MAP#56: Jan Hus and the Hussite Wars

Jan_Hus_Hussite_WarsJan Hus was a Czech or more accurately for his time, a Bohemian priest, philosopher and religious reformer who shock up the catholic church in the 15th century. We’ll look at his life, his ideas about religion and the catholic church and the wars fought in his name.

I have shelves and shelves of medieval history books and almost all of them handle the history of Jan Hus and the Hussite Wars the same way…briefly. Most give the subject one or two paragraphs and nothing more.

On today’s episode we are going to look at Jan Hus and the Hussite Wars in depth. We’ll look at the history of Hus and the Hussite Wars. A series of Wars, Crusades really, fought against his followers. We’ll also look at the Military mastermind Jan Zizka. Zizka holds a very significant distinction with only 7 other military leaders in all of history! Tune in to find out.

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In this episode we discuss:

  • Jan Hus
  • Hus and his reformation process
  • Hussite Wars
  • Jan Zizka
  • And more…

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The music was provided by Tim Rayburn. It is available at



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Comments 3

  1. Sasha Von Laue says:

    Awesome Episode! I didn’t know a lot of this and find your podcast great.

  2. PetrKratoska says:

    Hi, I just found your podcast and listened to a couple including this one. It is a subject 
    of interest to me because I was born in the town of Tabor (founded by Hussite Revolutionaries in 1420) and often walked past Zhizka’s statue on the way to school, so I (like many Czechs) am familiar and proud of this part of our history although it is relatively unknown in the west.  There are only a couple of books on the subject, the best one by Frederick Heymann in the 50s who was a Czech professor in the US.

    Some points that you did not mention were that Zikmund (or Sigismund) of Hungary was the brother of the Czech King Vaclav and for this reason he claimed the throne after Vaclav’s death.

    Another salient point about Jan Zizka was that he had gained a lot of military experience as a bit of a bandit in his youth (quite common for poor knights in those days) but he also fought the Teutonic Knights in the 1410 battle of Tannenberg/Grunnwald in Poland.
    The most amazing thing about Zizka as well, was that he’d been blind in one eye from childhood but lost his remaining eye at a siege of the Castle Rabi in the early 1420’s.  So for the last 4 years of his life and during his most spectacular battle victories he was completely blind.  He relied on his lieutenants to describe the landscape and was able to use it to his advantage, such as in Malesov where he was pursued by a larger army but as he entered the small town with a hill on one side and river on the other he ordered his men to go up the hill and load a number of wagons with stones.  When the pursuing army arrived he ordered the wagons to be released down hill at the troops and ordered his men to charge, which forced them into a river and completely routed them.
    The Battle of Kutna Hora was fascinating as well.  Zizka had taken hold of the town, which was a strategically important silver mining town.  Zizka’s army was encamped outside the city walls when Sigismund arrived with his superior force and blocked Zizka’s escape.  Through subterfuge the Hussites in Kutna Hora were killed and the town taken back by Royalists.  Zizka was now trapped outside the wall and by the larger Sigismund army. What he did next was quite amazing.  He ordered all his cannon to fire directly on Sigismunds encampment and then led an immediate charge, which caused Sigismunds army to flee, where they were slaughtered and many drowned in the icy rivers nearby.  This was the first real time anyone had used field artillery in battle – now quite commonplace.  

    Moreover, at the battle of Nemecky brod which followed the rout, Zizka for the first time lost control of his soldiers who sacked the city. This led him to formulate a number of rules of war and engagement, firmly establishing top down authority.  
    In this way he is the founder of the modern military system.  He had brought back a system of command, with lieutenants and centurions (captains) which had existed with the Romans but been largely forgotten. Some historians believe that he had been influenced by Vegetius’s writing, whose De Re Military was available and read in parts of Europe at the time.  He was very successful at building a peasant army and using what they were familiar with – such as wagons, and flails (with added spikes).  Zizka also was one of the first to use firearms in significant numbers.  In the podcast you mention the guns were primitive rifles. They were bigger than handguns, but essentially tubes but they were not “rifled” as far as I know.  In fact we owe the word pistol (in Czech Pistala or whistle/flute) and howitzer (Czech houfnice)  to the Hussite wars. 

    It is a fascinating part of history. Had the printing press been invented maybe fifty years earlier, the Hussites might have been as successful as Luther.   
    In any case Frederick Heymann, strongly believed that despite the religious slant, the Hussite Revolution was the first of a number of democratic revolutions that eventually swept the west – including the English Puritan revolution, the American and French.

    Even though Sigismund did eventually get the kingdom it was not for long, and only a few years later the Czech got a George of Podebrady, a Hussite King.

  3. Matěj Cepl says:

    The Hussite battle hymn is nothing when not sung, and particularly sung by the large male choir. The best version I could find on YouTube is The English text could be find on