06 August 2011

Jan Hus--Pictures of Bethlehem Chapel in Prague

In 1415 Bohemian religious reformer Jan Hus met his Maker after running afoul of Pope John XXIII over the sale of indulgences.  Hus also agreed with many of John Wycliffe's teachings.  Much of Hus's preaching took place at the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where he was also a rector at the university.  In the fifteenth century, the chapel had no seating and people stood to hear Hus preach, up to 3,000 at a time.  A Catholic view of Hus is available at the online Catholic Encyclopedia New Advent.  As an evangelical, I don't agree with the execution, nor the heresy charges, but this website gives the official reasoning for Hus's execution.

During my visit to Prague, I was able to take a short tour of Bethlehem Chapel.

Here is a photo of the exterior of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague.

The use of the chapel is now generally restricted to the university and tours, except for a somewhat ecumenical service on the anniversary of Hus's burning at the stake.  The chapel now has chairs, but one of the most interesting aspects of the main auditorium is a well:


Here is an interior view of the Bethlehem Chapel.  Note the well in the foreground.  Artwork adorns each wall.  A door opens to the box above the platform.  The rooms on the other side of the door housed Hus during his rectorship and now house museum exhibits regarding the history of Hus and Prague.

Here is one of the more striking images on the walls of the Bethlehem Chapel.  This image depicts the actual execution of Jan Hus.

 While Hus did not directly affect American church history because of his European background, he is widely acknowledged as a precursor of the Protestant Reformation that broke out nearly 100 years after his execution.  There is also a tie between England and Hus through his espousing the teachings of Wycliffe.  Even though Hus was not an American, it was pretty cool to stand in a room as an evangelical and think that exactly 600 years ago, one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation preached to huge crowds in this very hall at the risk of his very life.  Few places can hold such a significance.


  1. It's unfortunate that this most important historical site is not open to the public as I would love to see it. Jan Hus is a most interesting character and played a very important part in the evolution of personal freedom that we enjoy today. More should be known about this man but I find the general teaching of history in most western countries is extremely narrowly focused.

  2. Actually, I was able to tour the site. It was open to the public at least as late as last August (2011). Has it closed down? Hus was definitely an important figure related to freedom of religion. It was unfortunate for him in some ways, but good for Europe.


  3. I read a remarkable story about this Bethlehim Chapel in D'Aubigny's (1850's) History of the Reformation -- it seems that when Hus was in prison in Constance shortly before his death, he had a dream in which he saw a painting of Christ which he had executed on the wall of the chapel, being defaced by a number of churchmen. The next night, he dreamed that he saw the picture being restored by a multitude of people, on a larger and far more beautiful scale than before. He thought that the dream was prophetic in some way, and related it to his friend, the Chavalier Du Schul. Indeed, it was prophetic, of the heaven-sent Reformation which he heralded.