, and when he came
to the spot, which was the same where Huss had been burnt, he knelt down, and
prayed fervently. He embraced the stake with great cheerfulness, and when they
went behind him to set fire to the fagots, he said, "Come here, and kindle it
before my eyes; for if I had been afraid of it, I had not come to this place."
The fire being kindled, he sang a hymn, but was soon interrupted by the flames;
and the last words he was heard to say these, "This soul in flames I offer
Christ, to Thee."
The elegant Pogge, a learned gentleman of Florence, secretary to two
popes, and a zealous but liberal Catholic, in a letter to Leonard Arotin, bore
ample testimony of the extraordinary powers and virtues of Jerome whom he
emphatically styles, A prodigious man!
Persecution of Zisca
The real name of this zealous servant of Christ was John de Trocznow, that
of Zisca is a Bohemian word, signifying one-eyed, as he had lost an eye. He was
a native of Bohemia, of a good family and left the court of Winceslaus, to
enter into the service of the king of Poland against the Teutonic knights.
Having obtained a badge of honor and a purse of ducats for his gallantry, at
the close of the war, he returned to the court of Winceslaus, to whom he boldly
avowed the deep interest he took in the bloody affront offered to his majesty's
subjects at Constance in the affair of Huss. Winceslaus lamented it was not in
his power to revenge it; and from this moment Zisca is said to have formed the
idea of asserting the religious liberties of his country. In the year 1418, the
Council was dissolved, having done more mischief than good, and in the summer
of that year a general meeting was held of the friends of religious
reformation, at the castle of Wisgrade, who, conducted by Zisca, repaired to
the emperor with arms in their hands, and offered to defend him against his
enemies. The king bid them use their arms properly, and this stroke of policy
first insured to Zisca the confidence of his party.
Winceslaus was succeeded by Sigismond, his brother, who rendered himself
odious to the reformers; and removed all such as were obnoxious to his
government. Zisca and his friends, upon this, immediately flew to arms,
declared war against the emperor and the pope, and laid siege to Pilsen with
40,000 men. They soon became masters of the fortress, and in a short time all
the southwest part of Bohemia submitted, which greatly increased the army of
the reformers. The latter having taken the pass of Muldaw, after a severe
conflict of five days and nights, the emperor became alarmed, and withdrew his
troops from the confines of Turkey, to march them into Bohemia. At Berne in
Moravia, he halted, and sent despatches to treat of peace, as a preliminary to
which Zisca gave up Pilsen and all the fortresses he had taken. Sigismond
proceeding in a manner that clearly manifested he acted on the Roman doctrine,
that no faith was to be kept with heretics, and treating some of the authors of
the late disturbances with severity, the alarm-bell of revolt was sounded from
one end of Bohemia to the other. Zisca took the castle of Prague by the power
of money, and on August 19, 1420, defeated the small army the emperor had
hastily got together to oppose him. He next took Ausea by assault, and
destroyed the town with a barbarity that disgraced the cause in which he
Winter approaching, Zisca fortified his camp on a strong hill about forty
miles from Prague, which he called Mount Tabor, whence he surprised a body of
horse at midnight, and made a thousand men prisoners. Shortly after, the
emperor obtained possession of the strong fortress of Prague, by the same means
Zisca had before done: it was blockaded by the latter, and want began to
threaten the emperor, who saw the necessity of a retreat.
Determined to make a desperate effort, Sigismond attacked the fortified
camp of Zisca on Mount Tabor, and carried it with great slaughter. Many other
fortresses also fell, and Zisca withdrew to a craggy hill, which he strongly
fortified, and whence he so annoyed the emperor in his approaches against the
town of Prague, that he found he must either abandon the siege or defeat his
enemy. The marquis of Misnia was deputed to effect this with a large body of
troops, but the event was fatal to the imperialists; they were defeated, and
the emperor having lost nearly one third of his army, retreated from the siege
of Prague, harassed in his rear by the enemy.
In the spring of 1421, Zisca commenced the campaign, as before, by
destroying all the monasteries in his way. He laid siege to the castle of
Wisgrade, and the emperor coming to relieve it, fell into a snare, was defeated
with dreadful slaughter, and this important fortress was taken. Our general had
now leisure to attend to the work of reformation, but he was much disgusted
with the gross ignorance and superstition of the Bohemian clergy, who rendered
themselves contemptible in the eyes of the whole army. When he saw any symptoms
of uneasiness in the camp, he would spread alarm in order to divert them, and
draw his men into action. In one of these expeditions, he encamped before the
town of Rubi, and while pointing out the place for an assault, an arrow shot
from the wall struck him in the eye. At Prague it was extracted, but, being
barbed, it tore the eye out with it. A fever succeeded, and his life was with
difficulty preserved. He was now totally blind, but still desirous of attending
the army. The emperor, having summoned the states of the empire to assist him,
resolved, with their assistance, to attack Zisca in the winter, when many of
his troops departed until the return of spring.
The confederate princes undertook the siege of Soisin, but at the approach
merely of the Bohemian general, they retreated. Sigismond nevertheless advanced
with his formidable army, consisting of 15,000 Hungarian horse and 25,000
infantry, well equipped for a winter campaign. This army spread terror through
all the east of Bohemia. Wherever Sigismond marched, the magistrates laid their
keys at his feet, and were treated with severity or favor, according to their
merits in his cause. Zisca, however, with speedy marches, approached, and the
emperor resolved to try his fortune once more with that invincible chief. On
the thirteenth of January, 1422, the two armies met on a spacious plain near
Kremnitz. Zisca appeared in the center of his front line, guarded, or rather
conducted, by a horseman on each side, armed with a pole-axe. His troops having
sung a hymn, with a determined coolness drew their swords, and waited for a
signal. When his officers had informed him that the ranks were all well closed,
he waved his sabre round his head, which was the sign of battle.
This battle is described as a most awful sight. The extent of the plain
was one continued scene of disorder. The imperial army fled towards the
confines of Moravia, the Taborites, without intermission, galling their rear.
The river Igla, then frozen opposed their flight. The enemy pressing furiously,
many of the infantry and in a manner the whole body of the cavalry, attempted
the river. The ice gave way, and not fewer than two thousand were swallowed up
in the water. Zisca now returned to Tabor, laden with all the spoils and
trophies which the most complete victory could give.
Zisca now began again to pay attention to the Reformation; he forbid all
the prayers for the dead, images, sacerdotal vestments, fasts, and festivals.
Priests were to be preferred according to their merits, and no one to be
persecuted for religious opinions. In everything Zisca consulted the liberal
minded, and did nothing without general concurrence. An alarming disagreement
now arose at Prague between the magistrates who were Calixtans, or receivers of
the Sacraments in both kinds, and the Taborites, nine of the chiefs of whom
were privately arraigned, and put to death. The populace, enraged, sacrificed
the magistrates, and the affair terminated without any particular consequence.
The Calixtans having sunk into contempt, Zisca was solicited to assume the
crown of Bohemia; but this he nobly refused, and prepared for the next
campaign, in which Sigismond resolved to make his last effort. While the
marquis of Misnia penetrated into Upper Saxony, the emperor proposed to enter
Moravia, on the side of Hungary. Before the marquis had taken the field, Zisca
sat down before the strong town of Aussig, situated on the Elbe. The marquis
flew to its relief with a superior army, and, after an obstinate engagement,
was totally defeated and Aussig capitulated. Zisca then went to the assistance
of Procop, a young general whom he had appointed to keep Sigismond in check,
and whom he compelled to abandon the siege of Pernitz, after laying eight weeks
Zisca, willing to give his troops some respite from fatigue, now entered
Prague, hoping his presence would quell any uneasiness that might remain after
the late disturbance: but he was suddenly attacked by the people; and he and
his troop having beaten off the citizens, effected a retreat to his army, whom
he acquainted with the treacherous conduct of the Calixtans. Every effort of
address was necessary to appease their vengeful animosity, and at night, in a
private interview between Roquesan, an ecclesiastic of great eminence in
Prague, and Zisca, the latter became reconciled, and the intended hostilities
were done away.
Mutually tired of the war, Sigismond sent to Zisca, requesting him to
sheath his sword, and name his conditions. A place of congress being appointed,
Zisca, with his chief officers, set out to meet the emperor. Compelled to pass
through a part of the country where the plague raged, he was seized with it at
the castle of Briscaw, and departed this life, October 6, 1424. Like Moses, he
died in view of the completion of his labors, and was buried in the great
Church of Czaslow, in Bohemia, where a monument is erected to his memory, with
this inscription on it--"Here lies John Zisca, who, having defended his country
against the encroachments of papal tyranny, rests in this hallowed place, in
despite of the pope."
After the death of Zisca, Procop was defeated, and fell with the liberties
of his country.
After the death of Huss and Jerome, the pope, in conjunction with the
Council of Constance, ordered the Roman clergy everywhere to excommunicate such
as adopted their opinions, or commiserated their fate.
These orders occasioned great contentions between the papists and reformed
Bohemians, which was the cause of a violent persecution against the latter. At
Prague, the persecution was extremely severe, until, at length, the reformed
being driven to desperation, armed themselves, attacked the senate-house, and
threw twelve senators, with the speaker, out of the senate-house windows, whose
bodies fell upon spears, which were held up by others of the reformed in the
street, to receive them.
Being informed of these proceedings, the pope came to Florence, and
publicly excommunicated the reformed Bohemians, exciting the emperor of
Germany, and all kings, princes, dukes, etc., to take up arms, in order to
extirpate the whole race; and promising, by way of encouragement, full
remission of all sins whatever, to the most wicked person, if he did but kill
one Bohemian Protestant.
This occasioned a bloody war; for several popish princes undertook the
extirpation, or at least expulsion, of the proscribed people; and the
Bohemians, arming themselves, prepared to repel force by force, in the most
vigorous and effectual manner. The popish army prevailing against the
Protestant forces at the battle of Cuttenburgh, the prisoners of the reformed
were taken to three deep mines near that town, and several hundreds were
cruelly thrown into each, where they miserably perished.
A merchant of Prague, going to Breslau, in Silesia, happened to lodge in
the same inn with several priests. Entering into conversation upon the subject
of religious controversy, he passed many encomiums upon the martyred John Huss,
and his doctrines. The priests taking umbrage at this, laid an information
against him the next morning, and he was committed to prison as a heretic. Many
endeavors were used to persuade him to embrace the Roman Catholic faith, but he
remained steadfast to the pure doctrines of the reformed Church. Soon after his
imprisonment, a student of the university was committed to the same jail; when,
being permitted to converse with the merchant, they mutually comforted each
other. On the day appointed for execution, when the jailer began to fasten
ropes to their feet, by which they were to be dragged through the streets, the
student appeared quite terrified, and offered to abjure his faith, and turn
Roman Catholic if he might be saved. The offer was accepted, his abjuration was
taken by a priest, and he was set at liberty. A priest applying to the merchant
to follow the example of the student, he nobly said, "Lose no time in hopes of
my recantation, your expectations will be vain; I sincerely pity that poor
wretch, who has miserably sacrificed his soul for a few more uncertain years of
a troublesome life; and, so far from having the least idea of following his
example, I glory in the very thoughts of dying for the sake of Christ." On
hearing these words, the priest ordered the executioner to proceed, and the
merchant being drawn through the city was brought to the place of execution,
and there burnt.
Pichel, a bigoted popish magistrate, apprehended twenty-four Protestants,
among whom was his daughter's husband. As they all owned they were of the
reformed religion, he indiscriminately condemned them to be drowned in the
river Abbis. On the day appointed for the execution, a great concourse of
people attended, among whom was Pichel's daughter. This worthy wife threw
herself at her father's feet, bedewed them with tears, and in the most pathetic
manner, implored him to commisserate her sorrow, and pardon her husband. The
obdurate magistrate sternly replied, "Intercede not for him, child, he is a
heretic, a vile heretic." To which she nobly answered, "Whatever his faults may
be, or however his opinions may differ from yours, he is still my husband, a
name which, at a time like this, should alone employ my whole consideration."
Pichel flew into a violent passion and said, "You are mad! cannot you, after
the death of this, have a much worthier husband?" "No, sir, (replied she) my
affections are fixed upon this, and death itself shall not dissolve my marriage
vow." Pichel, however, continued inflexible, and ordered the prisoners to be
tied with their hands and feet behind them, and in that manner be thrown into
the river. As soon as this was put into execution, the young lady watched her
opportunity, leaped into the waves, and embracing the body of her husband, both
sank together into one watery grave. An uncommon instance of conjugal love in a
wife, and of an inviolable attachment to, and personal affection for, her
The emperor Ferdinand, whose hatred to the Bohemian Protestants was
without bounds, not thinking he had sufficiently oppressed them, instituted a
high court of reformers, upon the plan of the Inquisition, with this
difference, that the reformers were to remove from place to place, and always
to be attended by a body of troops.
These reformers consisted chiefly of Jesuits, and from their decision,
there was no appeal, by which it may be easily conjectured, that it was a
dreadful tribunal indeed.
This bloody court, attended by a body of troops, made the tour of Bohemia,
in which they seldom examined or saw a prisoner, suffering the soldiers to
murder the Protestants as they pleased, and then to make a report of the matter
to them afterward.
The first victim of their cruelty was an aged minister, whom they killed
as he lay sick in his bed; the next day they robbed and murdered another, and
soon after shot a third, as he was preaching in his pulpit.
A nobleman and clergyman, who resided in a Protestant village, hearing of
the approach of the high court of reformers and the troops, fled from the
place, and secreted themselves. The soldiers, however, on their arrival, seized
upon a schoolmaster, asked him where the lord of that place and the minister
were concealed, and where they had hidden their treasures. The schoolmaster
replied that he could not answer either of the questions. They then stripped
him naked, bound him with cords, and beat him most unmercifully with cudgels.
This cruelty not extorting any confession from him, they scorched him in
various parts of his body; when, to gain a respite from his torments, he
promised to show them where the treasures were hid. The soldiers gave ear to
this with pleasure, and the schoolmaster led them to a ditch full of stones,
saying, "Beneath these stones are the treasures ye seek for." Eager after
money, they went to work, and soon removed those stones, but not finding what
they sought after, they beat the schoolmaster to death, buried him in the
ditch, and covered him with the very stones he had made them remove.
Some of the soldiers ravished the daughters of a worthy Protestant before
his face, and then tortured him to death. A minister and his wife they tied
back to back and burnt. Another minister they hung upon a cross beam, and
making a fire under him, broiled him to death. A gentleman they hacked into
small pieces, and they filled a young man's mouth with gunpowder, and setting
fire to it, blew his head to pieces.
As their principal rage was directed against the clergy, they took a pious
Protestant minister, and tormenting him daily for a month together, in the
following manner, making their cruelty regular, systematic, and progressive.
They placed him amidst them, and made him the subject of their derision
and mockery, during a whole day's entertainment, trying to exhaust his
patience, but in vain, for he bore the whole with true Christian fortitude.
They spit in his face, pulled his nose, and pinched him in most parts of his
body. He was hunted like a wild beast, until ready to expire with fatigue. They
made him run the gauntlet between two ranks of them, each striking him with a
twig. He was beat with their fists. He was beat with ropes. They scourged him
with wires. He was beat with cudgels. They tied him up by the heels with his
head downwards, until the blood started out of his nose, mouth, etc. They hung
him by the right arm until it was dislocated, and then had it set again. The
same was repeated with his left arm. Burning papers dipped in oil were placed
between his fingers and toes. His flesh was torn with red-hot pincers. He was
put to the rack. They pulled off the nails of his right hand. The same repeated
with his left hand. He was bastinadoed on his feet. A slit was made in his
right ear. The same repeated on his left ear. His nose was slit. They whipped
him through the town upon an ass. They made several incisions in his flesh.
They pulled off the toe nails of his right foot. The same they repeated with
his left foot. He was tied up by the loins, and suspended for a considerable
time. The teeth of his upper jaw were pulled out. The same was repeated with
his lower jaw. Boiling lead was poured upon his fingers. The same was repeated
with his toes. A knotted cord was twisted about his forehead in such a manner
as to force out his eyes.
During the whole of these horrid cruelties, particular care was taken that
his wounds should not mortify, and not to injure him mortally until the last
day, when the forcing out of his eyes proved his death.
Innumerable were the other murders and depredations committed by those
unfeeling brutes, and shocking to humanity were the cruelties which they
inflicted on the poor Bohemian Protestants. The winter being far advanced,
however, the high court of reformers, with their infernal band of military
ruffians, thought proper to return to Prague; but on their way, meeting with a
Protestant pastor, they could not resist the temptation of feasting their
barbarous eyes with a new kind of cruelty, which had just suggested itself to
the diabolical imagination of one of the soldiers. This was to strip the
minister naked, and alternately to cover him with ice and burning coals. This
novel mode of tormenting a fellow creature was immediately put into practice,
and the unhappy victim expired beneath the torments, which seemed to delight
his inhuman persecutors.
A secret order was soon after issued by the emperor, for apprehending all
noblemen and gentlemen, who had been principally concerned in supporting the
Protestant cause, and in nominating Frederic elector Palatine of the Rhine, to
be king of Bohemia. These, to the number of fifty, were apprehended in one
night, and at one hour, and brought from the places where they were taken, to
the castle of Prague, and the estates of those who were absent from the kingdom
were confiscated, themselves were made outlaws, and their names fixed upon a
gallows, as marks of public ignominy.
The high court of reformers then proceeded to try the fifty, who had been
apprehended, and two apostate Protestants were appointed to examine them. These
examinants asked a great number of unnecessary and impertinent questions, which
so exasperated one of the noblemen, who was naturally of a warm temper, that he
exclaimed, opening his breast at the same time, "Cut here, search my heart, you
shall find nothing but the love of religion and liberty; those were the motives
for which I drew my sword, and for those I am willing to suffer death."
As none of the prisoners would change their religion, or acknowledge they
had been in error, they were all pronounced guilty; but the sentence was
referred to the emperor. When that monarch had read their names, and an account
of the respective accusations against them, he passed judgment on all, but in a
different manner, as his sentences were of four kinds, viz. death, banishment,
imprisonment for life, and imprisonment during pleasure.
Twenty being ordered for execution, were informed they might send for
Jesuits, monks, or friars, to prepare for the awful change they were to
undergo; but that no Protestants should be permitted to come near them. This
proposal they rejected, and strove all they could to comfort and cheer each
other upon the solemn occasion.
On the morning of the day appointed for the execution, a cannon was fired
as a signal to bring the prisoners from the castle to the principal market
place, in which scaffolds were erected, and a body of troops were drawn up to
attend the tragic scene.
The prisoners left the castle with as much cheerfulness as if they had
been going to an agreeable entertainment, instead of a violent death.
Exclusive of soldiers, Jesuits, priests, executioners, attendants, etc., a
prodigious concourse of people attended, to see the exit of these devoted
martyrs, who were executed in the following order.
Lord Schilik was about fifty years of age, and was possessed of great
natural and acquired abilities. When he was told he was to be quartered, and
his parts scattered in different places, he smiled with great serenity, saying,
"The loss of a sepulchre is but a trifling consideration." A gentleman who
stood by, crying, "Courage, my lord!" he replied, "I have God's favor, which is
sufficient to inspire any one with courage: the fear of death does not trouble
me; formerly I have faced him in fields of battle to oppose Antichrist; and now
dare face him on a scaffold, for the sake of Christ." Having said a short
prayer, he told the executioner he was ready. He cut off his right hand and his
head, and then quartered him. His hand and his head were placed upon the high
tower of Prague, and his quarters distributed in different parts of the city.
Lord Viscount Winceslaus, who had attained the age of seventy years, was
equally respectable for learning, piety, and hospitality. His temper was so
remarkably patient that when his house was broken open, his property seized,
and his estates confiscated, he only said, with great composure, "The Lord hath
given, and the Lord hath taken away." Being asked why he could engage in so
dangerous a cause as that of attempting to support the elector Palatine
Frederic against the power of the emperor, he replied, "I acted strictly
according to the dictates of my conscience, and, to this day, deem him my king.
I am now full of years, and wish to lay down life, that I may not be a witness
of the further evils which are to attend my country. You have long thirsted for
my blood, take it, for God will be my avenger." Then approaching the block, he
stroked his long, grey beard, and said, "Venerable hairs, the greater honor now
attends ye, a crown of martyrdom is your portion." Then laying down his head,
it was severed from his body at one stroke, and placed upon a pole in a
conspicuous part of the city.
Lord Harant was a man of good sense, great piety, and much experience
gained by travel, as he had visited the principal places in Europe, Asia, and
Africa. Hence he was free from national prejudices and had collected much
The accusations against this nobleman, were, his being a Protestant, and
having taken an oath of allegiance to Frederic, elector Palatine of the Rhine,
as king of Bohemia. When he came upon the scaffold he said, "I have travelled
through many countries, and traversed various barbarous nations, yet never
found so much cruelty as at home. I have escaped innumerable perils both by sea
and land, and surmounted inconceivable difficulties, to suffer innocently in my
native place. My blood is likewise sought by those for whom I, and my
forefathers, have hazarded our estates; but, Almighty God! forgive them, for
they know not what they do." He then went to the block, kneeled down, and
exclaimed with great energy, "Into Thy hands, O Lord! I commend my spirit; in
Thee have I always trusted; receive me, therefore, my blessed Redeemer." The
fatal stroke was then given, and a period put to the temporary pains of this
Lord Frederic de Bile suffered as a Protestant, and a promoter of the late
war; he met his fate with serenity, and only said he wished well to the friends
whom he left behind, forgave the enemies who caused his death, denied the
authority of the emperor in that country, acknowledged Frederic to be the only
true king of Bohemia, and hoped for salvation in the merits of his blessed
Lord Henry Otto, when he first came upon the scaffold, seemed greatly
confounded, and said, with some asperity, as if addressing himself to the
emperor, "Thou tyrant Ferdinand, your throne is established in blood; but if
you will kill my body, and disperse my members, they shall still rise up in
judgment against you." He then was silent, and having walked about for some
time, seemed to recover his fortitude, and growing calm, said to a gentleman
who stood near, "I was, a few minutes since, greatly discomposed, but now I
feel my spirits revive; God be praised for affording me such comfort; death no
longer appears as the king of terrors, but seems to invite me to participate of
some unknown joys." Kneeling before the block, he said, "Almighty God! to Thee
I commend my soul, receive it for the sake of Christ, and admit it to the glory
of Thy presence." The executioner put this nobleman to considerable pain, by
making several strokes before he severed the head from the body.
The earl of Rugenia was distinguished for his superior abilities, and
unaffected piety. On the scaffold he said, "We who drew our swords fought only
to preserve the liberties of the people, and to keep our consciences sacred: as
we were overcome, I am better pleased at the sentence of death, than if the
emperor had given me life; for I find that it pleases God to have his truth
defended, not by our swords, but by our blood." He then went boldly to the
block, saying, "I shall now be speedily with Christ," and received the crown of
martyrdom with great courage.
Sir Gaspar Kaplitz was eighty-six years of age. When he came to the place
of execution, he addressed the principal officer thus: "Behold a miserable
ancient man, who hath often entreated God to take him out of this wicked world,
but could not until now obtain his desire, for God reserved me until these
years to be a spectacle to the world, and a sacrifice to himself; therefore
God's will be done." One of the officers told him, in consideration of his
great age, that if he would only ask pardon, he would immediately receive it.
"Ask pardon, (exclaimed he) I will ask pardon of God, whom I have frequently
offended; but not of the emperor, to whom I never gave any offence; should I
sue for pardon, it might be justly suspected I had committed some crime for
which I deserved this condemnation. No, no, as I die innocent, and with a clear
conscience, I would not be separated from this noble company of martyrs:" so
saying, he cheerfully resigned his neck to the block.
Procopius Dorzecki on the scaffold said, "We are now under the emperor's
judgment; but in time he shall be judged, and we shall appear as witnesses
against him." Then taking a gold medal from his neck, which was struck when the
elector Frederic was crowned king of Bohemia, he presented it to one of the
officers, at the same time uttering these words, "As a dying man, I request, if
ever King Frederic is restored to the throne of Bohemia, that you will give him
this medal. Tell him, for his sake, I wore it until death, and that now I
willingly lay down my life for God and my king." He then cheerfully laid down
his head and submitted to the fatal blow.
Dionysius Servius was brought up a Roman Catholic, but had embraced the
reformed religion for some years. When upon the scaffold the Jesuits used their
utmost endeavors to make him recant, and return to his former faith, but he
paid not the least attention to their exhortations. Kneeling down he said,
"They may destroy my body, but cannot injure my soul, that I commend to my
Redeemer"; and then patiently submitted to martyrdom, being at that time fifty-
six years of age.
Valentine Cockan, was a person of considerable fortune and eminence,
perfectly pious and honest, but of trifling abilities; yet his imagination
seemed to grow bright, and his faculties to improve on death's approach, as if
the impending danger refined the understanding. Just before he was beheaded, he
expressed himself with such eloquence, energy, and precision as greatly amazed
those who knew his former deficiency in point of capacity.
Tobias Steffick was remarkable for his affability and serenity of temper.
He was perfectly resigned to his fate, and a few minutes before his death spoke
in this singular manner, "I have received, during the whole course of my life,
many favors from God; ought I not therefore cheerfully to take one bitter cup,
when He thinks proper to present it? Or rather, ought I not to rejoice that it
is his will I should give up a corrupted life for that of immortality!"
Dr. Jessenius, an able student of physic, was accused of having spoken
disrespectful words of the emperor, of treason in swearing allegiance to the
elector Frederic, and of heresy in being a Protestant. For the first accusation
he had his tongue cut out; for the second he was beheaded; and for the third,
and last, he was quartered, and the respective parts exposed on poles.
Christopher Chober, as soon as he stepped upon the scaffold said, "I come
in the name of God, to die for His glory; I have fought the good fight, and
finished my course; so, executioner, do your office." The executioner obeyed,
and he instantly received the crown of martyrdom.
No person ever lived more respected or died more lamented than John
Shultis. The only words he spoke, before receiving the fatal stroke, were, "The
righteous seem to die in the eyes of fools, but they only go to rest. Lord
Jesus! Thou hast promised that those who come to Thee shall not be cast off.
Behold, I am come; look on me, pity me, pardon my sins, and receive my soul."
Maximilian Hostialick was famed for his learning, piety, and humanity.
When he first came on the scaffold, he seemed exceedingly terrified at the
approach of death. The officer taking notice of his agitation, Hostialick said,
"Ah! sir, now the sins of my youth crowd upon my mind, but I hope God will
enlighten me, lest I sleep the sleep of death and lest mine enemies say we have
prevailed." Soon after he said, "I hope my repentance is sincere, and will be
accepted, in which case the blood of Christ will wash me from my crimes." He
then told the officer he should repeat the Song of Simeon; at the conclusion of
which the executioner might do his duty. He accordingly, said, "Lord, now
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes
have seen Thy salvation;" at which words his head was struck off at one blow.
When John Kutnaur came to the place of execution, a Jesuit said to him,
"Embrace the Roman Catholic faith, which alone can save and arm you against the
terrors of death." To which he replied, "Your superstitious faith I abhor, it
leads to perdition, and I wish for no other arms against the terrors of death
than a good conscience." The Jesuit turned away, saying, sarcastically, "The
Protestants are impenetrable rocks." "You are mistaken," said Kutnaur, "it is
Christ that is the Rock, and we are firmly fixed upon Him."
This person not being born independent, but having acquired a fortune by a
mechanical employment, was ordered to be hanged. Just before he was turned off,
he said, "I die, not for having committed any crime, but for following the
dictates of my own conscience, and defending my country and religion."
Simeon Sussickey was father-in-law to Kutnaur, and like him, was ordered
to be executed on a gallows. He went cheerfully to death, and appeared
impatient to be executed, saying, "Every moment delays me from entering into
the Kingdom of Christ."
Nathaniel Wodnianskey was hanged for having supported the Protestant
cause, and the election of Frederic to the crown of Bohemia. At the gallows,
the Jesuits did all in their power to induce him to renounce his faith. Finding
their endeavors ineffectual, one of them said, "If you will not adjure your
heresy, at least repent of your rebellion?" To which Wodnianskey replied, "You
take away our lives under a pretended charge of rebellion; and, not content
with that, seek to destroy our souls; glut yourselves with blood, and be
satisfied; but tamper not with our consciences."
Wodnianskey's own son then approached the gallows, and said to his father,
"Sir, if life should be offered to you on condition of apostasy, I entreat you
to remember Christ, and reject such pernicious overtures." To this the father
replied, "It is very acceptable, my son, to be exhorted to constancy by you;
but suspect me not; rather endeavor to confirm in their faith your brothers,
sisters, and children, and teach them to imitate that constancy of which I
shall leave them an example." He had so sooner concluded these words than he
was turned off, receiving the crown of martyrdom with great fortitude.
Winceslaus Gisbitzkey, during his whole confinement, had great hopes of
life given him, which made his friends fear for the safety of his soul. He,
however, continued steadfast in his faith, prayed fervently at the gallows, and
met his fate with singular resignation.
Martin Foster was an ancient cripple; the accusations against whom were,
being charitable to heretics, and lending money to the elector Frederic. His
great wealth, however, seemed to have been his principal crime; and that he
might be plundered of his treasures was the occasion of his being ranked in
this illustrious list of martyrs.