Even before the Bohemian reform movement known as Hussitism was condemned at the council of Constance, the Hussite teachings became subject of intensive religious polemics. From the first decade through the end of the fifteenth century, more than 250 polemical treatises contra Hussitas were produced. Due to the dynamics of the development in Bohemia, the Church authorities failed to eradicate the Hussite heresy by means of inquisition. The repression of Hussitism included two waves of crusades in 1420-31 and 1467-71, as well as a number of executions of Hussite sympathizers outside the Kingdom of Bohemia. The extermination efforts were interrupted by attempts at a reduction of the heretics by way of disputation, famously at the Council of Basel in 1433-37.
This paper will examine the role of the members of reformed and observant religious congregations in the multifaceted fight against Hussitism.
First, the share of the members of religious orders among the authors of anti-Hussite polemics will be assessed. While the Franciscans—despite the notable exception of Giovanni da Capestrano—did not feature among the authors of treatises against the Hussites in any large numbers, supporters of strict observance from other religious orders (e.g. Dominicans and Augustinians) played a not negligible role. Some prominent examples, such as the South German Dominican Johannes Nider, will be discussed.
In the second part of the paper, the activity of the observants as preachers of the Cross against the Hussites will be discussed. Compared to the great significance of the Observant Franciscans in anti-Turkish crusade preaching and in the religious and intellectual life in general, their activity in facing Hussitism turns out as rather small. Nevertheless, the preserved crusading sermons of the reformed Augustinian Hermite Oswald Reinlein from 1426 shed some light on this kind of activity. In general, we can observe that many of the anti-Hussite theologians and preachers expressed themselves also about other themes of current interest, including mendicant and monastic reform. Both Observance and Hussitism became important topics of public intellectual discourse of the fifteenth century.