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Hussites (hŭsˈīts), followers of John Huss. After the burning of Huss (1415) and Jerome of Prague (1416), the Hussites continued as a powerful group in Bohemia and Moravia. They drew up (1420) the Four Articles of Prague, demanding freedom of preaching, communion in both kinds (i.e., both wine and bread) for the laity as well as priests, the limitation of property holding by the church, and civil punishment of mortal sin, including simony.
Although it ultimately failed, the Hussite movement is of permanent historical significance. It was the first substantial attack upon the two bulwarks of medieval society, feudalism and the Roman Catholic Church. As such it helped pave the way for both the Protestant Reformation and the rise of modern nationalism.
The Utraquists and the Taborites
In 1419 the Hussite Wars began, and in their course the Hussite movement splintered into several groups. The moderate group, called Utraquists [Lat. sub utraque specie=in both kinds] or Calixtines [Lat.,=chalice], consisted chiefly of the lesser nobility and the bourgeoisie. The Univ. of Prague was their center and Master Jan Rokycana their principal leader. Except for the demands made in the Four Articles, they agreed substantially with the Roman Catholic Church.
The more radical Hussites, the Taborites, named after their religious center and stronghold at Tabor, went further than the Utraquists in accepting the doctrines of John Wyclif. Consisting largely of peasants, this group expressed the messianic hopes of the oppressed. They regarded the Four Articles as minimal concessions. Their real goal was the total abolition of the feudal system and the establishment of a classless society without private property. From among their number came such leaders as John Zizka and Procopius the Great. Puritanical and iconoclastic, the Taborites reduced the sacraments to communion and baptism, denied the Real Presence, and abolished the veneration of saints and holy images.
The Hussite Wars necessitated a temporary alliance between the two groups. However, when the Utraquists were reconciled (1436) with the church through the agreement known as the Compactata, the Taborites refused to acquiesce. Of the demands of the original Four Articles, the Catholic Church conceded only on communion in both kinds. The obstinacy of the Taborites led to the alliance between the Utraquists and the Catholics and to the military defeat of the Taborites at Lipany (1534). After this, Taborite influence vanished from Bohemia. The Bohemian and Moravian Brethren are, however, probably descended from this group (see Moravian Church).
Further Division and Suppression
See H. Kaminsky, A History of the Hussite Revolution (1967); F. M. Bartos, The Hussite Revolution, 1424–1437 (1986).
members of the revolutionary antifeudal wing of the Hussite revolutionary movement. The Taborite Community (hence the name Taborites) was made up of heterogeneous social elements: broad strata of the peasantry, the urban poor, the lower clergy, artisans, and a segment of the lower gentry.
Basic to Taborite thinking, especially in the first period of the movement, was the revolutionary antifeudal peasant and plebeian ideology, the basis of which was the chiliastic teaching about “god’s kingdom on earth,” a kingdom of universal equality and social justice. The Taborites rejected the sacraments of the church and the luxuriant Catholic cult, and some rejected all of the Christian sacred rites and ceremonies. The left wing of the movement was made up of the Pickarts, who were opposed by the moderate Taborites, favoring primarily the interests of the prosperous peasants and well-to-do townsmen. In 1421 the moderate Taborites cruelly dealt with the leaders of the Pickarts (Martin Houska, for example).
In spite of disagreements, the Taborites remained the major military force in rebellious Bohemia. They created a field army under the command of Jan Žižka and developed advanced military tactics that provided for maneuverability and the use of battle wagons and artillery. The Taborite army, led by Mikuláš z Husi, Žižka, and Prokop the Great, soundly defeated five crusades organized by the anti-Hussite reaction. Along with the “orphans,” as the troops who had served under Žižka’s direct command called themselves after his death, the Taborites made a series of marches outside Bohemia. The Taborites’ disagreements with the burgher and knight elements (the Calixtines, or Utraquists) led to an open war between them. In a number of battles in 1423 and 1424 the Calixtines were defeated. On May 30, 1434, however, the Taborite army suffered a defeat at the hands of the united forces of the Calixtines and the feudal Catholic camp in a battle at Lipany; individual Taborite detachments continued the fight until 1437, when their last fortress, Sion, fell.
REFERENCESSee references under HUSSITE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT.
B. T. RUBTSOV