"Jan Hus"
Jan Hus
Public DomainJan Hus

Hus was a Czech priest, philosopher, and reformer who lived between about 1372 and 1415, and a key predecessor to Martin Luther and Protestantism. He was excommunicated in 1411 and eventually burned at the stake for disputes with the Catholic Church over matters of theology. Himself influenced by the English theologian John Wycliffe, who oversaw some of the first translations of the Bible into English in the late 14th century, Hus spoke out against the practice of indulgences, and declared that no pope or bishop had the right to take up the sword in the name of the Church.

His writings also influenced the way in which the Czech language is written today, with the use of diacritics -- the extra marks added to letters that indicate pronunciation and emphasis. (Note, for example, the names of the composers in the previous bookmark). July 6, the anniversary of the martyrdom of Jan Hus, is a public holiday in the Czech Republic. The statue below was erected in 1915.

Jan Hus statue in Old Town Square of Prague
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJan Hus statue in Old Town Square of Prague

Sabina’s contempt for Czech expatriates in Western Europe is expressed by the fact that none of them “had ever read a line of his works,” and “The only thing they were all able to understand was … the glory of the flames … so for them the essence of being Czech came down to ashes and nothing more.”