Emperor Charles IV (1346–1378) as the Architect of Local Religion in Prague
Mengel, David C.
Austrian History Yearbook 41 (2010)
THE IDEA OF REFORM STILL SUPPLIES THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE for most accounts of late medieval religion in Bohemia. Like a brightly colored thread, reform marks a trail leading forward from Jan Hus (d. 1415) to the leaders of the sixteenth-century Reformation, as well as backward to a series of precursors in the fourteenth century. This essay takes a different path through the religious culture of fourteenth-century Bohemia and of Prague, in particular. Rather than following the traditional historiography in identifying a handful of fourteenth-century Prague preachers as revolutionary forerunners of Jan Hus, this essay situates these and other figures within a more complicated and multivalent local religious culture, a culture that was carefully molded by Central Europe’s most powerful authority. No one shaped Prague’s local religion more dramatically than the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV (r. 1346–1378), as three examples offered here will illustrate. Like an architect, Charles IV designed much of Prague’s vibrant local religion. Nevertheless, neither he nor anyone else completely controlled it.