Thursday, 7 July 2011
Jan Hus Day
Yesterday was Jan Hus Day (John Huss), a national holiday in the Czech Republic. While for many Czechs the day is just the excuse for a holiday, it actually commerates the death at the stake of the country's most influential son.
"Seek the truth
Listen to the truth
Teach the truth
Love the truth
Abide by the truth
And defend the truth
This is my favourite Jan Hus quote, which I think sums up the man. While he was and is seen by his followers as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, Hus saw himself as a true Catholic, wishing simply to bring the church back to the truth of Christ's teaching and the practices of the early church. But in a world where there were at least two popes and sometimes three fighting it out for control of the church and using and being used by the secular powers Hus was always likely to fall foul of the political shifting sands.
After he died and his ashes scattered on the River Rhine his followers in Bohemia expanded on his teachings in a way that he might not have supported and then one hundred years later Martin Luther too claimed to be a follower of Hus.
Hus' significance within Czech history goes beyond theological history, Hus has huge significance on national identity. He preached in the Czech language and was a leading reformer of the written language (he is responsible for the hacek accent). Rightly or wrongly he was identified as a hero by Czech nationalists: he was deceived and destroyed by a German Emperor. His importance is reflected in the fact that you will find statues of Jan Hus in most towns and indeed Hus Squares and Streets.
But which Jan Hus is it - the man or the national myth? Which truth?
Check out the tour I am running - In the footsteps of Jan Hus and the Hussites