PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Bohemian king George of
Podebrad vs. the Catholic nobles
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Bohemia
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: King George of Podebrad
wished to make Utraquist Hussite the official religion of
OUTCOME: The national party grew to a position of
dominance in Bohemia, and King Ladislas II, the son of
King Casimir of Poland, became king of Bohemia.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
TREATIES: Treaty of Olomouc, December 7, 1478
Before the Hussite Wars (1419–1436) followers of Protestant renegade John Huss (1369–1415) had been much persecuted in Bohemia. But after George of Pode-brad (1420–71), leader of the Utraquist faction of the Hussites, seized power and declared himself regent in the Bohemian Civil War (1448–1551), he rose to become king in 1459. An ardent nationalist, George sought to make the sect’s beliefs, as outlined in the 1420 Four Articles of Prague (i.e., the word of God should be preached freely; communion should be administered in both kinds to clerics and to laymen; the worldly possessions of the clerics should be abolished; and public sins should be exposed and punished), the bedrock of his country’s official religion. At the Council of Basel in 1431, Catholic and Utraquist emissaries had reached a compromise under which the Roman church agreed to accept watered-down versions of the Four Articles. It was these “compacts” that George was now hoping would hold Rome at bay while he basically imposed Hussite Protestantism on Bohemia.
To give him his due, George was subtle and also truly wished to rule as a king of “two peoples.” Anxious to be
crowned according to the Catholic rites first prescribed by Charles IV (originally called Wenceslaus) (1361–1419), he took extraordinary measures to accommodate the adherents of Rome in Bohemia. He welcomed an envoy of two bishops from his son-in-law, King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1440–90), and took a secret oath in their presence to defend the true faith and lead his people from error. He felt free to do so because the compacts were not specifically mentioned. George’s coronation was held in Protestant Prague, but he asked papal envoys to help him acquire recognition from Catholic Breslau in Silesia.
Nevertheless, George knew that eventually he could achieve lasting peace only by actually resolving once and for all his country’s religious issues, and toward that end, after having so carefully enhanced his prestige at home and abroad, he attempted to have Pope Pius II (1405–64) sanction the compacts in 1462. Instead, the pope declared them null and void. George responded by calling an assembly in Prague and affirming his devotion to the Four Articles. Neither man seemed ready to back down, despite the best efforts of several princes, including Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (1415–93). Matters only grew worse when the new pope, Paul II (1417–71), elected in 1464, adopted an even more aggressive stance, openly encouraging George’s foes, especially in Breslau.
Bohemia’s Roman Catholic nobles then rose against George at Zelena Hora in 1465. Paul II excommunicated George and other Hussites in 1466 and released George’s Catholic subjects from their oath of allegiance to the king. In spring 1467 George launched an attack on rebel castles throughout Bohemia and on their strongholds at Breslau and other Catholic centers. Although desultory, his campaign was showing signs of success before the rebels rallied aid from Hungary’s King Matthias (see Bohemian Hungarian War [1468–1478]). At first the Hungarian king was unsuccessful during his invasions of Bohemia, but on May 3, 1469, the Bohemian nobles elected Matthias king of Bohemia. To save his throne, George made a deal with King Casimir IV (1429–92) of Poland and relinquished his sons’ rights of succession. In 1471, after George’s death, Casimir’s son, Prince Uladislas II (or Ladislas) (1456–1516) was selected king of Bohemia. The war waged by King Matthias ended with the Treaty of Olomouc, which recognized Uladislas as king of Bohemia and secured Moravia, Silesia, and Licesia (Lusatia) for Matthias.