Constance, Council of, a general council of the Church of Rome, held between 1414 and 1418. After the death of Gregory XI. the French and Italian cardinals could not agree on a successor, and so each party chose its own candidate. This led to a schism which lasted 40 years. When the Emperor Sigismund ascended the throne in 1411, there were three Popes, each of whom had anathematized the others. To put an end to these disorders and to stop the diffusion of the doctrines of Huss, Sigismund went in person to Italy, France, Spain, and England, and summoned a general council. In this council the teaching of Wyclif and Huss was condemned as heretical, and the latter was burned July 6, 1415; while his friend and companion, Jerome of Prague, met the same cruel fate May 30, 1416. After the ecclesiastical dignitaries supposed they had sufficiently checked the progress of heresy by these executions they proceeded to depose the three Popes -- John XXII., Gregory XII., and Benedict XIII. Martin V. was legally chosen to the papal chair. Sigismund now thought a complete reformation might be effected in the affairs of the Church; but the new Pope having retired to Italy against the emperor's will the assembly was dissolved, and his object was not attained.

After the council had been convinced of the heresy of Huss, the Bishop of Concordia read the sentence that his books should first be burned, and that he, as a public and scandalous heretic, and an evil and obstinate man, should be disgracefully deprived of his priestly dignity, degraded, and excommunicated. The sentence was immediately executed, and began with the degradation. The Bishop of Milan and six other bishops led Huss to a table where lay the garments used in the mass, and the other raiment of the priests; they clothed him with them, and when he was in full dress, with the cup in his hand, the bishops once more called upon him to save his life and honor, and to abjure his opinions. Huss refused, and the bishops cried out to him, "Descend from the scaffold." The Bishop of Milan and another bishop now took the cup, saying, "O Huss, we take from thee the cup in which was offered the blood of Christ; thou art not worthy of Him." The other bishops then came forward, and each one took off some part of the priestly apparel with the same speech. When they had finished with the clothes they scraped his shaven crown (to designate the removal of the oil of consecration). Finally, they placed on his head a paper crown, nearly a yard high, with devils painted upon it, and the inscription, "John Huss, arch-heretic." The bishops now turned to the emperor and said, "The holy council of Constance now surrenders to the temporal power and tribunal John Huss, who has no longer office or dignity in the Church of God." The emperor arose and took Huss, and said to the palatine Louis, "As we, dear cousin and prince, wear the temporal sword, take this John Huss and have him punished as becomes a heretic." Louis led Huss to the Provost of Constance, to whom he said, "Upon the sentence of our gracious lord, the Roman Emperor, and our special order, take this Master Huss, and burn him as a heretic." The governor gave him to the executioner and his attendants, and Huss was burned.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

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