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Jerome of Prague

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Jerome of Prague Foxe

The burning of Jerome of Prague, John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563)

Jerome of Prague (Jeroným Pražský in Czech, 1379 – May 30, 1416) was one of the chief followers and most devoted friends of John Hus. He was born in Prague to a wealthy family; after taking his bachelor's degree at the University of Prague in 1398, he secured in 1399 permission to travel. In 1401 he returned to Prague, but in 1402 visited England, and in Oxford copied out the Dialogus and Trialogus of John Wyclif, and thus evinced his interest in Lollardry. He also became an ardent and outspoken advocate of realism (as opposed to nominalism) and from then on Wyclifism and realism were charges which were constantly getting him into trouble. In 1403 he went to Jerusalem, in 1405 to Paris. There he took his Master's degree, but Jean Gerson drove him out. In 1406 he took the same degree at the University of Cologne, and a little later at the University of Heidelberg.

Praha, Nove Mesto - Reznicka (Jeronym Prazsky)

Jerome of Prague

He was no safer in Prague, to which he returned, and where, in 1407, he took the same degree. In that year he returned to Oxford, but was again compelled to flee. During 1408 and 1409 he was in Prague, and there his pronounced Czech preferences aroused opposition to him in some quarters. Early in January of 1410, he made a cautious speech in favour of Wyclif's philosophical views, and this was cited against him at the Council of Constance four years later. In March of 1410, a Papal Bull against Wyclif's writings was issued, and on the charge of favouring them, Jerome was imprisoned in Vienna, but managed to escape to Moravia. For this he was excommunicated by the bishop of Kraków. Returned to Prague, he appeared publicly as the advocate of Hus. Popular legend attributes to Jerome leadership of a protest in which papal bulls were first strung around the neck of a prostitute in a cart and then carried to the pillory in Prague to be publicly burned, but the leader was actually Wok of Waldstein.[1] In 1413 he was at the courts of Poland and Lithuania, making a deep impression by his eloquence and learning.

In Kraków, he was publicly examined as to his acceptance of the forty-five articles which the enemies of Wyclif had made up from Wyclif's writings and which they asserted represented Wyclif's heretical teachings. Jerome declared that he rejected them in their general tenor. When, on October 11, 1414, Hus left for the Council of Constance, Jerome assured him that if needed, he would come to his assistance. This promise he faithfully kept, for on April 4, 1415, he arrived at Constance. As he had, unlike Hus, come without a safe-conduct, his friends persuaded him to return to Bohemia. But on his way back he was arrested in Hirschau on April 20 and taken to Sulzbach, where he was imprisoned, and was returned to Constance on May 23, and immediately arraigned before the council on the charge of fleeing a citation — one having been really issued against him, but as he was away at the time he was ignorant of it.

His condemnation was predetermined in consequence of his general acceptance of the views of Wyclif, and also because of his open admiration of Hus. Consequently he had not a fair hearing. His imprisonment was so rigorous that he fell seriously ill and so was induced to recant at public sessions of the council held on September 11 and September 23 1415. The words put into his mouth on these occasions made him renounce both Wyclif and Hus. The same physical weakness made him write in Bohemian letters to the king of Bohemia and to the University of Prague, which were declared to be entirely voluntary and to state his own opinions, in which he announced that he had become convinced that Hus had been rightfully burned for heresy. But this course did not secure his liberation nor decrease the likelihood of his condemnation. On May 23, 1416, and on May 26, he was put on trial by the council. On the second day he boldly recanted his recantation, and so on May 30 he was finally condemned and immediately thereafter burned.

Jerome's attachment to the Church was sincere; consequently, as he rejected Wyclif's teachings as to the Lord's Supper, the council really had slender grounds for his execution. His extensive travels, his wide erudition, his eloquence, his wit, made him a formidable critic of the church of his day, and it was for his criticisms rather than for heresy that his death was compassed.

Jerome was also a Czech patriot, who explained that the Czechs were like the Israelites, a holy nation chosen by God.[2]


  1. Lea 2004, p. 450.
  2. Housely, Norman, “Holy Land or Holy Lands? Palestine and the Catholic West in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance,”, in Swanson, R.N., ed., The Holy Land, Holy Lands, and Christian History, Ecclesiastical History Society, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2000, p. 239.


lt:Jeronimas Prahiškis hu:Jeroným Pražskýpt:Jerônimo de Praga ru:Иероним Пражский sk:Hieronym Pražský

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