Chapter 8: An Account of the Persecutions in Bohemia Under the Papacy (12/15)
Innumerable were the other murders and depredations committed by those unfeeling brutes, and shocking to humanity were the cruelties which they inflicted on the poor Bohemian Protestants. The winter being far advanced, however, the high court of reformers, with their infernal band of military ruffians, thought proper to return to Prague; but on their way, meeting with a Protestant pastor, they could not resist the temptation of feasting their barbarous eyes with a new kind of cruelty, which had just suggested itself to the diabolical imagination of one of the soldiers. This was to strip the minister naked, and alternately to cover him with ice and burning coals. This novel mode of tormenting a fellow creature was immediately put into practice, and the unhappy victim expired beneath the torments, which seemed to delight his inhuman persecutors.
A secret order was soon after issued by the emperor, for apprehending all noblemen and gentlemen, who had been principally concerned in supporting the Protestant cause, and in nominating Frederic elector Palatine of the Rhine, to be king of Bohemia. These, to the number of fifty, were apprehended in one night, and at one hour, and brought from the places where they were taken, to the castle of Prague, and the estates of those who were absent from the kingdom were confiscated, themselves were made outlaws, and their names fixed upon a gallows, as marks of public ignominy.
The high court of reformers then proceeded to try the fifty, who had been apprehended, and two apostate Protestants were appointed to examine them. These examinants asked a great number of unnecessary and impertinent questions, which so exasperated one of the noblemen, who was naturally of a warm temper, that he exclaimed, opening his breast at the same time, “Cut here, search my heart, you shall find nothing but the love of religion and liberty; those were the motives for which I drew my sword, and for those I am willing to suffer death.”
As none of the prisoners would change their religion, or acknowledge they had been in error, they were all pronounced guilty; but the sentence was referred to the emperor. When that monarch had read their names, and an account of the respective accusations against them, he passed judgment on all, but in a different manner, as his sentences were of four kinds, viz. death, banishment, imprisonment for life, and imprisonment during pleasure.
Twenty being ordered for execution, were informed they might send for Jesuits, monks, or friars, to prepare for the awful change they were to undergo; but that no Protestants should be permitted to come near them. This proposal they rejected, and strove all they could to comfort and cheer each other upon the solemn occasion.
On the morning of the day appointed for the execution, a cannon was fired as a signal to bring the prisoners from the castle to the principal market place, in which scaffolds were erected, and a body of troops were drawn up to attend the tragic scene.
The prisoners left the castle with as much cheerfulness as if they had been going to an agreeable entertainment, instead of a violent death.
Exclusive of soldiers, Jesuits, priests, executioners, attendants, etc., a prodigious concourse of people attended, to see the exit of these devoted martyrs, who were executed in the following order.