107. JEROME OF PRAGUE
Illustration -- Portrait of Jerome of Prague
These things hitherto being discoursed, touching the life, acts, and constant martyrdom of Master John Huss, with part also of his letters adjoined to the same, whose death was on the sixth of July, A. D. 1416, now remaineth consequently to describe the like tragedy and cruel handling of his Christian companion and fellow in bonds, Master Jerome of Prague; who grievously sorrowing the slanderous reproach and defamation of his country of Bohemia, and also hearing tell of the manifest injuries done unto that man of worthy memory Master John Huss, freely and of his own accord came unto Constance the fourth day of April, A. D. 1415. Who there perceiving that John Huss was denied to be heard, and that watch and wait was laid for him on every side, he departed to Iberling, a city of the empire, until the next day, the which city was a mile off from Constance; and from thence he wrote his letters by me unto Sigismund, king of Hungary, and his barons, and also unto the council, most earnestly requiring that the king and the council would give him a safe-conduct freely to come and go, and that he would then come in open audience to answer unto every man, if there were any of the council that would lay any crime unto him, as by the tenor of his intimation shall more at large appear.
When the said king of Hungary was required thereunto, as is aforesaid, being in the house of the lord cardinal of Cambray, he denied to give Master Jerome any safe-conduct, excusing himself for the evil speed he had with the safe-conduct of John Huss before, and alleging also certain other causes. The deputies also of the four nations of the council, being moved thereunto by the lords of the kingdom of Bohemia, answered, "We," say they, "will give him a safe-conduct to come, but not to depart." Whose answers, when they were reported unto Master Jerome, he, the next day after, wrote certain intimations according to the tenor hereunder written, which he sent unto Constance to be set upon the gates of the city, and upon the gates of the churches and monasteries, and of the houses of the cardinals, and other nobles and prelates. The tenor whereof here followeth word for word in this manner:
"Unto the most noble prince and lord, the Lord Sigismund, by the grace of God king of the Romans, always Augustus, and of Hungary, &c. I, Jerome of Prague, master of arts of the general universities of Paris, Cullen, Heidelberg, and Prague, by these my present letters do notify unto the king, together with the whole reverend council, and, as much as in me lieth, do all men to understand and know, that because of the crafty slanderers, backbiters, and accusers, I am ready, freely, and of my will, to come unto Constance, there to declare openly before the council, the purity and sincerity of my true faith and mine innocency, and not secretly in corners before any private or particular person. Wherefore if there be any of my slanderers, of what nation or estate soever they be, which will object against me any crime of error, or heresy, let them come forth openly before me, in the presence of the whole council, and in their own names object against me, and I will be ready, as I have written, to answer openly and publicly before the whole council, of mine innocency, and to declare the purity and sincerity of my true faith; and if so be that I shall be found culpable in error or heresy, then I will not refuse openly to suffer such punishment as shall be meet and worthy for an erroneous person, or a heretic.
"Wherefore, I most humbly beseech my lord the king, and the whole sacred council, that I may have, to this end and purpose aforesaid, safe and sure access. And if it happen that I, offering such equity and right as I do, before any fault be proved against me, be arrested, imprisoned, or have any violence done unto me; that then it may be manifest unto the whole world, that this general council doth not proceed according to equity and justice, if they would by any means put me back from this profound and strait justice, being come hither freely of mine own mind and accord. The which thing I suppose to be far from so sacred and holy council of wise men."
When as yet he through such intimations copied out in the Bohemian, Latin, and German tongue, being set up as is aforesaid, could not get any safe-conduct, then the nobles, lords, and knights especially of the Bohemian nation, present in Constance, gave unto Master Jerome their letters patent, confirmed with their seals for a testimony and witness of the premises. With the which letters the said Master Jerome returned again unto Bohemia; but by the treason and conspiracy of his enemies he was taken in Hirsaw by the officer of Duke John, and in Zultzbach was brought back again to the presence of the duke. In the mean time, such as were the setters forward of the council against Master John Huss, and Master Jerome, that is to say, Michael de Causis, and Master Paletz, and other their accomplices, required that the said Master Jerome should be cited by reason of his intimations; and certain days after, the citation hereunder written was set upon the gates and porches of the city and churches, which followeth here in this manner:
"This most sacred and holy synod and general council of Constance, faithfully congregated and gathered together in the Holy Ghost, representing the universal militant church, unto Jerome of Prague, which writeth himself to be a master of arts of so many universities, and pretendeth those things which are only pertaining unto sobriety and modesty, and that he knoweth no more than he ought, &c. Know thou that there is a certain writing come unto our understanding and knowledge, the which was set up as it were by thine own person upon the gates of the churches and city of Constance, upon the Sunday, when there was sung in the church of God, Quasi modo geniti; wherein thou dost affirm, that thou wilt openly answer unto thy accusers and slanderers which shall object any crime, error, or heresy against thee, whereof thou art marvellously infamed and accused before us, and specially touching the doctrine of Wickliff, and other doctrines contrary unto the catholic faith, so that thou mightest have granted unto thee a safe-conduct to come. But forasmuch as it is our part principally and chiefly to foresee and look unto these crafty foxes which go about to destroy the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, therefore we do cite and call forth, by the tenor of these presents, thy person, manifoldly defamed and suspected for the temerarious affirming and teaching of manifold errors; so that within the term of fifteen days to be accounted from the date of these presents, whereof five days are appointed for the first term, five for the second, and other five for the third, we do ordain and appoint by canonical admonition and warning, that thou do appear in the public session of the sacred council, if there be any holden the same day, or else the first day immediately following, when any session shall be, according to the tenor of thy said writing, to answer to those things, which any person or persons shall object or lay against thee in any cause of thy faith, and to receive and have as justice shall require. Whereupon, so much as in us lieth, and as catholic faith shall require, we offer and assign to thee, by the tenor hereof, our safe-conduct from all violence, (justice always being saved,) certifying thee, that whether thou dost appear or not, the said term or time appointed notwithstanding, process shall go forward against thee by the sacred council, or by their commissary or commissaries, for the time aforesaid not observed and kept, thy contumacy or stubbornness in any thing notwithstanding. Given in the sixth session of the general council, the seventeenth day of April, under the seal of the presidents of the four nations."
After that Sigismund, king of Hungary, with the rest of the council, understood by the aforesaid Duke John, that Master Jerome was taken, they were earnestly in hand, requiring that Master Jerome should be brought before them unto the council. The which Duke John, after he had received letters of the king and the council, brought Master Jerome bound unto Constance, whom his brother, Duke Ludovicus, led through the city to the cloister of the Friars Minors in Constance, where the chief priests and elders of the people, scribes and Pharisees, were gathered together, attending and waiting for his coming. He, the said Master Jerome, carried a great handbolt of iron with a long chain in his hand, and as he passed, the chain made a great rattling and noise; and for the more confusion and despite towards him, they led him by the same chain after Duke Ludovicus aforesaid, holding and stretching out the same a great way from him, with the which chain they also kept him bound in the cloister. When he was brought into the cloister, they read before him the letter of Duke John, which was sent with the said Master Jerome unto the council, containing in effect, how that the said Duke John had sent Master Jerome unto the council, who by chance was fallen into his hands, because he heard an evil report of him, that he was suspected of the heresies of Wickliff; that the council might take order for him, whose part it was to correct and punish such as did err and stray from the truth; besides many other flattering tales which were written in the said letter for the praise of the council. After this, they read the citation which was given out by the council against Master Jerome, whereof we have spoken before. Then certain of the bishops said unto him, "Jerome, why didst thou fly, and run away, and didst not appear when thou wast cited? "He answered, "Because I could not have any safe-conduct, neither from you, neither from the king, as it appeareth by these letters patent of the barons, which you have, neither by mine open intimations could I obtain any safe-conduct.
"Wherefore I, perceiving many of my grievous and heavy friends to be here present in the council, would not myself be the occasion of my perils and dangers; but if I had known or had any understanding of this citation, without all doubt, albeit I had been in Bohemia, I would have returned again." Then all the whole rabble rising up, alleged divers and sundry accusations and testimonies against him with a great noise and tumult. When the rest held their peace, then spake Master Gerson, the chancellor of Paris; "Jerome, when thou wast at Paris thou thoughtest thyself by means of thy eloquence to be an angel, and didst trouble the whole university, alleging openly in the schools many erroneous conclusions with their corolaria, and especially in the question de universalibus et de Idæis, with many other very offensive questions." Unto whom Master Jerome said, "I answer to you, Master Gerson; those matters which I did put forth there in schools at Paris, in the which also I answered to the arguments of the masters, I did put them forth philosophically, and as a philosopher, and master of the university; and if I have put forth any questions which I ought not to have put forth, teach me that they be erroneous, and I will most humbly be informed, and amend the same."
While he was yet speaking, another (as I suppose, the master of the university of Cullen upon the river Rhine) rising up said, "When thou wast also at Cullen, in thy position which thou didst there determine, thou didst propound many erroneous matters." Then said Master Jerome unto him, "Show me first one error which I propounded." Wherewithal he being in a manner astonished, said, "I do not remember them now at the first, but hereafter they shall be objected against you."
And by and by the third man rising up, said, "When that you were also at Heidelberg, you propounded many erroneous matters as touching the Trinity, and there painted out a certain shield or scutcheon, comparing the Trinity of persons in Divinity unto water, snow, and ice, and such-like." Unto whom Master Jerome answered, "Those things that I wrote or painted there, the same will I also speak, write, and paint here; and teach me that they be erroneous, and I will most humbly revoke and recant the same."
Then certain cried out, "Let him be burned, let him be burned." Unto whom he answered, "If my death do delight or please you, in the name of God let it be so."
Then said the archbishop of Salisbury, "Not so, Master Jerome, forasmuch as it is written, I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he convert and live." When these and many other tumults and cries were passed, whereby they did then most disorderly and outrageously witness against him, they delivered the said Master Jerome, being bound, unto the officers of the city of Constance, to be carried to prison for that night; and so every one of them returned to their lodgings.
In the mean time, one of the friends of Master John Huss, looking out at a window of the cloister, said unto him, "Master Jerome." Then said he, "You are welcome, my dear brother." Then said Peter unto him, "Be constant and fear not to suffer death for the truth's sake, of the which, when you were in times past at liberty, you did preach so much goodness." Unto whom Jerome answered, "Truly, brother, I do not fear death; and forasmuch as we know that we have spoken much thereof in times past, let us now see what may be known or done in effect." By and by his keepers coming to the window, threatening him with strokes, did put away the said Peter from the window of the cloister.
Then came there one Vitus unto Master Jerome, and said, "Master, how do you?" Unto whom he answered, "Truly, brother, I do very well." Then his keepers coming about him laid hold of the said Vitus, saying, "This is also one of the number," and kept him. When it drew towards evening, the archbishop of Reigen sent certain of his servants which led away Master Jerome, being strongly bound with chains, both by the hands and by the neck, and kept him so for certain hours. When night drew on, they carried him unto a certain tower of the city in St. Paul's churchyard, where they, tying him fast unto a great block, and his feet in the stocks, his hands also being made fast upon them, they left him; whereas the block was so high, that he could by no means sit thereupon, but that his head must hang downward. They carried also the said Vitus unto the archbishop of Reigen, who demanded of him, why he durst be so bold to talk with such a man, being a reprobate of all men, and a heretic; and when he could find no cause of imprisonment in him, and that he said he was Master John de Clum's friend, taking an oath and promise of him that he should not go about to endamage the council by reason of that imprisonment and captivity, so dismissed him and sent him away. Master Jerome, unknown unto us whither he was carried, lay in the said tower two days and two nights, relieved only with bread and water. Then one of his keepers coming unto Master Peter, declared unto him how that Master Jerome lay hard by in bonds and chains, and how he was fed. Then Master Peter desired that he might have leave given him to give him meat, because he would procure the same unto him. The keeper of the prison, granting his request, carried meat unto him. Within eleven days after, so hanging by the heels, he used so small repast, that he fell sore sick, even unto the death. When he living then in that captivity and prison desired to have a confessor, they of the council denied that he should have any, until such time as, by great importunity, he obtained to have one; his friends being then there present in the same prison and tower, wherein he then lay by the space of one year, lacking but seven days.
Illustration -- Jerome of Prague in the Stocks
After they had put John Huss to death, then about the feast of the Nativity of Mary the Virgin, they brought forth Master Jerome, whom they had kept so long in chains, unto the church of St. Paul; and threatening him with death, being instant upon him, they forced him to abjure and recant, and consent unto the death of Master John Huss, that he was justly and truly condemned and put to death by them. He, what for fear of death, and hoping thereby to escape out of their hands, according to their will and pleasure, and according to the tenor which was exhibited unto him, did make abjuration, and that in the cathedral church and open session, the draught whereof penned to him by the papists, here ensueth.
The abjuration of Master Jerome of Prague.
"I Jerome of Prague, master of arts, acknowledging the catholic church, and the apostolic faith, do accurse and renounce all heresies, and specially that whereof I have hitherto been infamed, and that which in times past John Huss and John Wickliff have holden and taught in their works, treatises, and sermons, made unto the people and clergy; for the which cause the said Wickliff and Huss, together with the said doctrines and errors, are condemned by this synod of Constance as heretics, and all the said doctrine sententially condemned, and especially in certain articles expressed in the sentences and judgments given against them by this sacred council.
"Also I do accord and agree unto the holy Church of Rome, the apostolic seat in this sacred council, and with my mouth and heart do profess in all things, and touching all things, and specially as touching the keys, sacraments, orders, and offices, and ecclesiastical censures, of pardons, relics of saints, ecclesiastical liberty, also ceremonies, and all other things pertaining unto Christian religion, as the Church of Rome, the apostolic see, and this sacred council, do profess; and specially that many of the said articles are notoriously heretical, and lately reproved by the holy fathers; some of them blasphemous, other some erroneous; some offensive unto godly ears, and many of them temerarious and seditious: and such also were counted the articles lately condemned by the sacred council, and it was inhibited and forbidden to all and singular catholic men hereafter to preach, teach, or presume to hold or maintain any of the said articles, under pain of being accursed.
"And I, the said Jerome, forasmuch as I have laboured by scholastical arts to persuade the opinion, that one substance of the common kind should signify many things subject under the same, and every one of them, as St. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, do affirm, and likewise others. For the teaching hereof by a plain example, I described as it were a certain triangle, form, or figure, the which I called the shield of faith.
"Therefore utterly to exclude and take away the erroneous and wicked understanding thereof, the which peradventure some men may gather thereby, I do say, affirm, and declare that I never made the said figure, neither named it the shield of faith, to that intent or purpose, that I would extol or prefer the opinion of universalities above or before the contrary opinion, in such sort, as though that were the shield of faith, and that without the affirmation thereof the catholic faith could not be defended or maintained, whenas I myself would not obstinately stick thereto; but this I said, because I had put example in the description of the triangle or form, that one Divine essence consisted in three subjects, or persons, in themselves distinct, that is to say, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The article of the which Trinity, is the chief shield of faith, and foundation of the catholic truth.
"Furthermore, that it may be evident unto all men what the causes were for the which I was reputed and thought to stick to, and favour sometime John Huss; I signify unto all men, by these presents, that when I heard him oftentimes, both in his sermons, and also in the schools, I believed that he was a very good man, neither that he did in any point gainsay the traditions of our holy mother the church, or holy doctors; insomuch as when I was lately in this city, and the articles which I affirmed were showed unto me, which were also condemned by the sacred council, at the first sight of them I did not believe that they were his, at the least not in that form; but when I had further understood by certain famous doctors and masters of divinity that they were his articles, I required for my further information and satisfaction to have the books of his own hand-writing showed unto me, wherein it was said those articles were contained. The which books, when they were showed unto me, written with his own hand, which I did know as well as mine own,.I found all and every one those articles therein written in like form as they are condemned. Wherefore I do worthily judge and think him and his doctrine, with his adherents, to be condemned and reproved by the sacred council, as heretical and without reason. All which the premises, with a pure mind and conscience, I do here pronounce and speak, being now fully and sufficiently informed of the aforesaid sentences and judgments given by the sacred council against the doctrines of the said John Wickliff and John Huss, and against their own persons; unto the which judgment, as a devout catholic in all things, I do most humbly consent and agree.
"Also I, the aforesaid Jerome, which before the reverend fathers the lords cardinals, and reverend lords, prelates, and doctors, and other worshipful persons of this sacred council in this same place, did heretofore freely and willingly declare and expound mine intent and purpose, amongst other things, speaking of the church, did divide the same into three parts; and, as I did perceive afterward, it was understood by some that I would affirm, that in the triumphant church there was faith. Whereas I do firmly believe that there is the blessed sight and beholding of God, excluding all dark understanding and knowledge. And now also I do say, affirm, and declare, that it was never my intent and purpose, to prove that there should be faith, speaking of faith as faith is commonly defined, but knowledge far exceeding faith. And generally whatsoever I said, either there, or at any time before, I do refer, and most humbly submit myself unto the determination of this sacred council of Constance.
"Moreover, I do swear both by the holy Trinity, and also by the most holy gospel, that I will for evermore remain and persevere without all doubt, in the truth of the catholic church. And all such as by their doctrine and teaching shall impugn this faith, I judge them worthy, together with their doctrines, of eternal curse. And if I myself at any time (which God forbid I should) do presume to preach or teach contrary thereto, I will submit myself unto the severity of the canons, and be bound unto eternal pain and punishment. Whereupon I do deliver up this my confession, and tenor of my profession, willingly before this sacred general council, and have subscribed and written all these things with mine own hand."
After all this they caused him to be carried again unto the same prison, but not so straitly chained and bound as he was before; notwithstanding, kept every day with soldiers and armed men. And when, afterward, his enemies which were appointed against him, as Michael de Causis, and wicked Paletz, with other their companions in these affairs, understood and knew by the words and talk of Master Jerome, and by other certain tokens, that he made the same abjuration and recantation, not of a sincere and pure mind, but only to the intent thereby to escape their hands; they, together with certain friars of Prague, of the order of Carmelites, then coming in, put up new accusations against the said Master Jerome, and drew the same into articles, being very instant and earnest that he should answer thereunto. And forasmuch as his judges, and certain cardinals, as the cardinal of Cambray, the cardinal de Ursinis, the cardinal of Aquilegia, and of Florence, considering the malice of the enemies of Master Jerome, did see the great injury that was done unto him, they laboured before the whole council for his delivery.
It happened upon a certain day, as they were labouring in the council for the delivery of the said Master Jerome, that the Germans and Bohemians his enemies with all force and power resisted against it, crying out that he should in no case be dismissed. Then started up one, called Doctor Naso, which said unto the cardinals, "We marvel much of you, most reverend fathers, that your reverences will make intercession for such a wicked heretic, for whose sake we in Bohemia with the whole clergy have suffered much trouble and mischief, and, peradventure, your fatherhoods shall suffer; and I greatly fear, lest that you have received some rewards, either of the king of Bohemia, or of these heretics." When the cardinals were thus rebuked, they discharged themselves of Master Jerome's cause and matter.
Then his enemies aforesaid obtained to have other judges appointed, as the patriarch of Constantinople, and a German doctor, forasmuch as they did know that the patriarch was a grievous enemy unto Master Jerome, because he, being before appointed judge by the council, had condemned John Huss unto death.
But Master Jerome would not answer them in prison, requiring to have open audience, because he would there finally declare unto them his mind, neither would he by any means consent unto those private judges. Whereupon the presidents of the council, thinking that the said Master Jerome would renew his recantation before the said audience, and confirm the same, did grant him open audience.
In the year of our Lord 1416, the twenty-fifth day of May, which was the Saturday before the Ascension of our Lord, the said Master Jerome was brought unto an open audience before the whole council, to the great cathedral church of Constance, where, by the commissioners of the council, in the behalf of his aforesaid enemies, there were laid against him of new, a hundred and seven articles, to the intent that he should not escape the snare of death, which they provided and laid for him; insomuch as the judges had before declared, that, by the saying of the witnesses, it was already concluded in the same audience. The day aforesaid, from morning until noon, he answered unto more than forty articles, most subtilly objected against him; denying that he held or maintained any such articles as were either hurtful or false, and affirming that those witnesses had deposed them against him falsely and slanderously, as his most cruel and mortal enemies. In the same session they had not yet proceeded unto death, because that the noon-time drew so fast on, that he could not answer unto the articles. Wherefore, for lack of time sufficient to answer unto the residue of the articles, there was another time appointed, which was the third day after the aforesaid Saturday before the Ascension of our Lord, at which time again, early in the morning, he was brought unto the said cathedral church, to answer unto all the residue of the articles.
In all which articles, as well those which he had answered unto the Saturday before, as in the residue, he cleared himself very learnedly, refelling his adversaries (who had no cause, but only of malice and displeasure were set against him, and did him great wrong) in such sort, that they were themselves astonished at his oration and refutation of their testimonies brought against him, and with shame enough were put to silence: as when one of them had demanded of him, what he thought of the sacrament of the altar, he answered, "Before consecration," said he, "it is bread and wine; after the consecration, it is the true body and blood of Christ;" adding withal more words according to their catholic faith. Then another rising up, "Jerome," said he, "there goeth a great rumour of thee, that thou shouldest hold bread to remain upon the altar." To whom he pleasantly answered, saying, that he believed bread to be at the baker's. At which words being spoken, one of the Dominic friars fumishly took on, and said, "What! doest thou deny that which no man doubteth of?" Whose peevish sauciness Jerome, with these words, did well repress, "Hold thy peace," said he, "thou monk, thou hypocrite;" and thus the monk, being nipped in the head, sat down dumb. After whom started up another, who with a loud voice cried out, "I swear," said he, "by my conscience, that to be true, that thou dost deny." To whom said Jerome again, "Thus to swear by your conscience is the next way to deceive." Another there was, a spiteful and a bitter enemy of his, whom he called by no other name than dog, or ass. After he had thus refuted them one after another, that they could find no crime against them, neither in this matter nor in any other, they were all driven to keep silence.
This done, then were the witnesses called for, who, coming in presence, gave testimony unto the articles before produced; by reason whereof the innocent cause of Jerome was oppressed, and began in the council to be concluded. Then Jerome, rising up, began to speak, "Forasmuch," saith he, "as you have heard mine adversaries so diligently hitherto, convenient it is that you should also now hear me to speak for myself." Whereupon, with much difficulty, at last audience was given in the council for him to say his mind; which being granted, he, from morning to noon continuing, treated of divers and sundry matters, with great learning and eloquence: who, first beginning with his prayer to God, besought him to give him spirit, ability, and utterance, which might most tend to the profit and salvation of his own soul. And so entering into his oration:
"I know," saith he, "reverend lords, that there have been many excellent men, which have suffered much otherwise than they have deserved, being oppressed with false witnesses, and condemned with wrong judgments." And so beginning with Socrates, he declared how he was unjustly condemned of his countrymen, neither would he escape when he might; taking from us the fear of two things, which seem most bitter to men, to wit, of imprisonment and death. Then he inferred the captivity of Plato, the banishment of Anaxagoras, and the torments of Zeno. Moreover, he brought in the wrongful condemnation of many Gentiles, as the banishment of Rupilius, reciting also the unworthy death of Boetius, and of others whom Boetius himself doth write of.
From thence he came to the examples of the Hebrews, and first began with Moses, the deliverer of the people, and the lawgiver, how he was oftentimes slandered of his people, as being a seducer and contemner of the people. Joseph also, saith he, for envy was sold of his brethren, and for false suspicion of whoredom was cast into bonds. Besides these, he reciteth Isaiah, Daniel, and almost all the prophets, who, as contemners of God, and seditious persons, were oppressed with wrongful condemnation. From thence he proceeded to the judgment of Susanna, and of divers other besides, who being good and holy men, yet were they unjustly cast away with wrongful sentence. At the length he came to John Baptist, and so in long process he descended unto our Saviour, declaring how it was evident to all men, by what false witnesses both he and John Baptist were condemned. Moreover, how Stephen was slain by the college of the priests, and how all the apostles were condemned to death, not as good men, but as seditious stirrers up of the people, and contemners of the gods, and evil-doers. "It is unjust," saith he, "unjustly to be condemned one priest of another," and yet he proved that the same hath so happened most unjustly in that council of priests. These things did he discourse at large, with marvellous eloquence, and with singular admiration of all that heard him.
And forasmuch as the whole sum of the cause did rest only in the witnesses, by many reasons he proved that no credit was to be given unto them, especially seeing they spake all things of no truth, but only of hatred, malice, and envy. And so prosecuting the matter, so lively and expressly he opened unto them the causes of their hatred, that he had almost persuaded them. So lively and likely their hatred was detected, that almost no trust was given to their testimonies, save only for the cause and quarrel wherein they stood touching the pope's doctrine. All men's minds here were moved and bending to mercy towards him; for he told them how that he, of his own accord, came up to the council, and, to purge himself, he did open unto them all his life and doings, being full of virtue and godliness. "This was," saith he, "the old manner of ancient and learned men and most holy elders, that in matters of faith they did differ many times in arguments, not to destroy the faith, but to find out the verity. So did Augustine and Jerome dissent, not only being diverse, but also contrary one from the other, and yet without all suspicion of heresy."
And this while the pope's holy council did wait still, when he would begin to excuse himself and to retract those things which were objected against him, and to crave pardon of the council. But he persisting still in his constant oration, did acknowledge no error, nor gave any signification of retractation.
At last, entering into the praise and commendation of Master John Huss, he affirmed, that he was a good, just, and holy man, and much unworthy that death which he did suffer. Whom he did know from his youth upward, to be neither fornicator, drunkard, neither any evil or vicious person, but a chaste and sober man, and a just and true preacher of the holy gospel; and whatsoever things Master John Huss and Wickliff had holden or written specially against the abuse and pomp of the clergy, he would affirm even unto the death, that they were holy and, blessed men, and that in all points of the catholic faith he doth believe as the holy catholic church doth hold or believe. And finally he did conclude, that all such articles as John Wickliff and John Huss had written and put forth against the enormities, pomp, and disorder of the prelates, he would firmly and stedfastly, without recantation, hold and defend even unto the death. And last of all he added, that all the sins that ever he had committed, did not so much gnaw and trouble his conscience, as did that only sin, which he had committed in that most pestiferous fact, when in his recantation he had unjustly spoken against that good and holy man and his doctrine, and specially in consenting unto his wicked condemnation, concluding that he did utterly revoke and deny that wicked recantation which he made in that most cursed place, and that he did it through weakness of heart and fear of death; and moreover, that whatsoever thing he hath spoken against that blessed man, he hath altogether lied upon him, and that he doth repent him with his whole heart that ever he did it.
And at the hearing hereof the hearts of the hearers were not a little sorry; for they wished and desired greatly that such a singular man should be saved, if otherwise their blind superstition would have suffered it. But he continued still in his prefixed sentence, seeming to desire rather death than life. And persisting in the praise of John Huss, he added, moreover, that he never maintained any doctrine against the state of the church, but only spake against the abuses of the clergy, against the pride, pomp, and excess of the prelates. Forasmuch as the patrimonies of the churches were first given for the poor, then for hospitality, and thirdly, to the reparations of the churches; it was a grief to that good man, said he, to see the same mispent and cast away upon harlots, great feastings, and keeping of horses and dogs, upon gorgeous apparel, and such other things, unseeming Christian religion. And herein he showed himself marvellous eloquent; yea, never more.
And when his oration was interrupted many times by divers of them, carping at his sentences as he was in speaking, yet was there none of all those that interrupted him which escaped unblanched, but he brought them all to confusion, and put them to silence. When any noise began, he ceased to speak, and after began again, proceeding in his oration, and desiring them to give him leave awhile to speak, whom they hereafter should hear no more; neither yet was his mind ever dashed at all these noises and tumults.
And this was marvellous in him to behold, notwithstanding he continued in strait prison three hundred and forty days, having neither book, nor almost light to read by, yet how admirably his memory served him; declaring how all those pains of his strait handling did not so much grieve him, as he did wonder rather to see their unkind humanity towards him.
When he had spoken these and many things as touching the praise of John Wickliff and John Huss, they which sat in the council whispered together, saying, "By these his words it appeareth that he is at a point with himself." Then was he again carried into prison, and grievously fettered by the hands, arms, and feet, with great chains and fetters of iron.
The Saturday next before the Ascension day, early in the morning, he was brought with a great number of armed men unto the cathedral church before the open congregation, to have his judgment given him. There they exhorted him, that those things which he had before spoken in the open audience, as is aforesaid, touching the praise and commendation of Master John Wickliff and Master John Huss, confirming and establishing their doctrine, he would yet recant the same; but he marvellous stoutly, without all fear, spake against them, and amongst other things said unto them, "I take God to my witness, and I protest here before you all, that I do believe and hold the articles of the faith, as the holy catholic church doth hold and believe the same; but for this cause shall I now be condemned, for that I will not consent with you unto the condemnation of those most holy and blessed men aforesaid, whom you have most wickedly condemned for certain articles, detesting and abhorring your wicked and abominable life." Then he confessed there before them all his belief, and uttered many things very profoundly and eloquently, insomuch that all men there present could not sufficiently commend and praise his great eloquence and excellent learning, and by no means could they induce or persuade him to recant.
Then a certain bishop, named the bishop of Londe, made a certain sermon exhortative against Master Jerome, persuading to his condemnation.
After the bishop had ended the said sermon, Master Jerome said again unto them, "You shall condemn me wickedly and unjustly; but I, after my death, will leave a remorse in your conscience, and a nail in your hearts. And here I cite you to answer unto me before the most high and just Judge within a hundred years."
No pen can sufficiently write or note those things which he most eloquently, profoundly, and philosophically had spoken in the said audience, neither can any tongue sufficiently declare the same; wherefore I have but only touched here the superficial matter of his talk, partly and not wholly noting thesame. Finally, when by no means he might be persuaded to rccant the premises, immediately, even in his presence, the sentence and judgment of his condemnation was given against him, and read before him.
"In the name of God. Amen. Christ our God, and our Saviour, being the true vine, whose Father is the husbandman, taught his disciples, and all other faithful men, saying, If any man dwell not in me, let him be cast out as a bough or branch, and let him wither and dry, &c. The doctrine and precepts of which most excellent doctor and master, this most sacred synod of Constance executing and following in the cause of inquisition against heretics, being moved by this said sacred synod, through report, public fame, and open infamation, proceeding against Jerome of Prague, master of arts, layman. By the acts and processes of whose cause it appeareth that the said Master Jerome hath holden, maintained, and taught divers articles heretical and erroneous, lately reproved and condemned by the holy fathers, some being very blasphemous, other some offending godly ears, and many temerarious and seditious, which have been affirmed, maintained, preached, and taught by the men of most damnable memory, John Wickliff and John Huss, the which are also written in divers of their works and books. Which articles of doctrine and books of the said John Huss and Wickliff, together with their memory and the person of the said John Huss, were, by the said sacred synod, condemned of heresy. The which sentence of condemnation this Jerome afterward, during the time of inquisition, acknowledged in the said sacred synod, and approved the true catholic and apostolic faith, thereunto consenting, accursing all heresy, especially that whereof he was infamed, and confessed himself to be infamed, and that which in times past John Huss and John Wickliff maintained and taught in their works, sermons, and books, for the which the said Wickliff and Huss, together with their doctrine and errors, were by the said sacred synod as heretical condemned. The condemnations of all which the premises he did openly profess and allow, and did swear that he would persevere and continue in the verity of that faith; and if that he should presume at any time to hold opinion or preach contrary thereunto, that he would submit himself to the trial and truth of the canons, and be bound to perpetual punishment. And this his profession, written with his own hand, he delivered unto the holy council. Many days after his said profession and abjuration, as a dog returning unto his vomit, to the intent he might openly vomit up the most pestilent poison which had long lurked and lain hid in his breast, he required and desired that he might be openly heard before the council. The which being granted unto him, he affirmed, said, and professed, before the whole synod, being publicly gathered together, that he had wickedly consented and agreed to the sentence and judgment of the condemnation of the said Wickliff and Huss, and that he had most shamefully lied in approving and allowing the said sentence, neither was he ashamed to confess that he had lied; yea, he did also revoke and recant his confession, approbation, and protestation, which he had made upon their condemnation, affirming that he never at any time had read any errors or heresy in the books and treatises of the said Wickliff and Huss. Albeit he had before confessed it, and it is evidently proved, that he did diligently study, read, and preach their books, wherein it is manifest that there are contained many errors and heresies. Also the said Master Jerome did profess as touching the sacrament of the altar, and the transubstantiation of the bread into the body of Christ, that he doth hold and believe as the church doth hold and believe, saying also, that he doth give more credit unto St. Augustine, and the other doctors of the church, than unto Wickliff and Huss. It appeareth, moreover, by the premises, that the said Jerome is an adherent and maintainer of the said Wickliff and Huss, and their errors, and both is and hath been a favourer of them. Wherefore the said sacred synod determineth the said Master Jerome, as a rotten and withered branch, not growing upon the vine, to be cut off and cast out. The said synod also pronounceth, declareth, and condemneth him, as a heretic, and drowned in all kind of heresies, excommunicate and accursed, leaving him unto the arbitrement and judgment of the secular judge, to receive just and due punishment, according to the quality of so great an offence; the sacred synod notwithstanding entreating that the said judge would moderate his sentence of judgment without peril of death."
The which sentence so given before his face, and ended, a great and long mitre of paper was brought unto him, painted about with red devils, the which when he beheld and saw, throwing away his hood upon the ground amongst the prelates, he took the mitre and put it upon his head, saying, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he should suffer death for me, most wretched sinner, did wear a crown of thorns upon his head; and I, for his sake, instead of that crown, will willingly wear this mitre and cap." Afterward he was laid hold of by the secular power.
After that, he was led out of the said church to the place of execution. When he was going out of the church, with a cheerful countenance, and a loud
voice, lifting his eyes up unto heaven, he began to sing, Credo in unum Deum, as it is accustomed to be sung in the church. Afterward as he passed along, he did sing some canticles of the church; the which being ended, in the entering out of the gate of the city, as men go unto Gothlehem, he did sing this hymn, Felix namque. And that response being ended, after he came to the place of execution, where Master John Huss before had suffered death innocently, kneeling down before an image which was like unto the picture of Master John Huss, which was there prepared to burn Master Jerome, he made a certain devout prayer.
Illustration -- Execution of Jerome of Prague
While he was thus praying, the tormentors took him up, and lifting him up from the ground spoiled him of all his garments, and left him naked, and afterwards girded him about the loins with a linen cloth, and bound him fast with cords and chains of iron, to the said image which was made fast unto the earth; and so standing upon the ground, when they began to lay the wood about him, he sung Salve festa dies. And when the hymn was ended, he sung again with a loud voice, Credo in unum Deum, unto the end. That being ended, he said unto the people in the German tongue, in effect as followeth: "Dearly beloved children, even as I have now sung, so do I believe and none otherwise. And this creed is my whole faith, notwithstanding now I die for this cause, because I would not consent and agree to the council, and with them affirm and hold that Master John Huss was by them holily and justly condemned, for I did know well enough that be was a true preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
After that he was compassed in with the wood up to the crown of the head, they cast all his garments upon the wood also, and with a firebrand they set it on fire. The which being once fired, he began to sing with a loud voice, In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. When that was ended, and that he began vehemently to burn, he said in the vulgar Bohemian tongue, "O Lord God, Father Almighty, have mercy upon me, and be merciful unto mine offences, for thou knowest how sincerely I have loved thy truth." Then his voice by the vehemency of the fire was choked and stopped, that it was no longer heard, but he moved continually his mouth and lips, as though he had still prayed or spoken within himself.
When in a manner his whole body with his beard was burned round about, and that there appeared, through the great burning, upon his body certain great bladders as big as an egg, yet he continually very strongly and stoutly moved, and shaked his head and mouth, by the space almost of one quarter of an hour. So burning in the fire, he lived with great pain and martyrdom, whilst one might easily have gone from St. Clement's over the bridge unto our Lady church; he was of such a stout and strong nature. After that he was thus dead in the fire, by and by they brought his bedding, his straw-bed, his boots, his hood, and all other things that he had in the prison, and burned them all to ashes in the same fire. The which ashes, after that the fire was out, they did diligently gather together, and carry them in a cart, and cast them into the river Rhine, which ran hard by the city.
That man which was the true reporter hereof, and which testified unto us the acts and doings about the condemnation of Master Jerome, and sent the same unto us to Prague in writing, doth thus conclude: "All these things," saith he, "I did behold, see, and hear to be done in this form and manner. And if any man do tell you the contrary, do not credit him; for all those things which happened unto him, when he .came toward Constance, and also at his first coming unto Constance of his own free will, and afterward when he was brought bound unto Constance, as is aforesaid, I myself did see and perfectly behold, and for a perpetual memory thereof to be had for ever, I have directed the same unto you, not lying or falsifying any point thereof, as He which is the searcher of all men's hearts can bear me witness, willing rather to sustain the note of ignorance and rudeness of style, to bear witness unto the truth, than I would by any means be compelled by tickling or flattering the - ears of the hearers with feigned and cloaked speech, to swerve or go aside from the truth."
Thus end the tragical histories of Master John Huss and Master Jerome of Prague, faithfully gathered and collected by a certain Bohemian, being a present witness and beholder of the same, written and compiled first in Latin, and so sent by the said Bohemian unto his country of Bohemia, and again translated out of the Latin, with like fidelity, unto our English tongue.