Jan Hus was a priest, scholar and reformer of the early 15th century. Inspired in part by the thought of the English reformer John Wycliff, Hus became a provocative figure in and around Prague, as a result of his public sermons, writings and liturgical innovations. The Emperor Charles IV had made Prague his capital city, investing heavily in a new cathedral and the university. Hus was rector of Charles University, and his reform movement had political implications, and consequences. A tumultuous time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, with three separate claimants to the papacy, Hus, with assurances of his safety, arrived in Konstanz in November, 1414 to participate in a church council. He was arrested, condemned, imprisoned, and, on July 6, 1415, Hus was burned at the stake.

Hus’s death became a powerful symbol of the struggle for church reform; more narrowly, Hus became a Czech martyr, with the legacy and memory of his death intertwined with the emergence of a Hussite church and with national and cultural identities. Martin Luther, when it became clear he was on a collision course with the church hierarchy, claimed, “we are all Hussite’s now.” Most recently, in June, 2015, two Hussite flags were hoisted at Prague castle, which is the presidential seat of the Czech Republic.

Hussite flags (red) fly alongside the state flags at Prague Castle, June, 2015.