Petrarch and Hus

Describe, discuss and evaluate the personal dilemmas evident in the lives of these two men (Petrarch and Hus), and how these dilemmas may be related to the Church’s rejection of the attempted ‘synthesis’.
By 410ce, St. Augustine’s book, The City of God had established a standard for Christian piety which would, in the centuries following Augustine’s death, serve to create and maintain a doctrine tailored to thrive within an expectation of the perpetual persecution of the faith and the faithful by societies, environment or both, and systematically suspicious of literacy and any knowledge beyond the purview and constraint of established Christian theology. However, beginning in approximately the tenth century, because of an improving climate for agriculture and related circumstances, Christianity found itself unavoidably faced with a reality of evolving prosperity. As a result, Europe in the High Middle Ages experienced an extensive ongoing breakdown of traditional ideals and forms of community and authority, and the ideological certainty of eternal salvation that reaffirmed them (on display in the assigned filmed lecture on the “High Middle Ages”). With the condemnation of Thomas Aquinas and Scholasticism in the late thirteenth century (1277), it appeared that the Church would oppose any new system as a challenge to its authority or as a constraint to its own independent action in pursuit of its special interest. With no consensus and no sanction, Christian society in the West was left without a common perception of how, without returning to the ancient conditions and means of denial, the path to a happy and noble Christian life crowned with the certain reward of eternal salvation was to be relayed.

Francesco Petrarch’s “Secret Book” was written in the mid-fourteenth century as a dialectical expression of these two irreconcilable ideals – Augustine’s irreconcilable cities (The City of God/The City of the World), the product of a mind and of a man (Petrarch) trained to the admiration of and devotion to both of these cities. Living at the end of the 14th century, Jan Hus was a Bohemian cleric trapped within the same confrontation of ideals (City of God/City of the World), which the Church, with its condemnation of Aquinas’ ‘synthesis’, had chosen to declare irreconcilable.


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