Episode 21 AD 1414-1460

The Hussite Wars

In 1400 Europe was religiously split and at war with itself in various regions. Constantinople would soon have fallen to the Turks besieging it had not Timur erupted from Samarkand and destroyed both Sultan Bayezid and his army. Meanwhile, during the period of respite, in the West exasperation with the Schism led to the Council of Constance, which finally healed it.

But the Council’s action also triggered an enormous religious millenarian revolution in Bohemia, called the Hussite Wars. The second Council at Basel entered into the direct conflict with the newly restored Roman papacy. The participation of the eastern Emperor and the entire hierarchy of the eastern church at the alternative Council convened by the pope at Florence outflanked the one at Basel, and also brought about a formal union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Meanwhile, in France a ruthless and triangular struggle was underway to seize power, between the Armagnacs, the dukes of Burgundy and the kings of England.

Contents of the video (1 hour & 4 mins.)

  • A lull in the 100 Years War was disrupted by the French king becoming insane. France was governed by ‘the uncles’, the dukes of Berry and Burgundy.
  • The eastern Emperor came to Europe to beg for help. But Constantinople was saved by the sudden invasion of Syria by Timur (Tamerlane), a Shia Muslim. In 1402 Timur destroyed the entire Turkish force and took Sultan Bayezid prisoner. But in 1422 his successor laid siege to Constantinople again.
  • Meanwhile in Europe attempts to heal the church schism only created a third anti-pope. The university theologians proposed a universal church council to resolve the problem. The French crown abandoned its anti-pope in order to acquire control of the Gallican church in France and its revenues. A general church council of Latin Christendom was convened at Constance in 1414.
  • The Council itself took hold of authority and eventually deposed all three anti-popes and elected Martin V to the office. The Council tried and burned Jan Hus as a heretic. It welcomed the Orthodox and believed that reunion between the two churches was at hand.
  • Pope Martin V returned to Rome in 1420, initiating what has been called the Renaissance papacy.
  • But in Prague a religious revolt erupted. Soon it became violent and took on a strongly millenarian character. The Hussite army was undefeated by successive Crusades launched against it. Warfare became the business of the Hussites and support for them to fade in Bohemia. In 1334 they were finally defeated and a compromise religious settlement was agreed for Bohemia, the first in Europe’s history.
  • The pope in Rome was opposed by the still sitting Council in Basel. A major political and ecclesiastic delegation from Constantinople came to the Council of Florence and sealed the reunion of the Greek to the Latin church. The event opened a flow of scholars and ancient texts from Constantinople to Italy, giving a boost to the already active movement of the Renaissance.
  • The Duchy of Burgundy as the most highly developed regime in Europe: its wealth and fabled court culture. The Renaissance court as the origin of the modern state. Murderous rivalry between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions.
  • The duke of Burgundy, in revenge for the assassination of his father by the Armagnacs, formed an alliance with the English. This was the beginning of the end game of the 100 Years War.

Now with the audio-only version included

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