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Abstract

Seduced by the Theologians: Aeneas Sylvius and the Hussite Heretics
Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, famed humanist of the Renaissance, conciliar activist and later pope, was the first historian of the Hussite heresy. There are two significant documents: a lengthy letter to Cardinal Juan Carvajal (1451) and the Historia Bohemica (1458). Aeneas wrote on the basis of some first-hand knowledge of the Hussite heresy having twice visited the city of Tábor in 1451. As a representative of the official church, Aeneas was an apologist for the Roman Church at the end of the Middle Ages and by extension was also a defender of European civilization. This posture characterizes his history of the Czech heretics. Since the Bohemians had broken with the official church, they could be regarded only as the associates of Hell, the Devil and all perverseness. That the experiment at Tábor deviated from notions of medieval society as a corpus Christianorum, Aeneas was compelled by his horror of disobedience and deviation to delineate the Hussites as demonized wickedness, and his history is a sustained defense of why these heretics deserved the maximum punishment. Aeneas follows the canon of Lateran IV in assimilating the Czech heresy as just another face of an unruly beast but whose tail can be found linked to all other heresies. This conviction allows his history to present the Hussites as enemies of the apostolic see: Bohemia was a cesspool of infection which threatened to overflow into the rest of Europe . While deeply repulsed at the thought of heretical depravity, his history clearly reveals his fascination with the barbarous Slavs. The Historia Bohemica is in part theological history insofar as its author presents the doctrinal impulses of a movement in some detail. At this point he is able to ascribe cause and effect: there is no error in faith not caused by theologians. "Who has seduced the Czechs if not the theologians?" Attempts at ecclesiastical reformatio and renovatio produced heresy. Doctrinal deviance, disobedience and depravity mark the Hussite movement and the Historia Bohemica outlines the entire revolution as a negative enterprise burdened by its own base and degenerate orientation. Page after page of the humanist- turned pope's - history reveals theological seduction and the compelling prose and startling tales established a major narrative tradition which lasted until the nineteenth century.

Biographical Sketch

Thomas A. Fudge is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, . He holds a PhD in theology from Otago University and a PhD in history from Cambridge University . He is the author of four books, two of them on the Hussite heresy: The Magnificent Ride: The First Reformation in Hussite Bohemia (Ashgate, 1998) and The Crusade against Heretics in Bohemia (Ashgate, 2002) as well as more than thirty scholarly articles on various aspects of religious history. His research areas are mainly in late medieval and Reformation Europe. He currently teaches courses on Medieval Europe, the Reformation, witch hunting, and Hussites and is actively continuing research on Hussite history.

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