Jan Hus Memorial in Praha
The Jan Hus Memorial stands at one end of Old Town Square, Prague in the Czech Republic. The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus and a young mother which symbolizes national rebirth. It was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus’ martyrdom. The memorial was designed by Ladislav Šaloun and paid for solely by public donations. Born in 1370, Hus became an influential religious thinker, philosopher, and reformer in Prague. Hus believed that Catholic mass should be given in the vernacular, or local language, rather than in Latin as well as many teachings of John Wycliffe. This did not go over well with the Vatican in Rome and Huss was ultimately condemned by the Council of Constance and burned at the stake in 1415.
The people of Bohemia and other regions around Prague were constantly under oppressive regimes. Jan Hus became a symbol of dissidence and a symbol of strength against oppressive regimes. His opposition to church control by the Vatican gave strength to those who opposed control of Czech lands by the Habsburgs in the 19th century, and Hus soon became a symbol of anti-Habsburg rule. When the statue was erected in 1915 during World War I, the memorial became a symbol of anti-Russian rule. A couple decades later when Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, sitting at the feet of the Jan Hus memorial became a way of quietly expressing their opinion and opposition against the Communist rule. Another memorial statue commemorating Jan Hus is found in the Union Cemetery in Bohemia, Long Island. This statue was erected in 1893 by voluntary contributions from Czech immigrants, and it is the first officially dedicated memorial in the United States erected to honor a foreigner.
- Sharon L. Wolchick, “Czechoslovakia,” in Eastern Europe: Politics, Culture, and Society since 1939, ed. Sabrina P. Ramet (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).
- Constructing Nationalities in East Central Europe, eds. Pieter M. Judson and Marsha L. Rozenblit (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005).