- Jan Hus Between Time and Eternity: Reconsidering a Medieval Heretic by Thomas A. Fudge
Thomas A. Fudge's collection of essays on Jan Hus is neither a biographical nor a conventional historical study. Rather, Fudge seeks to address issues in Hus's life and martyrdom, and in the reception of Hus that are generally not considered. Part I, 'Priest and Reformer in Prague', contains chapters on possible influence on women's spirituality in Bohemia, Hus's sex life (he had no active sex life but did write on sex, for example, accusing Czech priests of living immoral lives, and in a commentary on the Ten Commandments), and apocalyptic dimensions of his thought. Fudge cleverly mines textual evidence (Hus's own writings, those of his predecessors, like John Wycliffe, and contemporaries) to illuminate his subject. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were tumultuous with regard to religious dissent and eschatological expectations, and Hus was no exception; he expected the end of times, and martyrdom made him an inspiration to 'those left to struggle in "the night of Antichrist" in the shadow of eternity' (p. 70).
The second part, 'Martyr at Constance', contains four investigations by Fudge. Chapter 4, 'Hus on Trial', considers the ways that different parties at Hus' trial regarded him. His accusers ranged from 'detached' Jan Železný to Štěpán Páleč, who was a friend of Hus but deemed him as 'proud, arrogant, truculent, and unable to absorb any critique without recourse to defamatory threats' (p. 85). This study makes clear that there were nuances between Hus's opponents, and that some were genuinely enemies where others were not. The next chapter takes up the theme of heresy that dominated the trial at Constance, situating Jan Hus in the late medieval context of heresy hunting. The chapter 'Friendship and Faith: The Prisoner and the Knight', which addresses the relationship between Hus and Lord Jan Chlum, is one of the most intriguing and moving in the book. A sizeable correspondence between Hus and Chlum survives (an 'Appendix' deals with it), and Chlum challenged Pope John XXIII on Hus's behalf after he was arrested (a guarantee of safe conduct had been given by the pontiff). The final chapter in this part, '"The Other Sheep": Reflections on Heresy by a Suspected Heretic', analyses Hus's [End Page 198] writings on simony and other divergent theological views, and probes the idea that he believed that separating 'the wheat and the tares' was too dangerous, too difficult, and that there were 'other sheep' (p. 153).
Part III, 'Legacy to the World', is comprised of three chapters that consider the afterlife of Hus. The first argues that he was not a significant presence (as inspiration or rallying point) of the later Hussite Crusade, and questions whether that might be in part because he was radically opposed to violence and killing. The second considers Hus in the light of heretical predecessors and subsequent Reformation heroes like Martin Luther. The six-hundredth anniversary of Hus's death at Constance in 1414 was the occasion that sparked many of Fudge's essays, and a half-millennium has passed since Luther's 'Ninety-five Theses or Disputations on the Power of Indulgences' were nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, the start of the Reformation, which changed Christianity irrevocably. Chapter 10, 'The Seven Last Words of Jan Hus', situates the words Hus uttered as he left the prison and walked to the stake, and leaves readers in no doubt of the great faith Hus possessed, and his absolute trust in God. Fudge's final chapter, 'Politicizing the Legend of Jan Hus: Problems and Perspectives', is a historiographical study that reveals fault-lines and fissures in Hus scholarship that persist to the present day. This is a lively and readable study, filled with surprises (unusual subjects of research, original methods to get close to Hus's ideas and context, and new conclusions). It will be of interest to scholars of late medieval...