“More Glory than Blood”: Murder and Martyrdom in the Hussite Crusades
Fudge, Thomas A. (Christchurch, New Zealand)
Bohemian Reformation and Religious Practice, Volume 5, Part 1 (2004)
In 1418 Pope Martin V urged the ecclesiastical hierarchy in east-central Europe to proceed against the Hussite heretics in all possible manner to bring their dissent to an end. Two years later a formal bull of crusade was proclaimed and the cross was preached against the recalcitrant Czechs. The story of the crusades which convulsed Bohemia for a dozen years is well known. Five times the cross was preached, crusade banners hoisted and tens of thousands of crusaders poured across the Czech frontier with one pre–eminent goal: to eradicate the scourge of heresy. At Prague in 1420, peasant armies commanded by Jan Žižka won an improbable victory and the crusaders, under the personal command of Emperor Sigismund, retreated in disarray and defeat. At Žatec the following year, Hussites once again saw a vastly superior army withdraw disorganized and crushed. In 1422 the crusaders were unable to overcome their internal squabbles long enough to mount any real offensive and once more had little option other than to retreat in dishonour. For five years the crusading cause rested. Then in 1427 the crusaders struck again, first at Stříbro and then at Tachov in western Bohemia. Prokop Holý’s forces scattered them ignominiously. Once more, in 1431, the armies of the church and empire were mustered and with great force marched through the Šumava [Bohemian Forest] to confront the enemies of God. The odds favoured the crusaders. They out–numbered the heretics by a four to one margin, were militarily superior to the flail–touting peasants and were under the command of Friedrich of Brandenburg, veteran warrior in charge of his third crusade, and the spiritual direction of the president of the ecumenical Council of Basel, Cardinal Guiliano Cesarini.