Even though it is not historically proven that Jan Hus really lived in this 15th century studwork house located at the heart of the medieval old town of Constance, it became a memorial for the famous Czech national hero and clerical reformer.
Already a hundred years before his colleague Martin Luther from Wittenberg criticized indulgences and questioned the power and wealth the catholic church had accumulated by doing so, Jan Hus started to preach similar messages, erecting clerical polemics and hostility. Born around the year 1370 in Husinec (Southern Bohemia) to a poor family, he later left his village and started an academic career at the University of Prague, one of the first universities on the European continent. After his studies in philosophy and theology he later became dean and rector of the University, being a popular scholar and mentor of a large number of students. His popularity also saved him when he started to question the oppression the population faced from Catholic Church, especially by calling out the indulgences as unjustified. As a priest he introduced and discussed the reformist thoughts of his English predecessor John Wycliffe in Prague and developped his own reformist stance, which finally led to his excommunication and ban from the city.
Jan Hus’ scripts and speeches fell on fertile ground at the dawn of 15th century, when Catholic church went through a deep crisis. The situation of the Papal Schism (there were three Popes in Rome, Avignon and Pisa at the same time) and protests against clerical violence and greed all over Europe made reforms necessary. In 1415 the city of Constance became the scene of the Council of Constance, where the Church was re-unified by electing a new pope and establishing a synod that lowered Papal supremacy. Besides that the council failed to address and solve the ugent social and political problems. As mentioned above, Jan Hus was followed by a long list of reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli.
Jan Hus found a dramatic end: even though he got excommunicated he was invited to join the Council as an expert by King Sigismund and was guaranteed with protection. After a long and exhausting journey and a few weeks in Constance, his enemies managed to arrest him and Hus spent a whole year in a cold cell, where he refused to recant his writings. In 1415 he got sentenced to death as a punishment for his heresy and was burnt in public. His remainings were thrown into the Rhine river.
Already during his life time, Jan Hus was very popular and after his death a social movement (Hussitism) was formed, leading to the Hussite Wars. Later on Hus’ heritage inspired many reformers and founders of protestant movements. Throughout Czech and Czechoslovakian history he served as a national hero, for nationalistic, republican and even socialist political movements. The museum dedicated to Jan Hus was founded in 1923 when the Museum Society of Prague bought the building. The current permanent exhibition was realized in 2014 and plays an important role in German-Czech relations.