Jan Hus

Symphonic Meditation on “A Mighty Fortress” W.Zeitler

Jan Hus (1369–1415) was one of the earliest reformers — something of a “John the Baptist” laying the groundwork for the Reformation that was to come a century later. Hus was a Czech professor and preacher who — influenced by England’s John Wycliffe (1331–1384) — railed against the moral and theological scandals of the Church of his day, including ‘indulgences’ and the idea of Purgatory. Hus also promoted the scurrilous ideas of Scripture in the local language of the people, congregational hymn singing, and married priests. For his efforts he was burned at the stake.

The Hussites (followers of Hus) ultimately became the Moravian Church — arguably the first Reformation Church — predating Luther by a century. (A later bishop of that church, John Comenius (1592–1670) was an important education reformer (when he wasn’t dodging being burned at the stake himself), laying the foundations of many of our modern ideas for educating youth, including the outrageous idea of education for girls.)

Hussite Bishop Luke (1460–1528) in particular was so enthused about revitalizing congregational singing that he helped spearhead the publication of the first modern-day hymnal designed for congregational use in 1501. It contained eighty-nine hymns in Czech. Some were translations of ancient (Latin) hymns and chants, but others were compositions by Hus and other Hussite leaders.

And so Martin Luther (1483–1546) in many ways fanned embers into full flame which had already been lit by Hus and his followers.