Full Text for Luther's Attitude Toward John Hus (Text)
Ibid., leaf 16 B.
66 "Praefatio" to Theses 405, Gussmann, op. cit., II, p.10l.
67 So, at least, it was claimed, Luther to Amsdorf, January 2, 1526,
WA, Briefe, 4, 3; see the note to J. K. Seidemann, "Schriftstuecke zur
Reformationsgeschichte," Zeitschrift fuer historische Theologie, 44
756 LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS
die Sucht!" 68 When the above-mentioned pamphlet on the
Lord's Supper appeared,69 and when Luther published essays
and books praising Hus,7° the theologizing duke feared that
the heresiarch's influence would assert itself in his land, too.n
Royalty was joined to nobility in that denunciation when
Henry of England expressed the thought that perhaps Luther
would flee to the Bohemians if the situation 'in Germany grew
too hot for him 72 - a rumor that had been current for some
time.73 Ever the politician, Henry used the example of the
Bohemians to warn the Saxon dukes of what continued tolera-
tion of Luther might mean.H The rumor which had come to
Henry's ears about Luther's trips to Bohemia eventually grew,
so that he was said to be a Czech himself, born and reared
in Prague.75 In 1528 a book appeared under the name of
J. Faber, comparing Luther unfavorably with Husj76 George
Witzel took Luther's Smalcald Articles as an occasion to
remind Luther of what he had written to the Bohemians in
1523;77 and ultimately even Erasmus joined in.78 Johann
68 According to Froeschel's report, quoted by Karl Friedrich Koeh-
ler, "M. Sebastian Froeschel," Zeitschrijt juer historische Theologie,
42 (1872), 535.
69 Duke George to Elector Frederick of Saxony, December 27, 1519,
StL 19, 450-51.
70 Duke George to Luther, December 28, 1525, W A, Briefe, 3, 648.
71 Duke George to Elector Frederick of Saxony, December 27, 1519,
StL 19, 450-51; and Frederick's answer, December 29, 1519, StL 19,
72 "Adsertio septem sacramentorum," StL 19, 149.
73 Cf. note 34 above; also Conrad Pellicanus to Luther, March 15,
1520, WA, Brieje, 2, 67; Silvester von Scharmberg to Luther, June 11,
1520, WA, Briefe, 2, 121; Luther to Spalatin, July 10, 1520, W A, Briefe,
74 Henry to Elector Frederick, Dukes John and George, February 20,
1523, StL 19, 357.
75 He first heard of the rumor early in 1520: Luther to Spalatin,
January 10, 1520, W A, Bricfc, 1, 608; it was substantiated a few days later,
Luther to Spalatin, January 14, 1520, WA, Brieje, 1, 610; see also Luther
to Johann Lang, January 26, 1520, WA, Briefe, 1, 619; and "Verklaerung
etlicher Artikel in dem Sermon von dem heiligen Sakrament," W A 6,
76 It was called: "Nonaginta articuli, in quibus Joan. Hus et
Pighardi, Waldenses ac Wesselius tractabiliores ac meliores Martino
Luthero inveniuntur," Gussmann, op. cit., II, p.45.
77 "Antwort auff Martin Luthers letzt bekennete artickel, unsere
gantze religion und das concili belangend" (1538), edited by Hans Volz
(Muenster, 1932), p.l06.
78 "Purgatio adversus epistolam non sobriam Lutheri," quoted in
Grisar, op. cit., I, p. 82.
LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS 757
Fisher summarized the feelings of many when he stated that
"Iohannes Husz pontificem Romanum totius ecc1esiae divino
iure monarch am profitetur, Lutherus contra penitus rec-
Sooner or later someone was bound to see the dangers
connected with identifying Luther and the Hussites. Despite
its disadvantages for the theory of papal supremacy, the Bo-
hemian schism did perform the function of preventing the
formation of a bloc against Rome. But if Luther were to take
Hus' part in the controversy, might that not effect such a bloc,
brought on by the loyal Roman Catholics who had used the
Hussite stratagem to force Luther into a heretical position?
That danger was a real one, and something had to be
done about it. The most obvious way to accomplish this was
to play one Bohemian group against another and thus to irri-
tate the disunity in the Bohemian situation as a lever against
the chances of Luther's uniting with the Czechs. Such a
thought seems to have occurred already to Eck, since he was
concerned about the pious Czechs.so But it remained for
Hieronymus Emser, one of Eck's cronies, to take concrete
steps in that direction. While in the service of Duke George,
Emser had an opportunity to travel in Bohemia;81 and on this
trip, or a similar one, he acquired a Bohemian mistress.82
Feeling that such a connection with Bohemia imposed upon
him the duty of setting Czech affairs straight, Emser wrote
an essay for the faithful Czechs a month after the Leipzig
Debate.sa After calling Bohemia a "terra ... supstitionis
& confusionis" and lamenting the fact that the religious situa-
tion had even divided families,84 the treatise goes on to show
that there was no connection between Luther's position and
that of the Czechs, and that Luther had repudiated the role
79 "Epistola dedicatoria" to Sacri Sacerdotii Defensio contra. Lu-
the1'!tm, edited by Hermann Klein Schrneink (Muenster, 1925), p.6.
so So, at least, it seems from his let1!er to the Elector Frederick,
July 22, 1519, StL 15, 1287.
81 Gustav Kawerau, Hieronymus Emser (Halle, 1898), p. 18.
82 Luther ridiculed Emser about this liaison, "Ad aegocerotem
Emserianum M. Lutheri additio," W A 2, 661; other references in Kawerau,
op. cit., p.1l9.
83 De disputatione Lipsicensi, quantum ad Boemos obiter deflexa est.
There is an old edition of this epistle in Pritzlaff Memorial Library.
84 De disputatWne, leaf 1 A.
758 LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS
,of being a patron of Hus and the Czechs. Emser appealed to
the. leader of the Czech Catholics to rally to the cause of
Church and country.85 Luther recognized the significance of
Emser's treatise, exclaiming: "Nova miracula, qui ab Eccio
delyrabar esse Boemus, ab Emserio mihi infensiore quam multi
Eccii Boemus esse abnegor"; 86 but he still condemned the
schismatic Bohemians 87 and so did not enter into the alliance
of which Emser and his coreligionists were so afraid.
Nevertheless, as Luther's contacts with the Czechs grew,
Emser's fears spread among other Catholics. illustrative of
the situation in which Luther's opponents found themselves
is Johann Cochlaeus (1479-1552). He may himself have
come from a Slavic family - his real name was Dobneck 88 -
and was in contact with Bohemia, both through personal
visits 89 and particularly through correspondence with various
people there. He carried on an extensive correspondence
especially with Pietro Paolo Vergerio (1497-1564), papal
legate in Prague,90 from whom, among other things, Cochlaeus
sought financial help from the legacy of a wealthy Czech for
historical and polemical writing,91 chiefly against Luther. The
character of that writing is apparent from his history of the
Waldenses,92 'in which he recorded, as he said, "articulos
haereticorum, quos approbat noster antipapa." 93
But more important than his W aldensian study was
Cochlaeus' research in Hussite history. In his magnum opus
in this field, which is useful even today 94 and which caused
85 Ibid., leaf 3 A. For another example of Emser's use of Hus in
polemic see Barge, Karlstadt, I, p. 395.
86 "Ad Aegocerotem Emserianum M. Lutheri Additio," W A 2, 658.
87 Ibid., pp.661-63.
88 Theodor KoIde, "Cochlaeus," Realenzyklopaedie, 4, 194.
89 Cf. Cochlaeus to Aleander, written from Prague, April 12, 1534,
ZKG 18, 247; W. Friedensburg's note, ZGK 18, 270; and Cochlaeus to
Cardinal Farnese, June 18, 1540, ZKG 18, 433.
90 See Karl Benrath, "Vergerio," Realenzyklopaedie, 20, 546--50.
91 Cochlaeus to Vergerio, December 24,1533, ZKG 18, 242; March 14,
1534, ZKG 18, 243; April 27, 1534, ZKG 18, 249; July 27, 1534, ZKG
92 On the progress of this writing, which was apparently the re-
working of an older manuscript, see Cochlaeus to Aleander, May 5, 1521,
ZKG 18, 111; Cochlaeus to Aleander, June 11, 1521, ZKG 18, 115; his
complaint to the Pope, June 19, 1521, ZKG 18, 117; and his desire to re-
vise it, Cochlaeus to Aleander, September 27, 1521, ZKG, 18, 125.
93 Cochlaeus to Aleander, May 11, 1521, ZKG 18, 112; on Luther as
"antipapa," cf. Cochlaeus to Morone, March 19, 1538, ZKG 18, 284.
94 See Joseph Sauer, "Cochlaeus," The Catholic Encyclopedia; 4, 79.
LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS 759
him much grief while he was writing it,95 he purposed to ex-
pose "utrorumque Hussitarum, Bohemicorum et Teuthoni-
corum, malicia et perniciosa machinatio." 96 As a result of
these researches, Cochlaeus was quite free in applying the
name "Hussite" to Luther 97 and in blaming Hussite influ-
ences for Luther's doctrinal aberrations.98 Nevertheless, Coch-
laeus seems to have had fears similar to those of Emser, with
whom he was in constant contact and whose opinion and work
he highly respected.99 But there were factors in the religious
and political situation that made Cochlaeus even more ap-
prehensive than was Emser about driving Luther and the
Perhaps chief among those factors for Cochlaeus was the
Polish question. Emser had feared a tie-up of Luther and
the Czechs; Cochlaeus feared the influence of the Lutheran
movement upon other lands throughout Europe, but especially
upon Poland. He frequently referred to the fact that one of
the chief purposes of his writing was the prevention of the
spread of the Lutheran heresy outside Germany,lOO and also
the counteracting of the 'influence of Luther's translated
books.101 Being probably quite aware of the many churches
which the Unitas Fratrum had in Poland, Cochlaeus must have
known of the intense struggle that had been going on in Poland
for over a century, with the lower clergy supporting the
95 Cochlaeus to Aleander, June 25, 1535, ZKG 18, 265; Cochlaeus to
Johann Fabri, October 28, 1534, ZKG 18, 258. The book was put on the
Index by Sixtus V: Kolde, "Cochlaeus," p.200.
96 Cochlaeus to Aleander, September 8, 1534, ZKG 18, 256-57; he
wanted to defend the Apostolic See, Cochlaeus to Vergerio, July 27,
1534, ZKG 18, 254.
97 Luther is referred to as "novus Hussita," Cochlaeus to Pope Leo,
June 19, 1521, ZKG 18, 116; Hus is referred to as Luther's "magister" in
Cochlaeus' Articuli CCCCC Martini Lutheri (1526), art. 63. This latter
writing is also in Pritzlaff Memorial Library, Saint Louis.
98 On the doctrine of the Church, Cochlaeus' Articuli, art.159; on
purgatory, ibid., art. 109, also note 64 above; on miracles at holy places,
Articuli, art. 154; on the mass and other ceremonies, ibid., art. 220; in
general, Luther and his followers preach "Hussitica et Pighardica iam
oHm damnata dogmata," ibid., art. 113.
99 ," ••. solus Emserus perstat invictus," Cochlaeus to Aleander,
September 27, 1521, ZKG 18, 124; on Emser's answer to "An christlichen
Adel," Cochlaeus to Aleander, May 22, 1521, ZKG 18, 114.
100 Cochlaeus to Ottonello Vida, July 26, 1536, ZKG 18, 268; Coch-
laeus to Vergerio, June 2, 1534, ZKG 18, 253; Cochlaeus to Aleander,
September 8, 1534, ZKG 18, 257; Cochlaeus to Vergerio, July 27, 1534,
ZKG 18, 254.
101 Cochlaeus to Vergerio, June 2, 1534, ZKG 18, 253.
760 LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS
Hussites and the higher clergy, with German backing, ad-
vocating the eradication of the Hussite heresy.lo2 That situa-
tion was still in a state of flux in the sixteenth century, and
any strong unifying force might have brought about a re-
alignment. Of this Cochlaeus was afraid - of an alliance
between Poland, Bohemia, and Lutheran Saxony agai.'1st
Cochlaeus' fears regarding the young Polish noblemen
who were enrolled at Wittenberg have been described else-
where.10s When it was rumored about that one of the Polish
bishops was inviting Melanchthon to Poland 104 and that even
the young Polish king was "lutherico fermento infectus," 105
he began to write profusely. He was overjoyed when the
Polish king forbade his nobles to send their sons to Witten-
berg to study, attributing the success of this to his books and
to the grace of God.10G But what he feared almost happened
anyway in 1537, when reports came that some of Melanch-
thon's noble Polish pupils were plotting a rebellion "non modo
contra episcopos, sed etiam contra regem ipsum." 107 The
rebellion failed to materialize, but Cochlaeus was never com-
pletely certain of Poland's relation to the Church of Rome.
Because of such fears, it is not surprising to learn that
Cochlaeus was careful about how he dealt with Luther-Hus
polemics. As noted above, he did call Luther a Hussite. And
while he could not avoid seeing and pointing out affinities
between Luther's position and that of the Hussites, notably
on the Eucharist/os he took every chance to point out that
Luther was now guilty of what he had criticized in the
102 Cf. Ed. Dav. Schnaase, "Die boehmischen Brueder in Polen und
die Reformierten in Danzig," Zeitschrift fuer historische Theologie, 37
(1867), 125-56. For more detailed bibliography, see my article on the
Consensus of Sandomierz, referred to in note 1 above.
lOS "The Consensus of Sandomierz," CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL
MONTHLY, XVIII (1947), p.831; see also the statistics cited there, p.837.
104 Cochlaeus to Aleander, April 23, 1534, ZKG 18, 248. The ar-
rangements were being made through Andrew Krzycki; d. Theodor
Wotschke, Geschichte der Reformation in Polen (Leipzig, 1911), p. 27.
105 Cochlaeus to Vergerio, July 27, 1534, ZKG 18, 255; NuntiatuT-
berichte aus Deutschland nebst ergaenzten Aktenstuecken, I (Gotha,
1892), No. 108, p.291.
106 Cochlaeus to Aleander, June 25, 1535, ZKG 18, 265.
107 Cochlaeus to Aleander, October 7,1537, ZKG 18, 275--76.
108 See note 98 above; on the Eucharist, Articuli CCCCC, art. 422;
and Cochlaeus to Morone, August 31, 1537, ZKG 18, 272.
LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS 761
Czechs,109 namely, the perversion of the Scriptures in proof of
a position 110 and particularly the sectarianism to which Luther
had often pointed.111 This he did, of course, to show the
Czechs, as had Emser, that Luther was different from them.
Another strategy he employed for that same purpose was his
aid to Catholic Czechs. Among them was J oh11 Hasenberg,
for whom he secured financial assistance.n~ He perrormed
the same favor for four Czech noblemen.lls The provost of
All Saints' Church in Prague, Simon Villaticus, managed to
publish his poems in Leipzig through Cochlaeus' interces-
sion.114 So concerned was Cochlaeus about the problem of
Luther's alliance with the Hussites that he hoped to use the
Czechs as a lever to bring the Germans back to the Church 115
and wanted to revise his history of the Hussites to avoid
offending the Czechs.ll6 And though he pretended to be
shocked 117 at Luther's statement of 1520 that "si ille [Hus]
fuit haereticus, ego plus decies haereticus sum," 118 it ac-
tually gave him an opportunity to continue his strategy by
granting Luther's point.1l9
But Cochlaeus' attempts were in vain. The forces which
Eck had set in motion at Leipzig were too strong to be
checked; and by the time Luther's enemies had become aware
of the dangers latent in the Hussite myth, Luther's friends
and Luther himself had willingly accepted the charge and
were acquainting themselves with Hus and his views.
109 Articuli CCCCC, art. 152 and 243.
110 Confutatio XCI. articulorum (Cologne, 1525), art. 66. Like other
works previously cited, this tract is preserved in Pritzlaff Library.
111 Cf. note 49 above; WA 1, 625; WA 1,697. See Cochlaeus, "Ein
noetig und christlich bedencken auff des Luthers artickeln, die man
gemeynsamen concilio fuertragen sol," edited by Hans Volz (Muenster,
112 Cochlaeus to Vergerio, March 14, 1534, ZKG 18, 243; May 29,
1534, ZKG 18, 252.
113 Cochlaeus to Bishop Giberti, January 31, 1540, ZKG 18, 422-23.
114 Cochlaeus to Morone, January 12, 1538, ZKG 18,282; and Johann
Metzler in Tres Orationes Funebres in Exequio Iohannis Eckii Habitae
(Muenster, 1930), p. iv; a sample of Villaticus' poetry is on p.7.
116 Cochlaeus to Johann Fabri, October 28, 1534, ZKG 18, 259.
116 Cochlaeus to Vergerio, November 16, 1535, ZKG 18,266.
117 Articuli CCCCC, art. 228; "Ein noetig ... bedenken," p.7.
118 "Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bullam Leonis X.
novissimam damnatorum," W A 7, 135.
119 Commentarius de actis et scriptis Mt. Lutheri (German transla-
tion, 1581), p. 550.
762 LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS
As late as 1522 some of Luther's friends were still de-
fending him against the Hussite charge.12o But soon after,
Otto Bruruels became the first of the Evangelicals to publish
some of Hus' works. More significant was the work done by
Johann Agricola in acquainting himself and others with the
life of Hus. l21 In 1529 he collaborated with Nicholas Krum-
bacher in the publication of a "History und warhafftige ge-
schicht" about Hus; it was published in Hagenau, the same
city in which Hus' De ecclesia had come out for foreign con-
sumption for the first time.122 The treatise is largely a col-
lection of documents -letters, reports and speeches - deal-
ing with Hus' defense at Constance.123 In 1536, after moving
to Wittenberg, Agricola published a German translation of
Luther's edition of some of Hus' letters; the next year there
appeared a "Disputatio Iohannis Hus, quam absoluit dum
ageret Constantia," containing various tracts by Hus; and in
1538 Agricola wrote a five-act drama of Hus' martyrdom.124
It was this last piece of work 125 which moved Cochlaeus to
compose a dialog between Luther and a friend proving that
the Council of Constance was correct in condemning Hus.126
Because of all this activity on Agricola's part, it is not sur-
prising that it should have been Agricola who wrote the
preface to the Apologia of the Unitas Fratrttm when that
document appeared in 1538.127
120 Cf. the anonymous "Ein kurze anred zu allen misgunstigen
doctor Luthers, und der christenlichen Freiheit" in Oskar Schade (ed.) ,
Satiren und Pasquille aus der Reformationszeit (2d ed.; Hanover, 1863),
121 Agricola's research and publicistic activity in this field are well
summarized in the chapter "Hussitica" .in Gustav Kawerau, Johann
Agricola von Eisleben (Berlin, 1881), pp.118---28.
122 Jan Jakubec, Dejiny literatury ceske, I (Praha, 1929), p.316.
123 Although I have been unable to find a copy of Agricola's original,
there is what seems to be a second edition in the Pritzlaff Memorial
Library. The book is anonymous and bears the title: "Die in Huszen
bekriegte, doch unbesiegte Wahrheit" (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1686);
cf. page 4.
124 See the selections from it in Kawerau, Agricola, pp. 120-21.
125 Cf. Cochlaeus to Aleander, October 7, 1537, ZKG 18, 2:77.
126 ·Ein heimlich gespmech von der tragedia Johannis Huszen,
edited by Hugo Holstein (Halle, 1900). Kawerau, Agricola, p. 122, n.2,
seeks to disprove Cochlaeus' authorship, but his arguments are not
127 Cf .. Georg Loesche, Luther, Melanchthon und Calvin in Oester-
reich-Ungarn (Tuebingen, 1909), p.55.
LUTHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD JOHN HUS 763
Such were the forces, hostile and friendly, which brought
Luther to the conviction that he was supporting the same
cause for which, a hundred years before, John Hus had lived
a hero's life and died a martyr's death. The development of
Luther's attitude toward Hus is important for the entire
history of Protestantism in Eastern Europe, since it was chiefly
through this attitude that relations between the Reformation
and Eastern lands were stimulated. It is no less significant
for the light it sheds on Luther's "Entwicklung zum Re-
formator" and on the evolution of his reformatory conscious-
ness, for which his attitude toward Hus is a helpful barometer.
Luther's appreciation of Hus also helps explain why, in 1538,
he was willing to endorse a confessional document, the Con-
jessio Bohemica, which was not completely Lutheran in every
respect. It is to this latter problem, valuable for the present
ecclesiastical and theological crisis, that we hope to turn in
a later article.