chapter  XVIII
12 Pages


The conciliar movement was the most important feature of church history in the first half of the fifteenth century, and its failure led to the Reformation of the sixteenth. General councils were held at Pisa in 1409, Constance from 1414 till 1418, and Basle from 1431 till 1449: but during the whole period the questions of the summons, authority and achievements of these councils were of dominant interest. One main cause of the summons of the first council, the existence of the Schism, has been mentioned earlier: another cause was the reform movement in Bohemia, led from 1400 onwards by John Hus, rector of the university of Prague and a great preacher in the Czech language. There were in fact three movements in northern Europe whose leaders desired the reform of the church, and set about achieving it, and in each case they found opponents to accuse their methods as ill-judged, and their peculiar tenets as heresy. The movements were inspired by Wycliffe in England; by Gerard Groot in the Netherlands, and by Hus in Bohemia. The English and Bohemian movements were in very close connexion and at first similar in character: the Dutch movement had no connexion with the English but certain affinities with it, particularly in the desire to promote the lay use of vernacular prayers, offices and scriptures. The council of Constance dealt with all three movements.