Can an orthodox Christian creed and ritual be combined with a liberal church administration and a tolerant civic acceptance of not-so-orthodox views and practices? This question—perennial among Catholics for the past two centuries and the goal of the Anglican quest for a via media—finds an affirmative answer in Zdenek V. David’s history of the Utraquist church of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Bohemia.
This church declared its autonomy from the Roman church in 1415 after the Bohemian preacher Jan Hus, who had decried clerical abuses and opposed the pope’s doctrinal and juridical authority, was condemned by a Roman church council and executed. Sometimes called “Hussitist” (a usage David disputes) this Bohemian church administered its institutions and educated and managed its clergy independently of Rome for the next two hundred years.
David’s book focuses on the middle course steered by the Utraquists after the onset of the Protestant Reformation. It rejected core Protestant beliefs, such as salvation by faith alone, and practices, going so far in emphasizing apostolic succession as to have its new priests ordained by Latin-rite or, in a few cases, Eastern-rite Uniate bishops. At the same time, the Utraquists pursued their orthodoxy by disputation rather than hurling anathemas and lived alongside Lutherans, the Unity of Brethren, and others. Ultimately the Utraquist church was reabsorbed into Roman Catholicism and its special features repressed in the Counter-Reformation.
Zdenék V. David was librarian of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1974 to 2002. Educated as a historian (Ph.D. Harvard, 1960), he has published numerous articles on the history of Utraquism and on Jews in Czech historiography; he is coauthor of The Peoples of the Eastern Habsburg Lands, 1526–1918.
1. The Travails of the Via Media: Historiography
2. A Prolegomenon: The First Century of Utraquism, 1415–1517
3. Utraquism’s Curious Encounter with Luther
4. Bohuslav Bílejovský and the Geography of Utraquist Ecclesiology
5. Pavel Bydžovský and Utraquism’s Second Confrontation with Luther
6. The Utraquist Consistory, the Archibishop of Prague, and a Brief Honeymoon
7. The Plebianization of Utraquism: The Controversy over the Bohemian Confession of 1575
8. Orthodoxy and Toleration: The Utraquists and the Lutherans, 1575–1609
9. The Utraquists versus the Curia: Liberal or Authoritarian Church, 1575–1609
10. The Curia Tightens the Noose: The Advance of Confessionalization, 1575–1609
11. A Cohabitation of Convenience: The Utraquists and the Lutherans under the Letter of Majesty, 1609–1620
12. White Mountain, 1620: The Transfiguration and the Protean Legacy of Utraquism
Epilogue: The Meaning of the Bohemian Reformation
“A new interpretation of the Bohemian Revolution of the 16th century Czech Utraquist Church, viewed as a forerunner of modern liberal Catholicism.”—Reference and Research Book News
“Ten years of dedicated research have yielded this impressive study adding considerably to knowledge of Central European religious history.… The book expertly charts the unique development of Utraquist Christianity.”—Catholic Historical Review
“[Finding the Middle Way] redraws the religious map of central Europe.”—R. J. W. Evans, European History Quarterly
“A welcome addition to the English-language literature available on the subject.”—Patrick M. Hayden-Roy, Renaissance Quarterly
“Specialists in late medieval central European developments will profit much from David's synthesis of the interpretations.”—Robert Kolb, Religious Studies Review
“David's research forces historians to reopen a very wide field of questions. And that is not a small accomplishment.”—Marie-Elizabeth Ducreux, Austrian History Yearbook
“This is a much needed book, and it sheds light on the obscure history of the Utraquists during the Protestant Reformation.”—Craig D. Atwood, Journal of Moravian History
“This book represents very important results of original research and a new approach to the problems of international discussion on religious (in)tolerance and intellectual heritage in European history. I am sure that specialists in church history and history of ideas will welcome its publication.”—Jaroslav Pánek, Professor of History, Charles University, and Director, Historical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic