The Unity of the Brethren (Czech: Jednota bratrská; Latin: Unitas Fratrum), also known as the Czech or Bohemian Brethren, is a Protestant movement founded in 1457, whose roots are in the pre-Reformation work of Petr Chelčický and Jan Hus (see Bohemian Reformation). For the denomination founded by the movement, see Moravian Church.
The reforms of Jan Hus, which included providing the Scriptures to the people in their own language and making both elements of communion available to the people, were popular with the Czech people, but met extreme opposition from church authorities. Hus was executed, but his preaching and writings were instrumental in the formation of the Hussite movement. The Hussite movement broke into several strands, one of which (the smallest) became known as the Unity of the Brethren.
The roots of this radical and pacifistic stream within the early Hussite movement go back to Petr Chelčický. Official formation is usually attributed to the year 1457 when the first ordinations took place in a small village called Kunvald near Žamberk and Litice, which was under the lordship of King George Podiebrad, in northeastern Bohemia. The original theological foundation for the future Unity of the Brethren was laid by Petr Chelčický and Brother Řehoř (Gregor), the latter often considered one of the main founders. Lukáš Pražský, whose theological ideas strongly shaped the movement after the passing of Chelčický and Řehoř, provided later leadership. Another important leader was Jan Augusta, who spent many years in horrible imprisonment. The "last bishop" of Unity of the Brethren, Comenius (Jan Amos Komenský) is known for his reforms in education. During the second half of the 16th century, members of the Unity of the Brethren translated the Bible from the original languages into the Czech. This translation is known as the Bible of Kralice (Bible kralická), which until recently the most widely used Czech biblical translation, with an influence similar to the King James Version in the English-speaking world.
After 1620, due to a counter-reformation by the Roman Catholic Church, Bohemian Protestants were forced to choose between leaving the country or practicing their beliefs secretly. Descendants of members of the Unity of the Brethren who stayed in Bohemia and Moravia (keeping the Unity teachings alive by clandestine meetings), mostly from villages on the Moravian-Silesian border, made up the core of a regrouping a century later in Saxony under the influence of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. They formed the church which is now known as the Moravian Church (in Canada and United States except Texas), Jednota bratrská (in the Czech Republic) and the Unity of Brethren (in local languages mostly everywhere else, including Texas).
During the Thirty Years War, the Unity of Brethren churches were severely persecuted, as they were targeted by local counter-reformation nobles. As a result, they were dispersed to other Slavic lands, various German states, and as far as the Low Countries, where Comenius attempted to direct a resurgence in manner similar to the secret Jews (Marranos) in Spanish Habsburg and other Roman Catholic lands.
Those who stayed in Bohemia and Moravia practiced their beliefs in secret and privately passed their beliefs from one generation to the next. Even after Emperor Joseph II proclaimed toleration in 1781, only Lutherans and Calvinists were allowed to openly practice their faith. Many of the Brethren united with the Lutherans and Calvinists around that time. After the end of World War I and the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Czech Lutherans and Calvinists formed a united church – the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren.
After the imperial edict of 1861, which granted legal rights to Reformed churches, Unity of the Brethren missionaries from Germany were able to restore the church to its original Czech homeland. The first congregations was founded in 1870 in Potštejn, and in Dube in 1872. Before the First World War, eight other churches had been planted. The Unity of the Brethren in the Czech Republic worked among the Czechs and the Germans, started orphanages in Čermná and Duba, and conducted missionary work in South Africa.
From about the middle of the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War, a number of Czech Protestants immigrated to USA. In most of the US they formed Czech churches within the Presbyterian Church. Those who settled as farmers in the state of Texas in the United States decided to form their own denomination. Jindřich Juren (1850–1921) came to Texas in 1876, and from 1881 through 1888 was the only minister to these Brethren congregations. Representatives of these congregations met in 1903 and formed the Evangelical Unity of the Bohemian-Moravian Brethren in North America. The early churches reflected their origin and worshipped in the Czech language. By the 1940s, most of the churches reflected assimilation into the surrounding culture and worshipped in the English language. In 1959, the name Unity of the Brethren was adopted.
This body accepts the Apostles' Creed as a valid expression of their beliefs, and stresses the ancient motto, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love." They believe the Bible is God's revelation to man, the sourcebook for all spiritual truth; that one God is revealed in three persons; that Christ is the only way of salvation; that salvation is by grace through faith; that the Holy Spirit dwells in believers; and that Jesus Christ will return to judge the world and reward the faithful believers. The Unity practices two sacraments—water baptism and holy communion. Christian parents present their infant children for baptism. All Christians are invited to communicate with them at the Lord's supper or communion. However, they do not regard full agreement on the elements, methods and modes of the sacraments as essential. They believe that love is the supreme evidence of Christian disciples.
The Unity of the Brethren church has adopted a church emblem having an open Bible, with a cross behind in the center, and a chalice in front to the left. According to the church, the "cross represents Christ as the resurrected and living Lord, the Bible is the sourcebook of all Christian truth, open for all to explore, while the chalice holds special significance for Brethren: not only is it a symbol of the Lord's Supper, but it is also a reminder of the pre-Reformation insistence of John Hus and the early Brethren upon receiving wine as well as bread in Holy Communion."
Currently the church is made up of 28 congregations with an estimated membership of 3500, with all except one located in the state of Texas. The location of the majority of churches is roughly the area from West, Temple, to Austin to Houston. The synod meets every two years. The Unity of the Brethren maintains several ministry organizations, including the Board of Christian Education; Brethren Youth Fellowship; Brethren Bookstore, operated in Caldwell, Texas; Brethren Journal (founded 1902); Christian Sisters Union; Friends of the Hus Encampment; Grants and Bequests Board; the Hus Institute for Lay Leadership (which meets with the various congregations); and the Mutual Aid Society. The Hus Encampment Facility is located near Caldwell, Texas. They have no seminary, but support the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Three missionary families are serving in Honduras and Mexico.
The Bible of Kralice, also called the Kralice Bible (Czech: Bible kralická), was the first complete translation of the Bible from the original languages into the Czech language. Translated by the Unity of the Brethren and printed in the town of Kralice nad Oslavou, the first edition had six volumes and was published between the years 1579 and 1593. The third edition, from 1613, is classic and till this day the most widely known and used Czech translation. The New Testament had been translated from the Greek by Jan Blahoslav and published in 1564.Bohemian Reformation
The Bohemian Reformation (also known as the Czech Reformation or Hussite Reformation), preceding the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, was a Christian movement in the late medieval and early modern Kingdom and Crown of Bohemia (mostly what is now present-day Czech Republic, Silesia and Lusatia) striving for a reform of the Roman Catholic Church. Lasting for more than 200 years, it had a significant impact on the historical development of Central Europe and is considered one of the most important religious, social, intellectual and political movements of the early modern period. The Bohemian Reformation produced the first national church separate from Roman authority, the first apocalyptic religious movement of the early modern period, and the first pacifist Protestant church.The Bohemian Reformation was not an internally unified movement and did not remain immutable. Although it split into many groups, some characteristics were shared by all of them – communion under both kinds, distaste for the wealth and power of the church, emphasis on the Bible preached in a vernacular language and on an immediate relationship between man and God. The Bohemian Reformation included particularly the efforts to reform the church before Hus, the Hussite movement (including e.g. Taborites and Orebites), the Unity of the Brethren and Utraquists or Calixtines.
Together with the Waldensians, Arnoldists and the Lollards (led by John Wycliffe), the Bohemian Reformation's Hussite movement is considered to be the precursor to the Protestant Reformation. These movements are sometimes referred to as the First Reformation in the Czech historiography. Despite the influence of the German and Swiss Reformations, the Bohemian Reformation did not bleed into them, although many Czech Utraquists grew closer and closer to the Lutherans. The Bohemian Reformation kept its own development until the suppression of the Bohemian Revolt in 1620. The victorious restored King Ferdinand II decided to force every inhabitant of Bohemia and Moravia to become Roman Catholic in accordance with the principle cuius regio, eius religio of the Peace of Augsburg (1555). The Bohemian Reformation ended up being diffused in the Protestant world and gradually lost its distinctiveness. The Patent of Toleration issued in 1781 by Emperor Joseph II did not lead to a restoration of the Bohemian Reformation. Joseph II did not respect the Bohemian religious tradition and therefore only Lutheran, Calvinist and Eastern Orthodox faiths were made legal in the Crown of Bohemia and other parts of his realm. In spite of the extinction of the Bohemian Reformation as a distinctive Christian movement, its tradition did not disappear. Many churches (not only in the Czech Republic) do not forget their legacy, refer to the Bohemian Reformation and try to continue its tradition, e. g. the Moravian Church (the continuator of the scattered Unity of the Brethren), Protestant Church of Czech Brethren (Českobratrská církev evangelická), Czechoslovak Hussite Church (Československá církev husitská), Church of Brethren (Církev bratrská), Unity of Brethren Baptists (Bratrská jednota baptistů) and other denominations.Daniel Strejc-Vetterus
Daniel Strejc [streytz] (Autumn of 1592 - probably 1669) was a Czech priest of the Unity of the Brethren. He is known for the travelogue Islandia, about the journey to Iceland in 1613, first published in 1638. Strejc was also known under surnames Vetter or Vetterus.
Strejc was born in Autumn 1592, probably in Hranice na Moravě as the fourth son of Jiří Strejc, a writer, translator of religious texts and organizer of Unity of the Brethren in Židlochovice in southern Moravia. Young Strejc first studied in Herborn, later at the gymnasium in Bremen and then teology at the University of Heidelberg. In Heidelberg, in 1620, he became the tutor of the Czech language for the oldest son of Elector Palatine Frederick V (shortly reigning as the Czech king). Later, Strejc studied at the academy in Leiden. In 1632 he joined the exiled community of Unity of the Brethren in Leszno, Poland and in the same year became priest and administrator of Unity's printing-shop. In Leszno he married Kristina Poniatowska, foster-daughter of Commenius famous for ecstatic prophecies. The couple had two sons and three daughters. In 1655, during the Northern War, Leszno was burned down and the community destroyed. Strejc and the remains of the Unity moved to Brzeg (Břeh) in Silesia, the new centre for the exile.
Strejc-Vetterus was considered the next senior (the highest religious official within the Unity of the Brethren), succeeding Commenius but being too old he was only named consenior in 1663. The last mention about Strejc comes from a letter written by Commenius in 1669.Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren
The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) (Czech: Českobratrská církev evangelická; ČCE) is the largest Czech Protestant church and the second-largest church in the Czech Republic after the Catholic Church. It was formed in 1918 in Czechoslovakia through the unification of the Protestant churches of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions. The ECCB has about 115,000 members in more than 260 local congregations, which are broken down into 14 seniorates (presbyteries) throughout the Czech Republic.
In 2013, it reported 84,022 baptized members. Numbers peaked in 1950 with 402,000 members; since Communist rule, the Czech Republic's censuses found 203,996 members in 1991, 117,212 in 2001, and 51,936 in 2011.Hussites
The Hussites (Czech: Husité or Kališníci; "Chalice People") were a pre-Protestant Christian movement that followed the teachings of Czech reformer Jan Hus, who became the best known representative of the Bohemian Reformation.
The Hussite movement began in the Kingdom of Bohemia and quickly spread throughout the remaining Lands of the Bohemian Crown, including Moravia and Silesia. It also made inroads into the northern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary (now Slovakia), but was rejected and gained infamy for the plundering behavior of the Hussite soldiers. There were also very small temporary communities in Poland-Lithuania and Transylvania which moved to Bohemia after being confronted with religious intolerance. It was a regional movement that failed to expand anywhere farther. Hussites emerged as a majority Utraquist movement with a significant Taborite faction, and smaller regional ones that included Adamites, Orebites and Orphans. Major Hussite theologians included Petr Chelcicky, Jerome of Prague, and others. A number of Czech national heroes were Hussite, including Jan Zizka, who led a fierce resistance to five consecutive crusades proclaimed on Hussite Bohemia by the Papacy. Hussites were one of the most important forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. This predominantly religious movement was propelled by social issues and strengthened Czech national awareness.
After the Council of Constance lured Jan Hus in with a letter of indemnity, then tried him for heresy and put him to death at the stake on 6 July 1415, the Hussites fought the Hussite Wars (1420–1434) for their religious and political cause. After the Hussite Wars ended, the Catholic-supported Utraquist side came out victorious from conflict with the Taborites and became the most common representation of the Hussite faith in Bohemia. Catholics and Utraquists were emancipated in Bohemia after the religious peace of Kutná Hora in 1485.
Bohemia and Moravia, or what is now the territory of the Czech Republic, remained majority Hussite for two centuries until Roman Catholicism was reimposed by the Holy Roman Emperor after the 1620 Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years' War. Due to this event and centuries of Habsburg persecution, Hussite traditions are merely represented in the Moravian Church, Unity of the Brethren, and the refounded Czechoslovak Hussite churches among present-day Christians.Jan Blahoslav
Jan Blahoslav (20 February 1523 – 24 November 1571) was a Czech humanistic writer, poet, translator, etymologist, hymnographer, grammarian, music theorist and composer. He was a Unity of the Brethren bishop, and translated the New Testament into Czech in 1564. This was incorporated into the Bible of Kralice.Jan Kalenec
Jan Kalenec (1490–1546) was a Prague cutler who took up the leadership of the Amosites, a radical branch of the Czech Brethren after the death of their elderly figurehead Amos. They were known as the malá stránka, "small party" or "minor unity," of the brethren.Jan Łasicki
Jan Łasicki (Latin: Johannis Lasitii or Lasicius; 1534–1602) was a Polish historian and theologian. He was well-educated and traveled extensively in Western Europe from 1556 to 1581. Around 1557 he converted to Calvinism, becoming a follower of the Unity of the Brethren after 1567.His major work is eight-volume Historia de origine et rebus gestis fratrum Bohemicorum. Only one volume survives, which deals with customs and organization of the Brethren and was first published in 1660. His other works include Historia de ingressu Polonorum in Valachiam cum Bogdano (1584) about Polish invasion in Wallachia. The work was translated into Polish by Władysław Syrokomla in 1855. His 18-page Concerning the gods of Samagitians, and other Sarmatians and false Christians (De diis Samagitarum caeterorumque Sarmatarum et falsorum Christianorum, written ca. 1582 and published in 1615) provides a list of Lithuanian gods and is an important resource in the study of the Lithuanian mythology.John Amos Comenius
John Amos Comenius (Czech: Jan Amos Komenský; German: Johann Amos Comenius; Latinized: Ioannes Amos Comenius; 28 March 1592, Moravian Slovakia – 15 November 1670, Amsterdam) was a Czech philosopher, pedagogue and theologian from the Margraviate of Moravia who is considered the father of modern education. He served as the last bishop of the Unity of the Brethren before becoming a religious refugee and one of the earliest champions of universal education, a concept eventually set forth in his book Didactica Magna. As an educator and theologian, he led schools and advised governments across Protestant Europe through the middle of the seventeenth century.
Comenius introduced a number of educational concepts and innovations including pictorial textbooks written in native languages instead of Latin, teaching based in gradual development from simple to more comprehensive concepts, lifelong learning with a focus on logical thinking over dull memorization, equal opportunity for impoverished children, education for women, and universal and practical instruction. Besides his native Bohemian Crown, he lived and worked in other regions of the Holy Roman Empire, and other countries: Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Transylvania, England, the Netherlands and Hungary.Kralice nad Oslavou
Kralice nad Oslavou is a village and municipality (obec) in Třebíč District in the Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic.
The municipality covers an area of 13.4833 square kilometres (5.2059 sq mi), and has a population of 966 (as at 29 May 2009).
Kralice nad Oslavou lies approximately 24 kilometres (15 mi) east of Třebíč, 50 km (31 mi) south-east of Jihlava, and 163 km (101 mi) south-east of Prague.
The village is notable for having had a secret printing shop of the Unity of the Brethren, in which the Bible of Kralice, the first complete translation of the Bible from the original languages into the Czech language, was printed between 1579 and 1593.Minor Party (Unity of the Brethren)
The Minor Party, or Amosites, was a Christian group in Bohemia which split from the Unity of the Brethren during the late 1490s. Its members saw themselves as adhering to the original beliefs of the Unity. The Minor Party was persecuted and ceased to exist in the mid-16th century.Moravian Church
The Moravian Church, formally named the Unitas Fratrum (Latin for "Unity of the Brethren"), in German known as [Herrnhuter] Brüdergemeinde (meaning "Brethren's Congregation from Herrnhut", the place of the Church's renewal in the 18th century), is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the world, with its heritage dating back to the Bohemian Reformation in the 15th century and the Unity of the Brethren (Czech: Jednota bratrská) established in the Kingdom of Bohemia.
The name by which the denomination is commonly known comes from the original exiles who fled to Saxony in 1722 from Moravia to escape religious persecution, but its heritage began in 1457 in Bohemia and its crown lands (Moravia and Silesia), then forming an autonomous kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. The modern Unitas Fratrum, with about one million members worldwide, continues to draw on traditions established during the 18th century. The Moravians continue their tradition of missionary work, such as in the Caribbean, as is reflected in their broad global distribution. They place high value on ecumenism, personal piety, missions and music.
The Moravian Church's emblem is the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) with the flag of victory, surrounded by the Latin inscription: Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (English: "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him").Otakar Odložilík
Otakar Odložilík (January 12, 1899 – July 14, 1973) was a Czech historian and archivist who wrote numerous books and papers on the history of Protestantism in Bohemia and Moravia. His scholarly interests included the history of the Hussite movement and the Unity of the Brethren, and he published studies of Jan Milíč, Andrzej Rej and the history of Charles University in Prague.
He wrote the article on the history of Bohemia and Czechoslovakia for the 1974 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Following World War II, he spent most of his life as a professor in the United States and taught at both the Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania before his death.Patent of Toleration
The Patent of Toleration (German: Toleranzpatent) was an edict of toleration issued on 13 October 1781 by the Habsburg emperor Joseph II. Part of the Josephinist reforms, the Patent extended religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the crown lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, including Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Eastern Orthodox. Specifically, these members of minority faiths were now legally permitted to hold "private religious exercises" in clandestine churches.For the first time after the Counter-Reformation, the Patent guaranteed the practice of religion by the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed Church in Austria. Nevertheless, worship was heavily regulated, wedding ceremonies remained reserved for the Catholic Church, and the Unity of the Brethren was still suppressed. Similar to the articular churches admitted 100 years before, Protestants were only allowed to erect 'houses of prayer' (Bethäuser) which should not in any way resemble church buildings. In many Habsburg areas, especially in the 'hereditary lands' of Upper Austria, Styria and Carinthia, Protestant parishes quickly developed, strongly relying on crypto-protestant traditions.
The Patent was followed by the Edict of Tolerance for Jews in 1782. The edict extended to Jews the freedom to pursue all branches of commerce, but also imposed new requirements. Jews were required to create German-language primary schools or send their children to Christian schools (Jewish schools had previously taught children to read and write Hebrew in addition to mathematics.) The Patent also permitted Jews to attend state secondary schools. A series of laws issued soon after the Edict of Toleration abolished the autonomy of the Jewish communities, which had previously run their own court, charity, internal taxation and school systems; required Jews to acquire family names; made Jews subject to military conscription; and required candidates for the rabbinate to have secular education.
The 1781 Patent was originally called the "Divine Send of Equal Liberties" but was further put down by the monarch's advisor. Constraints on the construction of churches were abolished after the revolutions of 1848. The Protestant Church did not receive an equivalent legal status until Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria issued the Protestantenpatent in 1861.Petr Chelčický
Petr Chelčický (Czech pronunciation: [ˈpɛtr̩ ˈxɛltʃɪtskiː]) (c. 1390 – c. 1460) was a Czech Christian spiritual leader and author in the 15th century Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic). He was one of the most influential thinkers of the Bohemian Reformation.
His published works concentrated on critique of immorality and violence of the contemporary church and state. He proposed a number of Bible-based improvements for human society, including nonresistance, which influenced such luminaries as Tolstoy, Gandhi, and M.L.King. Paradoxically, the main part of the Hussite movement rejected his teachings of nonviolence which led to much violence among the Hussite movement in the end. Chelcicky's teachings laid the foundation of the Unity of the Brethren.Potštejn
Potštejn (German: Pottenstein) is a municipality in Rychnov nad Kněžnou District, Hradec Králové Region, Czech Republic. It lies on both banks of the Divoká Orlice River.
The name of the municipality was derived from name of castle with the same name, which was called by its founder Půta (Puota) of Drslavic: Puota's stone, Puttenstein, misspelled as Potštejn. From the end of the 19th century till 1924 the name Potštýn nad Orlicí was used.
One of the famous owners of the castle was the King Charles IV.
The castle Potštejn was famed in Alois Jirásek's novel Poklad.
The renewed Unity of the Brethren was founded in Potštejn in 1870.Přerov
Přerov (Czech pronunciation: [ˈpr̝̊ɛrof]; German: Prerau) is a town on the Bečva river in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic. Přerov is a statutory city. It has a population of approximately 43,000 people. Přerov is about 22 kilometres (14 miles) south east of Olomouc. In the past it was a major crossroad in the heart of Moravia in the Czech Republic. It is still a major railway junction with mainlines to Prague via Olomouc, Warsaw via Ostrava, and Vienna via Břeclav, and a regional line to Brno. Today the main commercial heart of the town lies around the T.G. Masaryk Square, which is of limited architectural interest. Of greater interest is the cobbled Upper Square enclosed by historic buildings, where the Comenius Museum can be found.Societetsskolan
Societetsskolan i Göteborg för döttrar ('Society School for Daughters in Gothenburg') or simply Societetsskolan ('Society School'), was a Swedish girls' school managed by the congregation of the Moravian Church in Gothenburg from 1 November 1787 until 1857. It is referred to as the first girls' school in Sweden, because it was the first institution to provide serious academic secondary education to females.
The school is known under many different names. Because it was initially intended to serve the children of the Moravian congregation, it was called Brödraförsamlingens flickskola i Göteborg ('Girls' School of the Unity of the Brethren in Gothenburg') or Evangeliska Brödraförsamlingens flickskola i Göteborg ('Girls' School of the Unity of the Evangelical Brethren in Gothenburg'), but also, commonly, as Salsskolan ('Hall School'), because it was initially held in the prayer hall of the Moravian congregation.Złotniki Lubańskie
Złotniki Lubańskie [zwɔtˈniki luˈbaɲskʲɛ] (German: Goldentraum) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Leśna, within Lubań County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in south-western Poland. Situated on the left bank of the Kwisa river, the settlement was formerly part of the historic Upper Lusatia region at the border with Silesia.
It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) east of Leśna, 12 kilometres (7 mi) south of Lubań, and 119 kilometres (74 mi) west of the regional capital Wrocław. The village has a population of 214.
The estates belonged to the Nostitz noble family at Czocha Castle, who about 1660 operated a gold mine here. The settlement of expelled members of the Bohemian Unity of the Brethren received market rights by Elector John George II of Saxony in 1672. According to the Final Act of the 1815 Vienna Congress, Goldentraum passed from Saxony to the Kingdom of Prussia and was incorporated into the Silesia Province. After World War I, a river dam of the Kwisa (Jezioro Złotnickie) was erected above Lake Leśnia laid out in 1905. With the implementation of the Oder-Neisse line in 1945, the area fell to the Republic of Poland.